My favourite place in Cuba
26.11.2015 - 01.12.2015
After Santiago we headed down to what was described to us as one of the best areas in Cuba; Baracoa.
The main attraction of the Guantanamo Region, Baracoa is a relatively small town on the coast with black sand beaches and one hectic night life.
Bummer for us, were arrived in the middle of their massive 'annual' storm. In the drizzling rain, our 'taxi', who was sent by the Casa owner, loaded our bags onto his three wheeled bicycle and motioned for us to jump on the seat in the back. We had our reservations about this poor old guy cycling us across town on his one geared, 30 year old bicycle. Half way across town we offered to switch with him so he could have a breather but the old guy was adamant he could handle it and started racing one of the other bicycle-taxis to prove it.
We were pleasantly surprised with our casa, the agent who had booked it for us told us it was the best place in Baracoa, of course they all say this. Turns out we had the top floor to ourselves, with two double beds and big bathroom, two balconies and a view over both the beach and the town. We had hit jackpot yet again with our casa and the owners were an absolutely lovely couple with some serious kitchen skills.
With not much else to do in this weather and plans to meet up two Belgian girls we had met on the bus, we made our way to the Parque Central and met a bartender who was clearly very confident in his mojito skills.
"If you don't like it, I will pay for it." He said as he smashed up the mint and lime.
He didn't need to pay for it, he knew, he makes that best mojitos in Cuba!
When a local guy sat next to us started to take pictures of us with his iPhone we decided this was too weird and split for the Casa de la Trova.
Casa de la Trova, a bar that is entirely too small to fit everyone wanting to listen to the live music, so you stand outside and the bartender comes to you.
The bartenders here were an absolute blast and one reason we kept coming back; a short stocky guy who claimed to be a Nelson Mandela look-a-like (maybe he had glaucoma or a very dark bathroom, I don't know) and a Latino with possibly the best mullet I have ever seen that went by the name of Patrick Swayze. Spending most of their time outside giving everyone their own celebrity names, these guys had the best job going. I went from Kate Winslet to an Olympic Ninja, back to Kate Winslet and finally to Penelope Cruz. With flattery like this, who wouldn't comeback for more.
The first few nights, we headed up the giant flight of stairs to El Rancho, one of the two crowded clubs in town. An open air nightclub with a view over the town was a perfect place to let loose and let loose we did. With some seriously terrible salsa moves and once again Cat busting her free dancing, it was a sad hour when they turn the lights on and the music off.
One bonus of the storm was the entertainment I found one day walking along the Melicon while Cat napped. With the waves crashing high over the barrier, the local guys were making the most of it. Stripping down to their shorts, they would sit with linked arms up against the barrier and wait. A giant waves crashed over the Melicon and they would get absolutely nailed; a good wave sending them sliding off the sidewalk and into the wide street. Then, they jump up and race back to wait for the next one. Of course having to get Cat to see this, the guys spent half the time trying to convince us to jump in with them. After seeing one of their backs all torn up from the sidewalk but still going back for more, we gave it a miss and when I ran into them later that night they spent 5 minutes showing me their war wounds from the morning. They certainly know how to make the most of every situation in this country.
With the crappy weather persisting it wasn't until day 4 that we actually headed out on an excursion to Playa Blanco (white beach). Following the foggy directions of a travel agent, we made our way 2.5km down the black sand beach, boarded a tiny row boat to get across the strong river, another 2km down the beach with a crazy local who claimed to be the chief of the town we were heading to, jumped across a downed power line, made our way across a seedy looking swing bridge, got into another rowboat to get around the under repair walkway and finally got to the National Park Entrance where we are told "You can't go to the beach today. Its too rough." What a bummer.
The officer at the Park Desk obviously felt sorry for us so he offered us a deal; instead of paying $2 each to get to the beach, we could pay $5 each, he would give us a guide we could do the Mirador (lookout), the Cave, a few coffee and chocolate farms and then to the beach. Normally costing around $20 each he had a deal.
Hiking up the steep hill to the Mirador was a killer on the original cobblestones the Spanish had laid when first landing in Cuba. With a view worth a million dollars it was well worth it before struggling to stay upright on the way back down and then to the cave for a swim in crystal clear water. When I say crystal clear, I mean that literally. When the guide told us to jump in, we both looked at him like he was crazy because he was shining a torch down the cave to a dry rock bottom, then he threw a stone and we realised it was a small swimming hole so calm and clean we couldn't see it.
Finally making it to the beach, we realised there was a good reason for the officer saying we couldn't swim. With the tide high and the waves crashing so hard we couldn't even see the beach everyone had told us was bonito. Instead of swimming, I read a book while Cat paid $4 for a full body massage by a masseuse who had hit gold with this tourist trap.
Baracoa was by far my favourite place in Cuba, and that was with the bad weather. Friendly locals (sometimes too friendly), rum in our hot chocolate, awesome scenery and the best casa in Cuba, we were definitely glad we had planned to spend so long here. It was sad day when we left but we needed to get back to Havana for our flight back to Mexico.