Wednesday May 15, 2013
Before our trip to Cuba, Stephanie had done a lot of research and found out that a little town called Trinidad, about 50 km from Cienfuegos, is a World Heritage Town, and wanted to take a visit there while in the country. We had discussed the four of us renting a taxi or private driver to get there, but on our walk yesterday, we found something that looked like much more fun. So at 9 am this morning, after leaving an hour after what was planned since I apparently can not figure out this one hour time change, we were at the car rental agency. But it was not a car we were renting, it was two mopeds. After paying the $20/day fee and leaving a $50 deposit, we had our helmets on our heads and were next door fueling up before we took to the open roads. Having grabbed a few maps when we had first stopped by yesterday to inquire about the bikes, we briefly went over the route we’d take that day, starting out on a few side streets so Brian could get the hang of how the bike felt. Matt pulled out first with me wrapping my arms around his waist, and Brian and Stephanie pulled out just behind us. Although the signs from the main road made it appear as if this street we had just turned on to would eventually lead us to Trinidad, it very quickly led us to a dead end instead. We hooked a louie and then turned right on the next street we came to. Surely this had to be putting us in the right direction. Traveling down a very residential area now, the street turned from cement to dirt, but we kept pushing forward. There was another dead end coming up in front of us, but we figured we’d just get there and take another left. Cocking my head back to wave these directional symbols to Brian, I looked back to find no one there.
Are you effing kidding me? Not even five minutes into this trip and we already get separated from each other? We stopped the bike and waited. And waited, and waited. After 5-10 minutes we assumed they must have made the previous left, and so we continued forward on our dirt trail until it led out through a construction zone and to the main road we had been trying to find this whole time. From where we were sitting we couldn’t see them, so we made a left on this main road to go back to where we think they most likely came out from. No one was there either. Trying to figure out where they may have gone, we went back up to the road we had just come out on in case they were there, now looking for us. Still no Brian and Stephanie. Knowing that this spot was further up the road and closer to Trinidad, we agreed that they’d have to pass by us at some point, so we stood there to wait some more. Fifteen minutes went by and we still hadn’t seen our friends. I wanted to trace our route back, but both of us were certain that as soon as we took our bike away from this intersection, our missing friends would of course show up. I told Matt just to leave me on the side of the road while he went back to retrace our steps and see if he could find them waiting on any other corners. For ten minutes I stood on a dusty patch on the side of the road, but didn’t see anything other than the occasional car or horse drawn cart. Matt eventually made his way back to me with no one following behind him. We were on our own. Now having been separated for 45 minutes, we assumed they must have left without us, and we’d all meet back up in Trinidad. It couldn’t be that big of a city, right?
Traveling there on our own presented another small problem in the fact that we only had two maps on us. One was a detailed map of Cienfeugos, only telling us to follow ‘Cinco de Septiembre’ to get out of town and towards Trinidad, and the other was an outline of the whole freaking country. If there were any turns for us to make without road signs indicating it was towards Trinidad, we’d be officially screwed. Fortunately for us there were street signs, and I’d call them out to Matt, making sure he saw them and had time to make the necessary turns. After making a couple of turns here and there, and almost getting dive bombed by a gigantic hawk, we were out of the city and on our way to Trinidad. At least we were pretty sure. It was a little unnerving when no signs popped up for quite a long time, and then once, a sign told us to turn left and then promptly threw us into a left or right intersection with no signs. There were two young men on the road, and when I smiled and asked “Trinidad?”, they grinned and pointed to the left. The views in the open countryside were breathtaking, with rolling hills dropping themselves out into open fields, marked with wooden posts made from chopped tree branches. We enjoyed sights like these until 1/3rd of the way through the drive when I noticed something I did not want to see. Because of Matt’s need to ‘see what we can get this baby up to’, we were now on a half tank of gas. Unless we could find a station along the way, and since we had gotten out of Cienfuegos we had seen none, we’d either be walking the bike the rest of the way or sleeping with it on the side of the road.
