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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:

Thursday, April 04, 2013 08:17:59

CUBA 2013: 5 - Cienfuegos, Guama & home

Thursday, March 21, 2013

We made an early start for Guama Hotel. First we drove around Cienfuegos, including the very long main street with a boulevard of benches & statues in the centre and colonial columned buildings on each side.

We navigated successfully through a maze of back roads connecting small towns with the help of directions from a number of people en route. Soon we were travelling along the south coast on roads crawling with millions of crabs. We stopped for photos - there were so many there was no possibility of dodging them - the road was paved with them to a depth of about an inch. The sound as we ran over crabs was similar to the clickety clack of trains.

There were some beautiful beaches from Playa Giron to Playa Larga along the infamous Bay of Pigs, where the abortive US sponsored invasion of Cuba took place. We stopped at a couple of places where there was no beach, just a short drop off from the edge of volcanic lava to water as clear as I've seen anywhere.

We turned inland for the drive to Guama, a tourist stop on a canal that connects to Treasure lake, where independent travellers and bus tourists alike can take a boat down the canal and around the lake. The boarding area had tourist shops, bar and restaurant.

I had spotted the place while using Google Earth to help plan the trip, and prepaid one night's accommodation while staying at the hotel on the Ancon Peninsula. When we arrived we were assured that for a $3 fee the car would be well looked after, and another $7 got us a return ticket on the next boat, which dropped us at the hotel on the far side of the lake.

As the hotel price was only $60 we were a bit apprehensive, but on arrival were delighted. Each room is a separate thatched cabin on stilts in the lake with individual board walks to shore. There is a large bathroom, sitting room, a large bedroom and a dressing room. The bar and dining room are each in separate buildings on stilts as well, all connected by varying lengths of arched bridges. The afternoon was a lazy one - I drank beer and read while Marilynn cooled off in the pool.

We booked a boat tour in the evening. The guide rowed one boat and towed another through the canals where birds were plentiful. The participants spoke some English but no Spanish so Marilynn interpreted - tourist here were Danish, Dutch or Russian. It was an interesting tour, ending in an abortive sunset due to rain clouds on the horizon.

Our rower dropped us at the restaurant where it proved impossible to get service. There was one waiter on duty for the onslaught of diners, and he was supposedly the bartender as well. That job was totally forsaken, so there was nothing to ease the pain of waiting. After about an hour our order was taken, and another bartender was brought in so we could actually get a drink. Dinner was definitely not worth waiting for.

Friday, March 22, 2013

We decide that because this was such a special place we should stay another night.

After a very basic breakfast we caught the first boat out at 9 AM and drove back to the coast - additional boat trips in and out are without charge. We checked at a dive shop offering snorkeling trips, but they had already left so we drove back down the coast until we could pull off the road beside the ocean. The shore was sharp coral but once in the water it was great - good visibility, beautiful live coral and a wide variety of fish.

We had a big lunch at dockside, where the food isn't bad, before taking the boat back to the hotel so we could avoid the dinner disaster of last night. Instead we walked to the site of a former Indian village where statues depicted various things in the life of the Indians. (The Indians are extinct).

There was a snack bar at the village where we had inevitable ham & cheese sandwiches along with a special drink they make in a coconut, using various ingredients along with a sugar cane alcohol similar to Costa Rica guaro. When we ordered a second one the bartender put a full bottle of 40% alcohol on our table and let us fix our own. After three we were in pretty good spirits, but made it home without falling in the water.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The luggage and I were rowed to reception while Marilynn walked over 4 bridges to catch the 9 AM boat that left at 9:45 - yesterday was 9:20. We had a good breakfast at the restaurant at the dock and drove to Matanzas on the north coast.

After finding the main square we left the car in the care of an old fellow and walked around the square, then into the principal hotel which had a lobby of high marble columns from days gone by. We had a delicious plate of shrimp with wine, and Marilynn went to look at a room, however it was three stories up with no elevator and tonight we need everything out of the car to repack, so didn't stay.

We headed towards Havana about 96 km away on the four lane coast road. After driving for awhile we stopped so Marilynn could ask a tour bus driver about hotels down this coast, and lucked out big time with a recommendation for Super Club's all inclusive Breezes resort, only 4 km away. The overnight cost is up, but being our last night we decided to splurge.

The room was great, the beach brilliant white sand, and there is a reef in front of the hotel that is an easy swim from the beach. We snorkeled for almost 2 hours, having our toes bitten by some interesting fish! The water was beautifully clear with lots of fish and corals. Afterwards we patronized the beach bar - there are four bars on the premises.

We opted for the huge buffet dinner, one of the best ever. If the average Cuban saw that layout of food they wouldn't believe it - much on offer is not even available to them. I suspect the chain hotels have some agreement for bringing in product. It is not difficult to feel an undertow of resentment in the staff, even though they do their jobs efficiently.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Marilynn was down with the tourista, so I breakfasted alone and then went for another long snorkel. Although the visibility wasn't quite up to yesterday it was still great.

We had to leave the hotel room at noon, so we put our gear in the car and stayed for lunch. We stopped a few times to ask directions on the way to the airport, but had no problems. The average Cuban seemed very well informed as to the roads and our Spanish was essential.

The car return was quick and easy, but converting the CUCs back into US$ was a different matter. The girl in the change booth gave me back almost $40 in CUCs, which are useless outside of Cuba, and said she couldn't change them as she had only $100 US bills. I had lots of 5, 10 and 20 dollar bills in US so said I'd change $100 but that was not acceptable. At this point we were warming to the battle quite well, but another woman came along as said she talked to the people on the air side of customs and said that they would change the money - which they did.

We had quite a long airport wait, as we'd budgeted time to get lost, but the flight was on time and we were home on schedule. Our next islands trip will be on April 24, when we will spend a month exploring the Philippines.

If anyone wants thoughts or advice on visiting Cuba, please let me know. I'd be happy to help out.