Day 6 - Taxi, Tan and Translation

The good thing about having a fully working and modern air-conditioning unit in the bedroom of our casa was the micro-climate it created. The bedroom could be a cool and calming zone, while even venturing into the en-suite bathroom meant you were faced with a not insignificant wall of heat. The bad thing was when the unit was right above your bed. This meant when I slept with the air-con on I had to press myself against the wall so that the cool air missed me as it was being blown out; regardless, I spent a lot of the night fumbling in the dark trying to turn the unit onto a lower setting which usually resulted in me turning it onto timer mode or switching it onto high-power.

Breakfast that morning consisted of the usual suspects, however with the patio doors open, a proliferation of flies buzzed annoyingly around us while we tried to eat. It was this breakfast where I came up with the mad (or genius, depending on your perspective) idea of constructing an automatic fly incinerator, most likely involving lasers. This was one of the ideas that I moulded throughout the holiday (at one time it was a sonic device, others I would muse over the preciseness of the targeting system) then as soon as I touched down in Britain, realised the ridiculousness of having a laser powerful enough to kill a fly around people, possibly children.

Talking with the casa owner about our journey to Trinidad today, he seemed certain that there were no buses running apart from the daily bus which we had previously used to travel to Sancti Spiritus. The adult guide to Cuba indicated that a Viazul bus ran mid morning and the prospect of staying in Sancti Spiritus another day certainly didn't appeal. We headed down to the station shortly before 0830 and, sure enough, no buses were running to Trinidad; the age of the Lonely Planet guide we had was beginning to show. However, with the help of a genial security guard we were able to organise a taxi to Trinidad right from our casa (which was apparently known around town by its name of Las Americas). We pushed for an early departure of 9am, but the taxi driver said later was better due to the lessening of police on the roads, 1130 it was.

With a few hours to kill we headed back to the casa where Matt made a concerted effort to learn more Spanish while I listened to some music. Packing and saying goodbye to our overly friendly host, the dirty-yellow taxi rolled up right on time and, after I ran back to grab some water we had bought, we were on our way. Before even leaving Sancti Spiritus the taxi driver picked up a police officer, quickly stating that we were his amigos; the driver's conversation with the police officer was far more languid and laid back than the Santiago mechanic's was.

Matt had asked before how long the journey would take, and an hour and half seemed perfectly reasonable. The taxi itself was an order of magnitude more road-worthy than the Lada we had previously ridden in. My only gripe was the speedometer didn't work, well, it certainly measured the strength of the cross-wind on the car but as far as measuring speed it was useless; given that most cars in Cuba would strain to go above 50mph, this wasn't exactly a worry. The journey itself was uneventful and took us through familiar farm land and across winding, hilly roads.

Matt had been to Cuba before hand with one of his relatives and as such, had a good idea what to expect within the country and also gave him a bit of head start on the language. Throughout his previous holiday he had spent most of his time in the western part of the country and a large amount of time in Trinidad attending a diving course. He had fallen in love with the life-style and the people and I was certainly up for learning to scuba dive, so Trinidad was where we had planned to spend the longest amount of time. Trinidad was also the place where our list of casas from our busy Holguin host ran out; no matter, Matt had been in contact with a friend previously and our accommodation was sorted. I could tell that Matt was nervous about meeting up with his friends by the amount of Spanish he was trying to cram into his head in such a short span of time.

We would be meeting Matt's friends on the beach which was on a peninsula a few kilometres outside of Trinidad town; however, our current taxi driver wouldn't take us all the way to the beach due (once again) to police presence, so he dropped us in the centre of town and flagged down a local (government authorised) taxi driver. By now it was the time of day when the sun baked any and everything, so I was in no mood to haggle with our new driver who, despite Matt's protestations, probably charged us above the going rate.

The peninsula was pure tourist, with large plush hotels and well-dressed security guards roaming the grounds, you could tell where the tourist money was going. Slogging across the hot sands with our huge bags we finally met up with Matt's friends who, without being derogatory, I recognised immediately as beach-bums. The people we met were made up of a group of diving instructors and a hotel concierge named Carlos who had pitch-perfect command of English and informed us that he would take us to our accommodation in the evening. After some jovial greetings, we placed our bags in the dive-hut while the instructors took a group out on the boat for the afternoon dive. We had nothing to do until evening so we headed for a nearby sun-lounger to pass some time.

We were then promptly evicted from the sun lounger by an over-zealous security guard who stated that we needed to be a patron of the hotel to use their precious loungers. Patrons were easily spotted by the coloured wrist-bands they wore which unfortunately changed colour each day, and as correct as the security guard was, the beach was public and there were a vast number of other loungers available. Unfortunately this activity would become the norm for our time on the beach for the remainder of our stay in Trinidad.

Matt was the first to take to the ocean, I followed only to realise how out of practise I was at swimming, floundering before getting back into a rhythm. Waiting for the divers to return we built up an impressive sunburn and ogled some topless female sun-bathers from afar; we felt better about ourselves for this when a rotund, middle-aged man took to walking back and forth in front of them, pro-active ogling if you will.

The dive team returned some time after 4pm and the real introductions could begin. Matt offered up gifts of music and traditional English beer (ale) while we all chatted and integrated. The dive team had a good command of the English language, obviously learned from the number of tourists passing through the hotel, of course this meant they also know a wide array of swear words and lewd phrases which they dotted liberally about their speech. Amongst the smutty stories, Leo, the "head" dive instructor (if there was such a title) related to us that the phrase "ChupaChup" (as in the lollipop) was slang for blow-job; this became all the funnier when we saw a young woman walking down the beach wrapped in a ChupaChup beach towel. Carlos dropped by and said that he would be waiting at the marina to take Matt and I to our casa, at which point Lester, who ostensibly tended the dive hut, and Igor, a slender instructor with an impossibly gorgeous girlfriend, decided it was time to bring out the rum and coke. This of course made us late in meeting Carlos, which I was far more worried about than Matt seemed to be.

The journey back into Trinidad was in the back of an old Transit van which served the dual purpose of hiding us from any police and being large enough to comfortably stow our backpacks. It turned out the casa we would be staying in wouldn't be ready until the next day so we would spend one night next door. Our host let us snack on some fruit and plied us with coffee and rum (in that order) before we were shuttled off next door to our one-night casa which thoroughly confused me. The one-night casa resembled the Tardis from Doctor Who in that despite its outer appearance, inside it was spacious and seemed to stretch on and on. Our host for the night proceeded to offer us beer which, coupled with the rum, made me utterly squiffy and sleepy. Matt began to talk to an elderly gentleman who lived in the casa while I relaxed on the balcony, at which point an immense tropical downpour ensued.

While the rain continued, the evening meal arrived which consisted of soup, rice, potatoes, soup and a meat which took all our deductive reasoning to identify as pork. Now stuffed, squiffy and sunburned, all my energy allowed was to make it to our room, collapse on the bed and fall fast asleep. Matt on the other hand was eager to get out and re-experience Trinidad and see if it stood up to his memories. I woke up a few hours later incredibly thirsty and managed to stumble through to the main area of the casa and ask for a bottle of water from the owner. Rehydrated, I cranked up the air-conditioning and fell asleep completely.

Matt returned from his escapades in and around Trinidad around 4am.

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