Cutting our speed almost in half, we meandered forward until we saw a sign for fuel, four miles up a side street. Getting ourselves there with only one of the eight bars remaining, we topped off the tank and continued back on our way. The remaining part of the drive was just as beautiful as the beginning, but with many different ranges from what we had been seeing earlier. The hills dropped off to coastline, and we were able to view it from the other side, as land travelesr looking out to sea, opposed to sea travelers searching for land. There were rocky hills with oxen grazing on grass, and weathered old men, wearing their cowboy hats low as they trotted their horses down the road. There was also another very odd sight along the way, and that was hundreds of little crabs crossing from one side of the road to the other. We were doing our best to avoid them while only going along at about 35 mph, but there were many remaining bodies of other crabs that had not been so lucky during their crossing.
The same crabs on the same road, taken by another couple who encountered them a few weeks earlier.
(Photo courtesy of Mr. Mrs. Globetrot)
When we finally got in to the town of Trinidad, it was much larger than we were expecting. Quickly hopping off the bike, I looked at a map on the side of the road that might give me any clue of where we were or even where we might want to be. Where we really wanted to be was where Brian and Stephanie were, but we had no clue as to what part of Trinidad that was. Heading toward what we originally thought was the center, we walked down a few streets, poked our heads into a few restaurants, and decided to carry on to the historic center of town. After taking the bike up a few cobblestone roads, we stopped it once more to get out and look at a map. It was right when I was trying to find the ‘You are here’ dot that a big burly man came out toward us. He indicated that the road we were about to dive down was pedestrian only, and we’d need to leave our bike behind. That’s ok though, because he was a ‘Parking Official’, with a badge a handmade sign above his door. With his elderly mother knitting in the window and two small children running around, we weren’t worried that the bike would disappear on us, and moved it to sit right in front of his house. Using the best Spanish I could to get out that I was hungry and needed food, his sister was brought out to show us the way to a restaurant, one that was of course, in the family. Coming up to a home that had the national symbol for a ‘casa particular’ on the front, we walked through a living room, down a hallway, and past a kitchen until we were dropped off at a quaint little restaurant on an outdoor terrace.
The owner came to greet us and after realizing we spoke very little Spanish, slowed down and enunciated her words so we could get the gist of what she was saying, also adding lots of hand gestures. She was kind and patient, and an overall helpful person. We each ordered beer and pasta and talked about how we were going to try and find Brian and Stephanie, something that was beginning to look like a lost cause. At one point though, I turned to Matt and said, “I don’t know, I have a feeling we’ll find them. Who knows, maybe they run into the same parking official and he’ll bring them here too.” He just laughed at me and filed that thought under the category of ‘least likely things to ever happen’, as we continued on with our meal and debated on if we should stay at this place for the night since we did not have any other lodging booked, and I didn’t know how this casa particular thing worked well enough to start fresh at a new place. We looked upstairs at the two available rooms, found it was only $20, and told her we’d take it for one night. Plus…is the other room available, just on the off chance that we run into our friends? She agreed that it was, and we went back down to our table to celebrate the fact that we had just found a place to stay, by drinking daiquiris made from Havana Club rum.
Just as our glasses were getting empty and our plates were being cleared, we heard a noise from the kitchen and looked up to see Brian and Stephanie being led in by, who else, the parking official himself. We jumped up from the table and wrapped our arms around them as if we hadn’t seen them for months. They didn’t even have a chance to unsling the backpack from their shoulder before we were rushing them to our table to sit down and tell us their end of the story. We thought that we had waited long for them by staying in our area in Cienfuegos for forty-five minutes, but they had gone back out to the scooter rental place an waited for an hour and a half! Serendipitous as it was, once they were in Trinidad they tried to bring their bike down the same pedestrian street we did and were stopped by the same guy. Once they saw our matching bike sitting in front of this guys house, they explained that they were looking for their amigos, and which way did we go? Well, having run into only two other gringos that day, the parking official must have known they were talking about us and let them right to our door. Buddy bikes reunited, and it feels so good.
Fried plantain chips. Best.Snack.Ever.
View from the rooftop terrace at our casa particular.