I left Havana to fly east. I needed to try to get super far away and work my way back to Havana. I knew I would likely find a place and stay for a bit. Really wanted to see Baracoa. Farthest east you can go. Only like 50 miles from Haiti. Humboldt National Park. Near the sea. Less people. Cultural uniqueness. Internet sketchy. You have to stand in line at the internet store to buy a card for a dollar. Then sit outside to use it. $1 an hour. Typically there is WiFi near any town plaza.
All flights were full everywhere so I jumped on the only flight I could find to Santiago de Cuba. 90 min.
The ticket guy says after the flight it’s only two hours by car to Baracoa. From Santiago.
I’m like, um, the book says 4.5.
I figure hey, I know what I’m doing. Let’s go! One way ticket. Taxi from airport to city center. Overcharged of course. Oh, there are no colectivos I’m told to Baracoa. Only to Guantanamo (Yes. THAT Guantanamo) then you can change. Okay. I mean, I speak Spanish right? But you gotta pay $20. That’s like a million dollars here. Fine. It’s 90 degrees and 200% humidity. Off I go. Two hours to Guantanamo. Change cars. What? Another 20 bucks! F me! Fine. Oh and the driver seems to be an amateur comedian. He of course said no one is going. So I had to pay for the whole car. Then it magically fills after I pay. 4 breakdowns (remember these cars are older than I am) and five hours later we roll into beautiful tranquilo Baracoa. Sleeping. Climbing El Yunque. Hiking Humboldt National Park (THAT dude was amazing. Thanks Joe Lamanna for book about him) Saw worlds smallest frog. Eating. Traditional Folk music. Churches. Museums. Guitar playing. Spanish practicing. I stayed a bit longer.
Trying to leave today my Casa Particulares family couldn’t score me a colectivo. Okay. I can handle it. I meet a guy in the plaza. He says 35 bucks to Holguin. 4 hours. Backroads. Well. That’s seems the rate unless I hitchhike. They show up and off we go. The full car stops at the remote mining town of Moa. Miles away from anywhere. The driver says okay you go with that guy to Holguin. Changing cars. Okay. I ask. You pay him? Yes. He said.
The new dude says wait until car is full. I’m like okay. The other guy left. What could I do? After an hour in the hot sun out comes the guitar. I shit you not this is what transpired next.
The dude says, “no one else is going (there were three people in the vehicle other than me. It holds eight or nine).We are gonna have to wait the rest of the day…..unless you pay me another 15 bucks.” I’m like go f yourself dude. I already paid. He’s says you got a room tonight in Holguin? Stupidly I say. “Well yeah. I do. ” He says “All these people are waiting gringo. Pay up or wait forever”. I think for a second. How about five bucks? Nope. 15.
I decided to make light of it and connect with the guy as he had me. Okay. Fine. 15 bucks more but you gotta buy me a beer when we are close. Haha. Okay he says. For everyone! He says put your guitar up top with your backpack (we are in an old Jeep Willy). I pay him. The girl in back asks if she can sit up front too. I get my music on. Sit back.
The driver door opens and a DIFFERENT dude jumps into drive and away we go.
I look at everyone in the car and they all gave me that look of “dude, you just got absolutely WORKED by that guy.” I just had to laugh. They rarely see gringos. But man, I was easy prey. Again.
Made it to my Air BNB and the English speaking 71 yr old host said “the house rules are that if you bring a woman back she has to sign in with us and be over 18. Or I’ll lose my house. ” Um, okay? I told him he could sleep soundly. Won’t happen. He said “whatever. Those are the rules.” Haha.
Cuba. The people are very beautiful. All shapes and sizes and colors and ethnicities. Their freedom is their overt sexuality and flirtation. With each other. And their music. And their laughter. They are stinking poor here. Remember I’ve only seen a few cities. But I’m not sure they are all unhappy. I think a few are as they now see the outside world. And WANT shit! Tough minded people. But I feel so safe so far. And man I’ve had a ton of laughs and special moments already.
Especially with the kids.
The first book I’m buying when I return is one on Cuban history. Fascinating.
Vive la revolución!