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Live the adventures of Dan Walker's travels through reading his travel journal. The travel journals are listed below in descending order of date. To search the travel journals, use the keyword search at the bottom of the page.

Journal Entry:

Wednesday, March 27, 2013 09:58:06

CUBA 2013: 2 - Camaguey to Pilon

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

After a huge breakfast we got the car out to find the bicycle fellow who guided us into town waiting to guide us out - he must have liked the tip. He pointed out that the right front tire needed air. The attendant at the service station's air hose checked the pressure and charged to put in air. There was a serious hustle to get us to take off the tire and check it for leaks, but we ignored it.

A common mode of transport is the horse drawn bus. These are roofed carriages with side curtains and benches down each side. As many people as can crowd into the interior, while the rest hang on the outside. They run frequently, both inside the city and on the highway, adding to the list of hazards to dodge,

We did a driving tour of Las Tunas about 120 Km from Camaguay, which seemed a pleasant place, with a smaller historic centre. Another hour of driving saw us in Bayamo, another small historic town credited with being the foundation of Cuban independence and the place the national anthem was first sung.

We tried to drive the the central Plaza, but all entrances are blocked, so I left Marilynn with the car and walked to the main hotel on Plaza de la Revolution. It was prebooked by group tours, but the lady at reception phoned someone with a guest house who was there in minutes. It wasn't up to the standards of last night, but was clean and had all the necessary conveniences such as air conditioning, a fridge, private bathroom etc. This is basic with guest houses, and has cut our accommodation cost by 2/3, a good thing as our credit cards won't work.

Once settled in we walked around town, including several blocks on a pedestrian street lined with well staffed shops with very little to sell. We had four croquettes at a speciality restaurant where we were the only clients but there was a staff of 5. We have yet to find a convenience store or supermarket, however we are told that produce, meat and so on are purchased at open markets outside the city. We found a place called a mini-super, but it had only candy, cookies and drinks. Marilynn was delighted to find the only Diet Coke of the trip. The manager, who spoke some English from his tourism training, was kind enough to hang onto our purchases while we visited the Centro Cultural Beatles.

It took a number of requests for directions before we found the life sized statues of the four Beatles in front. It was closed, but we chatted with people in front while taking photos. Once they got to know us a little we found out that they are the band. They were headed in for a rehearsal, so invited us along. Chairs were set up in the shade in front of the band and we were given us a private concert. They were fabulous musicians; very versatile in their music. We found that they too were on government salary.

After saying a fond farewell and receiving invitations to their Saturday night concert, we picked up our purchases and walked back to the room for a rest before having a really delicious beef dinner at the nearby Bodega Restaurant. It fronts on the square and overlooks a river in the back.

After dinner we stopped at a couple of bars before going to the Casa de Trova, where they play traditional Cuban music. Unfortunately, before they got going the power went out in the area, so we walked back to the plaza for a couple of more drinks. When it became evident that the power wasn't coming back on we headed home for an earlier night than planned.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

This morning we went to the government money change to get more CUC (the Cuban tourist currency) and explained our problem so they checked the credit card carefully and found they met all requirements for Cuba, but still were declined. Cards issued by US banks cannot be used here. We phoned my office in Costa Rica to have them check with the bank, and they were back to us shortly to say all credit card transactions in Cuba are blocked in Costa Rica. This would be one more example of Costa Rica caving in to the US - they already control Costa Rican banking policy, airport security and some police activities.

We drove to Manzanillo where we were flagged down by a fellow on a bicycle. The people we stayed with last night told him we were coming and he had a house with a guest room to rent. We followed him to his house but didn't stay as we wanted something near the beach, and there is little to do in Manzanillo. After touring the small town we drove to Niquero, where we checked with the recommended hotel to find it full. It turned out that the beach was 16 km away anyhow.

The reception people told us the guest house people from Bayamo had phoned to make sure we were all right - the fellow in Manzanillo told them he recommended this hotel. Reception phoned ahead to the next town, Pilon, where there are two hotels, one of which was an all inclusive that charged $98 for both of us and had a vacancy. We found the hotel by picking up three hitch-hikers who somehow managed to squeeze into our tiny back seat and guide us. One was a huge fat fellow who must have been very uncomfortable - but like almost all the Cubans we met they were friendly and very helpful!

The food wasn't exceptional, but good enough, and the hotel had a good range of liquor including wine with dinner - the first time we've seen it in Cuba. The place had largely Canadian group tours, who joined at the bar to party until the wee hours. The room was great with a beautiful sea view. It was a real luxury break for us, and we certainly drank our money's worth.