This is the third part of our Cuban Adventures that I wrote down and am submitting to a sailing magazine to see if they will publish it. Fingers crossed!
Once we walked out the marina gate we chose to wait with the locals for the bus into town, which would be along in 15 minutes – 3 hours from now, again communist bureaucracy! After waiting for over an hour, chatting with the locals about the local baseball team, a large truck from the nearby factory came by and everyone piled into the back and they told us to join them. So, that is how we made it into Santiago de Cuba for the first time, standing up in the back of a factory delivery truck packed with locals waiting for a bus that never came. We started the city tour in Parque Cespedes, which is the tourist center of the city. The square is lined with the cathedral, museums, shops, and restaurants and is pretty and a good starting point. From there we walked eastward, simply checking out the city (I even got a haircut for only $1) until we came to Coppelia la Arboleda where we had ice cream under a giant tree for around 15 cents. Another aspect of communist bureaucracy was that there were 5-6 different ice cream shops in this park under the tree, but each one only had two different flavors to chose from….not that I am complaining about 15 cent ice cream!
Santiago de Cuba’s history is unique in Cuba, because it is the only area that grew coffee. It was such a big deal that the mountains outside of the city are now a World Heritage Site and we hired Eddy (+53 5373 7285) to be our tour guide for the day and he was an amazing guide and seemed to know just about everyone in town. We started out driving up into the mountains to see Cafetal La Isabelica, which is one of the best preserved old plantations. From there we visited the fort I mentioned earlier and finished at San Juan Hill, which was the battle site President Teddy Roosevelt led the Rough Riders on during the Spanish-American War of 1898 that gave Cuba its independence.
We loved our first Cuban city and were excited to see more of this huge island. In fact, the only thing I did not like about Santiago de Cuba was the nearby cement factory covered the boat in gray ash and orange spots and the only way to get it off was to use lots of Ospho, soap, and elbow grease.
Story continues tomorrow!