A very old place! Nov 9
We ask for breakfast at 8 AM and our host aims to please! Mariana makes us omelettes, fruit plates, breads, great Cuban coffee and more!
Then we head out into the town to meet up with Gonzalo, our morning tour guide. We have looked at the itinerary for the tour and we suddenly realize that it is the same agenda as Luda’s tour yesterday. As we head into the square to meet up with Gonzalo, we see the same guitar player as yesterday, sitting and playing in the same spot. So we listen for a bit, drop a peso in his cup and find Gonzalo. We explain to Gonzalo our ‘double booking’ mistake and ask him if he can show us something different since we paid in advance for his tour. Gonzalo knows that I am a photographer so he takes us around for some fun photos and we even get a glimpse of Cuban humor (Check out ‘Trump Tower’!). A bar that is a tribute to the Beatles, local transportation, a child learning to ride his bicycle on the cobblestone streets makes me wonder how many skinned knees it takes to become proficient! Another pristine old Chevy and even farmers on horses and a roof repair in progress enters into my camera lens.
Gonzalo takes us to a photographer friend of his and we sit in his house and visit as he shows us one of his recent works where he photographed charcoal makers throughout the night burning charcoal piles. I wish I could show you some of his work, but I respect his copyrights. Let me just say that he is one of the best photographers I have ever seen. His use of lighting and his ability to capture expressions and emotions on faces was extraordinary! After, we walk around some more, finding more fun things to point my camera at. Even a private house that set up a table to sell pizza and drinks to make money! Gonzalo helps us locate our next tour for the afternoon and takes us there. We bid him ‘Adios’ and feel enriched again!
We are ushered into a waiting area where we are shortly met by Leonid (Call him Leo) and he brings us out to his driver and co-host, Yosney (Call him Yosney). They become our tour guides for the next 3 hours and we
depart to a lookout point 112 meters above the Valley of the Sugar Mills, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As we walk in, we pass by some vibrant and fun tourists coming out! We buy bottles of water and refresh as we look over the valley and even find an old sugar cane press.
Then we make our way to the San Isidro Plantation, and I head up the narrow steep steps for views of the Plantation. Afterwards, we explore an archaeological site where we learn about the darker side of the region’s history. We see what was involved in sugar production, and where alcohol was made to produce rum.
A walk around the ruins and we see the old ovens where the sugar cane juice was boiled and turned into rum. The work was all done by slaves. Rows of furnaces where the juice would flow and boil. I can only try to imagine what it was like for the slaves to work the hot ovens in Cuba’s already hot and humid weather!
We head out again along the rural roads. We see livestock fences where they actually plant live trees to use as fenceposts! A ‘roadblock’ slows us for a moment and then we are on the way again. We make our way to what used to be the family house of the Manaca Iznaga plantation, and I head up its 45-meter tower for views of the area. Because of the steepness and the height, I’m the only one that chooses to climb. (I’ll ALWAYS climb for a view!) I bump into some fun European tourists and take photos for them as I am wont to do. After I come down reluctantly, we get to see the original machine that was used to extract the sugarcane juice.
Views looking out over the area are spectacular!
We drive away and head back towards Trinidad where, at the end of the tour we visit a pottery work-shop. We watch potters in action and end up purchasing a Cuban ashtray to compliment my stash of Vinales cigars!
Leo and Yosney drop us off back near the central square in Old Trinidad and we thank them for the tour. But it is almost mid-afternoon and our tummies are growling. So we go into a recommended restaurant, Taberna La Botija, and sit down for some Cuban Pizza and cold refreshment!
Our ‘friend’, the guitar player is still working his craft as we walk out into the streets and we have the rest of the afternoon to ourselves. So my camera is happy and it finds many sights to capture. Rustic old buildings, horse drawn transportation, and many local faces and musicians that are more than willing to smile for my camera (and a Peso or two!). Even a local drink recipe emblazoned on a wall sign of a bar that goes by the same name and some street art!
We are told that the best place to see the sunset here is a peninsula a few miles south of us called “Playa Ancon”. In talking with locals and our host, we are told it can be very crowded with tourists, one thing that we are trying to avoid on this vacation! We are told to go to “Playa Maria Aguilar” and we will get the same sunset views without all the tourists. So we trust this information and we negotiate with a taxi driver to take us there for 10 CUC ($11 US Dollars). He drops us off and even agrees to come back and get us after the sun drops out of sight and take us back for another 10 CUC. So we hang out on a pretty much deserted beach for a couple hours and our cameras (and toes) are happy!
Back in town, we find a Restaurant recommended to us, “Guitarra Mia” and we sit down to a tasty meal with some live entertainment, which we are finding quite common here in Trinidad. I highly recommend this city if you ever come to Cuba! When we paid our bill, the waitress gave me a hand rolled Cuban cigar!
So armed with full bellies and a fresh cigar, we head out into the streets where we find live music everywhere. We go into a bar where the music sounds good and the skies open up and it rains. The bar is open aire, but we find a table under a roof where we enjoy my latest cigar and drinks while a musical group prepares on a covered stage. After the rain lets up (which we find is a regular occurrence in Cuba), we go back out in the freshly washed air and come across an open air stage that is setting up for a children’s Christmas Play due to begin around 11 PM. We stay for a couple acts and the actors are very much into their craft! But not understanding what they are saying, we get the gist of the play, somewhat, and we are tired so we head back to our Hostal for the night.
Day is done! We’ll see you in the morning!