In Castro's footsteps

Trip Start May 11, 2011
Trip End May 23, 2011

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Flag of Cuba  ,
Saturday, May 14, 2011

I met Dave at the bus terminal and we headed for two hours to Bayamo. There we walked the streets of the tiny city looking for a hotel. The first of the two we intended to try was closed and the second was full. So we did the unthinkable and employed the use of jintero (hustler) to find us a casa particulare (local home which rents out a room or two to visitors). We ended up in a very nice casa particulare with a legless woman and her very helpful but a little cold husband.

They helped us organise a driver for a trip out to Demajagua that afternoon where we had no idea what to expect except that there were great views. The driver was great and we learnt a hell of a lot about Cuba, Castro and everything that has happened since the revolution. Demajagua turned out to be the historic site of Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, who freed his sugar mill slaves and gave them offer to fight with him against the Spanish to liberate Cuba.

It was very interesting and we were the only two there so got a personal tour and explanation (although all in Spanish). On the way back we stopped a couple of times either to see somewhere nice, to stop for the driver to speak with someone he knew or to buy drinks. That night the owner of the casa particular agreed to show us to a good restaurant. On the street he flagged down a friend who took us to a great restaurant with the most amazing pork chops imaginable.

The next day we had organised a tour to Altos de Naranja with the same driver from the previous day. We got there without issue and waited around for a jeep to take us up the absurdly steep 5km road (45 degrees). We had a guide to hike up to Commandancia de la Plata, which was the headquarters of Fidel and the revolution for 7 months of their hiding in the Sierra Maestra and organising an uprising. It was unbelievable how remote it was and the hike in the Cuban heat was incredibly tough. The conditions and the location at the peak of the high Sierra Maestra mountains created an amazing respect for the toughness of the revolutionaries and just how hard they had it. The luxurious looking cigar toking photos of Castro as president in no way represent the incredible tough life he has lived.

Our guide organised lunch for us in a house of a friend of his at the base of the Sierra Maestra. We were both a little nervous of getting sick when we entered because it was a wooden shack where everything was prepared without plumbing, refrigeration and on a wood fire. It was a great meal of goat in the end and quite an experience.

A storm had set in when we left and our car couldn't make one long stretch of the absurdly steep road in the wet so after a few failed attempts we offered to walk the stretch to lighten the car. It worked, but we hiked a kilometre and a half up the steepest road I have ever seen in the heat and rain. It destroyed me so we had to stop in the next town for water where a local wouldn't let me leave the shop without drinking a shot of rum with him.
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