18th to 21st of January
Santa Clara and Viñales
We arrived to Santa Clara after a long uncomfortable trip. I barely slept all night. I had two reasons for visiting Santa Clara: first, visiting my good friend Elvis’ family and second, to visit Che Guevara’s mausoleum. Once we arrived, we went around Santa Clara, headed to Che’s monument, it was as majestic as I hoped it would be, not ruined by any political propaganda, it was brief and to the point like his life, brief enough to tell a good story before it gets ruined by earthly distractions. I went around the museum and the room where Che’s and his comrades rest, then stood by his statue with Enzo. I caught myself praying to his soul at that moment.
Later in the day, Elvis’ energetic mother Estrella came on her motorcycle to our hostel. We went with her to Elvis’ brother’s family. A lovely lively loud Cuban family, we shared some coffee and talks about Cuba, Elvis and of course the mandatory how they should find us a beautiful Cuban mulata to marry. We then went to her house that she was renewing, we stood there talking for almost an hour on the steps of her doors. She reminded me of our moms back home, all the inherit loveliness, kindness and a bit of sad eyes as well. I hugged her eventually and said good bye, promising to be back one day. It is hard not to keep my word with such a lovely family and lady.
At night, we went around trying to find out about Santa Clara’s night life. We went to the main club in the city but turned out to be the gay night. The place has the worst mojito in all of Cuba. Then we wandered around from one club to the next until we finally gave up and called it a night.
We headed to the bus station early in the morning, I was not sure where I will head from there. Enzo needed to go back to Havana because he was flying back in two days while I was still hesitating between going to the touristy paradise that is Varadero or heading back to Havana. Walking around the station, we met a girl that we saw the night before outside the gay club, an Icelandic girl who was heading west as well towards Viñales, I decided to join her to the other west side of the island. We found a taxi to Havana, who was going to take one girl from a casa in the city, she turned out to be a Taiwanese girl living in Panama, and she also wanted to go to Viñales. We took the cab together to Havana, I said good bye to my now very close friend Enzo.
We arrived to Viñales. The taxista hated me for haggling the price knowing that he would have made at least double that amount if I wasn’t there. We headed to a casa that I got its address from a random traveler on the way. The casa owner was a very nice lady, and she had one room left that happened to have three beds. Travelers’ luck.
Next day, we headed to Cayo Jotiya, a beach about an hour and half away from the city (do I need to mention how beautiful it was?!). I continued my swimming lessons and got more confident by then. We met a nice Swedish couple (Emma and Johan), back in the city, we also met James, a very cool English guy who has been traveling for the past 8 months or so. Walking around, I bumped into the German girls from Baracoa again, they were as lively and happy as they were on the other side of the island, we had a quick chat and said goodbye. Then my casa mates and I went for a usual night out with the dinner, music, forced dancing and all.. then met the Swedish guy and James and we all went back to our casa playing dominoes to the early morning.
The following day, we went to the valley on horses, an enjoyable touristy experience. This was supposed to be our last day in Viñales but we failed to find a good lift towards Havana, so we arranged for one – with a stop in Las Terrazas – and decided to stay one more night over there. At night, we had a lobster then met James and the Swedish couple and went hunting for music. Since it was my birthday the following day, I got treated to a cool pre-celebration and was treated to all I can handle of drinks and cigars. I ended up vomiting on the street and being up all night, I blamed the lobster, but maybe it was a sign, a friendly reminder that I was no longer in my twenties.