Even worse, as we neared the bus station we were transformed into superstars - people coming from all around, waving and yelling at us! That's right, they had accommodation to offer and competition was fierce
. Me? Panic button. I had previously noted the couple behind me were Irish, so in our remaining 3 minutes of freedom I struck up conversation and asked if they had a guidebook I could flick through. Hastily choosing a recommended Casa Particular (equivalent of home stay), we alighted into a veritable throng of hassle. "$20 a room!" "No, $10 a room!!" When I heard "$5 a room" my bullshit meter was maxing out so I just started telling them to all fuck off. Finally a bloke showed up from the place we were actually looking for, and he had two rooms so I commenced Operation Tagalong with the Irish.
Just walking around the town was pretty interesting, and it's obviously well loved by tourists (as denoted by the police being out in force). The guidebook labelled it a bit of a night time party scene, which is honestly hard to imagine as everyone seeks refuge from the sun during the day, but very easy to see your impending fate as the sun drops and the rum kicks in. By far the highlight is Casa de la Musica - set outside on an immense staircase in the town centre, and easier to succumb to than to head home and try to sleep through the reverberrating bass that invades the entire town. The band plays mostly Salsa, and while the locals take full advantage of the dancefloor, the tourists mostly watch on and take in the upbeat atmosphere. Plenty of Cuban blokes at hand to give free Salsa lessons to female tourists too
. I ran into a couple of young Irish blokes, and after formulating our plan we set about ridding the town of all its rum. A young Canadian couple also made themselves comfortable at our table to enjoy the music, but the poor bloke was under the thumb so couldn't be considered for our boys night out. His girlfriend was a bit of alright, so was getting plenty of free Salsa lessons from the locals, and it seemed she knew what she was doing anyway. Hilariously, one of the Irish lads kept alluding to the fact she had a decent rack with comments like "have you tried the melons here?" and "I'd like to have a crack at juicing them" etc etc. They left pretty soon after that. A bit later on, one of the Irishmen mentioned the mysterious club "The Cave", which had the most endearing feature of still being open until 6am.
He said he knew the way, or more specifically "I'm pretty sure I know where it is", so my confidence in his directions was a little damaged when we came to the edge of town and were waist-deep in shrubs. We stood in contemplation for a few minutes, and then simultaneously all pointed up a nearby hill. Bustling our way through the scrub, towards the top of the hill we realised there was actually a well-worn track about 3m from where we had gone, which cracked us up no end. Sure enough, in the middle of nowhere there was a cave entrance but nobody around and seemingly no noise coming from it
. Ignoring that, we headed down into the cave (which was lit) and into the first chamber. Still no people, but the familiar bass of Reggaeton was flowing to us from somewhere. Shrugging, we headed towards the music and as we entered the main chamber it unfolded before us, revealing DJ, strobe lights, dancefloor, and hopefully more rum. We danced like idiots with some Cuban girls for a while before I suffered a major blowout* and had to be momentarily retired. One of the Irish lads was getting a bit antsy so went looking for some local professional ladies. I'm not sure how the conversation went down, but from what I could tell he had offers from either a big mumma or a pretty attractive little thing. Of course it was a shoo-in - he bid us good night and headed off with big mumma to slay the dragon. I guess some guys are into that.
The club closed, but we'd made some friends somehow (keeping in mind neither the Irishman or I spoke any Spanish), so headed to an "after party" which involved sitting outside someone's house passing a bottle of o-so-cheap rum around. They played a few tunes, we did a bit of street dancing with some local girls who seemed to be getting frisky - the whole while some old bloke across the street looked on through a barred window, occasionally yelling at us to shut up (I assume).
At some stage I got home, tried to open the wrong door and then knocked when realising my key didn't work. Over the course of the night/morning, Marielle (the host) kept knocking on my door to wake me up and ask if I was ok. I advised her that I would be more ok if she just let me sleep.
*A "blowout" refers to one of my thongs/flip-flops/jandals losing one of its plugs due to extreme forces applied to it. Unlike in Tralee, Ireland, in this instance I suffered a right side blowout.
What a relief to leave Varadero far, far behind. Having roughly 2hrs sleep under my belt, I staggered to the bus station, jumped on, and then entered "silent tourist mode". You see, as soon as you speak on a bus filled with tourists.. someone's gonna want to talk to you. It's pure physics. I decided to use the 7hr trip for sleeping purposes, so didn't want to jeopardise that by striking up a convo with someone potentially interesting. However, as we finally pulled into the town it dawned on me that in fact I had no accommodation and it was already 3pm and stinking hot. Trust me, the last thing you want to do is wander around with a huge backpack in the middle of a 38 degree day.