Monday 7 March
Breakfast in the hotel Jagua is a buffet one, not a bad one, the omelette was made in front of me but coffee not brilliant – shame as they grow coffee hereabouts.
Taxi driver arrives early and we have a lovely drive through country roads, narrowly avoiding cyclists on a cycling holiday and two stray horses into the foothills of the mountains and down to the sea again before we get to Trinidad where we find a bustling community with loads of locals on cycles, on horseback and generally wandering around a town that has virtually no buildings above two stories high.
The buildings in the main area are not as run down as I had anticipated, which is nice and the roads reasonably well maintained. A few more old type cars here than in the other places outside of Havana.
Not surprisingly as we have arrived at about 10:45, our room in the Iberostar Grand Hotel Trinidad is not yet ready so sit in the wonderfully decorated lobby with a complementary drink watching the world go by.
Room ready by midday, a balcony room overlooking the square, and we unpack and head downstairs for a lunch before our guided walk around town.
Our guide, Luharki, is on time, a very amiable guy who tells us absolutely loads about Cuba and Trinidad, guides us around some of the old town with dual street names.
Most of the streets were renamed after the 1959 revolution but locals kept on referring to them by their old names so the government relented and put both names on the road signs, so now the streets have two names.
The hotel is on Jesus Maria (Jose Marti) street and Cespedes Square otherwise known as internet square as this is now where tourists and locals hang out to use the Internet on their phones – a retailer of internet cards being on the square.
We are taken past and into some of the smaller shops for locals, including a hardware shop where what goods there are for sale are at small Peso prices (24 Pesos = 1 CUC) and a library.
We are taken in one or two courtyards and museums and although we have already paid, the cost is only 1 or 2 CUC each, not extortionate.
Although Sal was not able to climb up, I venture to the top of a tower with a lovely vista of the town, a nearby street market and of course the Iglesias Santisima Trinidad, a beautiful building with well manicured gardens in front.
Back down and after a brief drinks stop, we walk back to the hotel past an elderly gentleman just sitting smoking his cigar who was most receptive to being photographed (for a CUC).
Whilst Sal has a rest, I go out for a quick stroll to areas we hadn’t been to people watching and viewing some interesting building work.
Dinner in hotel tonight, an Audley suggested venue.
Tuesday 8 March
An early start and we are met on time by Luharki and a 8 or 9 seat taxi whose age is questionable (we understand it is at least 18 years old), whose interior has definitely seen better days and is definitely uncomfortable to sit in with again no seatbelts. Certainly the most uncomfortable journey so far.
Luharki has been willing to provide information to us about the Cuban way of life and today has brought with him his ration book without which he is unable to buy food at the local shops.
His appears to be a happy life although his (2nd) wife does work long hours in one of the local shops.
First stop on our journey today is just outside Trinidad up some steps but with a fantastic view of Sugar Mill Valley.
There used to be many hundreds of Sugar Mills in Cuba but now only about 47, such is the decline.
Luharki shows us how they get the sugar juice out of the canes ( by pressing them ) and using a certain process the juice is formed into a sort of molasses, dried and turned into sugar crystals.
The next stop is the slave plantation but we are told the taxi driver did not want to take us there to the slave plantation, San Isidro but we insist as it is on the itinerary and Luharki has an entrance voucher anyway.
An interesting place and we are guided around by a very knowledgeable young girl who acts as a guide and the collector of money/vouchers so the tour is a bit interrupted by her other duties but is fascinating all the same.
The Master’s house is just a barn during restoration but we are told the story of the bell tower, the well, the oven and the slave’s lodgings which look very small.
There is also a large tree that is sacred to the site and which produces pods as seeds, the insides of which were used to stuff pillows.
On to Manaca Iznaga Estate, not a bit as I had thought it would be and far more touristy with many stalls lining the route from the coach drop and railway station up to the Master’s House and the watch tower.
A train load of tourists arrive and disgorge slowly up the hill past many vendors of cotton clothing and tablecloths, we buy one, to the tower which is 45 metres high and built by the owner of the estate in 1830 (Alejo Iznaga).
Maybe also some staff were there on a visit judging by the alternative mode of transport.
Lots of history attached to the tower including a beautiful young lady being incarcerated up there as she looked at another man!
Many steep steps, the same ones down so it took a long time to get up and back whilst Sal went for a sit down on the veranda of the Master’s house in a rocking type chair.
Good views but so many people and some graffiti up the tower. Very little evidence of health & safety here as well.
I must admit I was a bit disappointed with this particular aspect of the the tour as I thought we would get into the sugar cane plants themselves as well.
The climb back down the tower was interesting as of course many others were trying to go up at the same time but eventually I make it and walk to meet up with Sal at the Master’s house, where we buy a small bottle of Rum at CUC 3.80, the cheapest I have seen it.
Back into Trinidad and we stop at a pottery, hidden away, with no signage, on a side street for a couple of souvenirs and a look round the working area – a nice old car with wooden wheels lying almost derelict in the workplace. A wonderful restoration project if ever I was one.
After a brief rest at the hotel we venture out again in the heat past lots of stalls selling the same type of touristy items – lots of linen and wooden items.
Some of the roads are cobbled so badly and we need to keep watching our feet whilst we are walking otherwise we fall over so don’t really manage to view much other than when we stop and stare.
Even some of the market stalls are on a cobbled street which makes looking at the items on sale somewhat interesting.
A snack in the hotel and some internet time before dinner, another all you can eat buffet in the hotel and a very early night, we are shattered and sorry to leave the hotel and this little town behind us.
We are off tomorrow towards the north of the island, via Santa Clara.