Wednesday 9 March
Luharki is 40 minutes early at our hotel in Trinidad and explains that he has to meet another couple who are coming with us to Santa Clara for Che Guevara Mausoleum before they are going on to Havana.
That will be interesting in the normal taxis that seem to only exist – I certainly would not want a 5.5 hour journey in yesterday’s taxi!
We needn’t have been worried, off we set, them in one car and us with Luharki in the other.
We make a stop at a house on the way for a couple of photos by which time the other car is nowhere to be seen.
The house is a farm with tobacco and other crops growing in the valley.
We are treated to a coffee poured through a gauze, the coffee beans having been grown and ground on the farm with many crops below the house being worked on by the family’s sons.
The coffee is very strong and can be enriched by sugar from the cane also grown on the farm. A wonderful experience, and one of the best of the whole trip.
We were also invited inside to see the living conditions the family have.
The two bedrooms are pretty spartan with dividing walls not reaching the ceiling so privacy is at a premium.
After our visit we set off for Santa Clara through villages and past farms with lots of coffee plants growing as well as pineapples, bananas and other produce.
Lots of roadside vegetation visible and we are told many of the crops are out of site to to the main road to stop them being pinched! Taxis here in the country consist of a horse drawn contraption and we pass a few on our journey.
Santa Clara is reached but not before the taxi driver of the other couple’s car has rung to find out where we were and the taxi driver’s wife had phoned to remind him to bring some washing up liquid!
The other couple we had met in Trinidad were not impressed by the guide not being there at the same time as they were – they had to wait 20 minutes – but then they didn’t have the benefit of the stop at the farm for the coffee!
Santa Clara is where Che Guevara’s mausoleum is situated in a square a little bit similar to how Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum is set in Vietnam.
To see Che’s mausoleum, we have to queue and there are at least 50 people in front of us but for some reason we are able to jump the queue much to the annoyance of some Japanese but hopefully helped Luharki’s other couple – also Audley’s clients who had been on the clipper we saw in Cienfuegos and had a couple of bad experiences, one poor hotel and a mix-up in a pick up after their clipper stay.
No cameras are allowed inside the mausoleum where Che and about another 20 characters from his revolution are buried.
Che himself was killed in Bolivia and it was not until 1998 that his remains were able to be sent to Cuba. Santa Clara is historically his town even though he was Argentinian by birth and in modern day parlance he was a mercanary.
A walk around the adjacent museum with some interesting artefacts and a translation given by Luharki of the letter Che sent to Fidel Castro on his departure from Cuba which is inscribed on a plinth (in Spanish of course) at the site.
Che left 4 children, two daughters in Cuba who occasionally make appearances on special days like his birthday and two sons who are in S America somewhere.
The mausoleum is visited by many tourists both young and old and of all creeds and countries but on the opposite side of the road can be seen workers accommodation and the departing transport to take the workers to their jobs – quite a contrast.
Lunch in a nearby hotel and off to the Royalton on Santa Maria Cay via a brief drive around the square in Santa Clara, a stop at the site of a museum dedicated to the capturing by the rebels of the train of ammunition sent by the Government at the height of the rebellion and a life size statue of Che which people still bring flowers to as a mark of respect.
Before turning off the road to the long causeway to the Royaltan on Santa Maria Cay we have pass by some workers accommodation which is probably the most scruffy of all the buildings we have seen in our stay.
We then have to go through a toll (one of only 4 I think our guide said on the island) onto the causeway which is long and at low level with only one real tall bridge between the sides although there are 40+ bridges that we cross before we turn off for the hotel.
The water on either side is turquoise with mango swamps and mango trees growing randomly in the water.
The causeway was only built in the late 1990’s but in places is already in need of repair causing a couple of diversions onto an even lower level – virtually sea level.
Check in at hotel is smooth although a fellow guest who is a well endowed young female captures the attention of the guy at the check in desk so we are a bit delayed!
This is an all inclusive resort and whilst we have not experienced one before for such a long stay, we are sure we will cope!
Room is perfectly adequate, has everything you would need and the dinner tonight was fine.
After dinner we head up to the reception area where we are entertained by a 7 strong male voice choir and some dancers.
Wonderful renditions in at least two languages – Spanish & English – maybe more and their spoken English was good as well.
One problem is that the TV goes off after 15-20 minutes and is difficult to control with the remote. That will have to be sorted out tomorrow.
An interesting day.