I set out extra early this morning and headed out to explore some more of the Malecon in the direction opposite where we had explored yesterday. In this direction I enjoyed some more great coastal views, explored some monuments and passed the US embassy just a couple of days before US President Barack Obama was scheduled to arrive to discuss restoring relations with Cuba. I climbed up on the wall of the Malecon on the way back and walked along there observing the many Cubans that had climbed down the wall for some morning fishing and the unique rock formations that dotted the shoreline that we’d previously missed as they were mostly out of sight from the regular walkway. I then stopped once again at the Hotel Nacional to check out the peacocks up closed that were roaming the grounds and to purchase some Cuban rum and a cigar to bring home as the prices there for those items were some of the best I had encountered!
After a late breakfast, our scheduled Taxi Collectivo pickup time of 10am was approaching so we paid and said our goodbyes to our hosts and headed downstairs. After waiting for about 40 minutes we decided we’d been forgotten about (or lost our seats to a higher bidder perhaps) and took a bus to the Viazul Bus station in the hopes of procuring some form of transportation to Santa Clara. Luck was on our side and there was a couple from Oslo, Norway looking to spend a night in Santa Clara en-route to experience Trinidad. A short while later the person organizing the taxi rides had found a driver willing to make the trip this late in the day. Unlike our previous shared taxi ride our Norweigan companions, Fridtjof and Katharina were delightful company and well-travelled as well. Fun stories of our past adventures were shared along the ride to pass the time.
The taxi dropped us off right at our doorstep and this was the one time that a pre-arranged casa that our Havana hosts had set up for us worked out according to plan. They settled us in and promptly helped our companions find accommodation elsewhere. We quickly set out to make it to the Armoured Train Park (an important piece in the battle of Santa Clara during the revolution) which was about a 10 minute walk from our Casa before it closed. The cost to tour the small park was 1 CUC or 2 for a guided tour. Unfortunately we had arrived too late in the day for the guided option so for about half an hour we wandered through the train cars and the exhibits they hosted.
We then decided to walk over to check out the Che Guerva Mausoleum and Plaza of the Revolution which turned out to be about an hour stroll through the city. Along the way we handed out the last of our candies and dollar store items to children and families we met along the walk. The Che Monument was certainly one of the most impressive that we encountered on the island. We flagged down a horse cart and for 5 CUC we were whisked back to the centre of town along some scenic roadways through the city. For dinner we found ourselves at another Italian restaurant and just as we were finishing off our meal we bumped into Fridtjof and Katharina and joined them for a few rounds of drinks and good conversation for a perfect last night to round off our Cuban adventure!
Day 8: Santa Clara and Home
When we woke up the last day the person that would cook the breakfast had not yet arrived so we wandered about the town some more and at the square we were able to make arrangements for a 15 CUC taxi ride to the airport. We returned to pack our things and enjoy one last Cuban smorgasbord before catching our Taxi. Once at the airport it did not take long to check-in and clear security and we were delighted to learn that Air Transit had covered the cost of the departure tax. There was a currency exchange window inside the main entrance where we switched back to Canadian funds but we later learned there was also one once you had cleared security. I would recommend exchanging funds there in case you’d like a meal or to do some last minute souvenir shopping. When it was time to board the plane everyone lined up to take a shuttle bus across the runway to where our plane was waiting. We climbed the stairs to board satisfied that it had been a March break adventure we’d remember for years to come!
Some of the gear being tested on this trip courtesy of ScoutTech Outfitters at www.scouttech.com :
Osprey Daylite 22L Daypack (affixes to the Porter)
Chinook Aquatight Waterproof Waist Pouch
Hi-Tech Zuuks Lightweight Travel Shoes
Oboz Firebrand II BDry Hiking Shoes
Salomon Equation Long Sleeve Travel Shirt
ExOfficio Give-n-Go Underwear vs Patagonia Capilene Travel Underwear
Black Diamond Spot Headlamp