Cuba: Santa Clara, Trinidad, Camagüey, Viñales, & Cienfuegos
Jan. 16 / Feb, 10, 2013

Michael J. Ferguson

Journal Index


1  Montreal to Santa Clara, Wed. Jan. 16
2  Santa Clara, Thurs. Jan 17
3  Santa Clara, Fri, Jan. 18
4  Santa Clara to Camajuani, Sat. Jan. 19
5  Camajuani to Remedios, Sun. Jan. 20
6  Remedios to Remedios, Mon. Jan. 21
7  Remedios, Tues. Jan. 22
8  Remedios to Santa Clara Wed. Jan 23
9  Santa Clara to Trinidad, Thurs. Jan. 24
10  Trinidad, Fri. Jan. 25
11  Valle des Los Ingenios, Sat. Jan. 26
12  Trinidad markets and Soviet style housing, Sat. Jan. 26
13  La Boca and the Playa Ancon, Sun. Jan. 27
14  Trinidad to Camagüey, Mon. Jan. 28
15  Camagüey, Tues. Jan. 29
16  Camagüey, Wed. Jan. 30
17  Camagüey to Havana and Viñales, Thurs. Jan. 31
18  Viñales, Fri. Feb. 1
19  Viñales to Cienfuegos, Sat. Feb. 2
20  Cienfuegos, Sun. Feb. 3 to Thurs. Feb. 7
    20.1  Parques and Plazas
        20.1.1  Parque José Martí
        20.1.2  Parque Villuendas
        20.1.3  Plaza Aduana
        20.1.4  Plazuelas
    20.2  The Prado
    20.3  The Malecón and Punta Gorda
    20.4  Castillo de Jagua
    20.5  Outside the Historic District
21  Cienfuegos to Santa Clara, Fri. Feb. 8
22  Comments and Curiosities
    22.1  Waiting in Line
    22.2  Casa Particulaires
    22.3  Transportation
        22.3.1  Bicycles
        22.3.2  Taxis
        22.3.3  Busses
        22.3.4  Trains
    22.4  Cultural Centres
    22.5  School Marching Bands
    22.6  Small Private Enterprise
    22.7  Visible Offences and the Law
    22.8  Pedestrian Zones
23  Santa Clara to Montreal, Sun. Feb. 10

1  Montreal to Santa Clara, Wed. Jan. 16

This trip totally avoids Havana, and flys directly into Santa Clara in the middle of Cuba. As usual on Air Transat, it is non-stop. The flight was pleasant, and we arrived essentially on time. Cuban immigration was polite but thorough. You are required to have a reservation for your arrival. Mine was the Hostel Amalia, of which the woman had never heard, but my paperwork from the Internet reservation satisfied her. Then there was a slow x-raying of your hand baggage, followed by an incredible thorough searching of every bag in my trailer. I was continually asked about the function of strange things such as the soup packets in my cook kit and the wooden trailer kick-stands for my trailer. However it was the totally sealed CampinGaz 203 gas cylinders that confused them most. They took a picture of one of them on my passport. I hope this does not presage problems when I leave. The sealed canisters are quite safe for flying. I would never fly with a canister that had a valve. There is too much danger of them leaking, with potential disastrous results.
Cuba is logistically, the most difficult place I have ever been to. The authorities are paranoid about GPS systems and will seize them on entry. Apparently they are afraid a GPS will make it too easy to sail to Florida. I spent a lot of time making maps using Google Maps but that did not prevent me from getting lost on the way into Santa Clara from the airport.
The second problem is money. Cuba uses two monetary systems, the National Peso and the Cuba Convertible Peso, called the CUC. Cuba is essentially disconnected from the world ATM system so Cuban currency must obtained, using cash, not US$, or cash advances from credit cards using a bank or a CADEC which is a government exchange office. 1.00 CUC is about 1.00 US$. Apparently ATM cards don't work either. With some difficulty I found a CADEC just outside the door. It was an unmarked, 1 metre square window.
I started out for Santa Clara at about 5:30pm, just a half hour before sunset. It was supposedly about 13km to Amalia, but I made a wrong turn, in the darkness, and got totally lost. I was completely off my map so I didn't really understand the directions that the people were giving me. I was also totally exhausted, with no water or food. As I was puzzling over my map, two kids on bicycles came up and invited me to follow them to a place to sleep. I thought they were inviting me home, but they were leading me to a Casa Particulaire which is a private house that has been licensed to lodge foreigners. The first one they stopped at was full, but when I emphasized again, that I had a reservation at Amalia, at 61 Lorda, they found it, and showed me the protocol to wake up the owner. Amalia is on the third floor, and my, quite pleasant room, is on the fourth. The owner and his son carried my bicycle and trailer up the stairs for me, making it much more bicycle friendly. Except for the navigational problems, riding at night is quite pleasant. On the way I passed many horse-carts, used for everything from taxis to freight transport, and, of course, was passed by many 50s vintage cars. It was an interesting, but distressingly exhausting ride.
I am slowly recovering, and had a pleasant night.

2  Santa Clara, Thurs. Jan 17

Today was a day to get supplies, and wander around town. The wandering was successful, but the acquisition of supplies was a total failure. I then returned and spent the rest of the afternoon in Parque Vidal, Santa Clara's central plaza. Shaded seats were in short supply, but that did not induce the authorities to open up the seats in the shaded gazebo.
While I was there I was inundated with over 50 uniformed school children getting a break. A little later in the afternoon, some more were lining up in front of the Teatro la Caridad for a performance.

3  Santa Clara, Fri, Jan. 18

My Google Map showed a Farmer's Market near Tren el Blindado. Lonely Planet did not mention it and it was apparently right. There was no trace that I could find. I also wanted to find the way out of town towards Remedios that avoided going the wrong way on one-way streets. On that I was successful. On the way I passed the Iglesia de Buen Viaje, which is mentioned in Lonely Planet but is really not overly impressive.
Then it was the Tren el Blindado. This outdoor museum commemorates the derailment of a train of Batista's soldiers by Che Guevara during the Battle of Santa Clara. The derailment, by ripping up the tracks with a bulldozer, is what made Guevara famous. Batista surrendered soon afterwards.
From there I back-tracked to where I made the wrong turn coming in from the airport. On the way I passed the depressing Reparto Daafar housing development.
I continued into town, following my Wednesday route until I got to the train station. Then I discovered that my Wednesday route was sending me the wrong way down a one-way street. I stopped to contemplate the situation at the square in front of the train station. A family sitting there had children wearing the same school uniforms that I saw in Parque Vidal, and there were 16 horse-taxis, waiting for fares, lined around the square.
I continued into the centre of town and discovered that I probably would have gotten lost later. The only reason I found the Amalia is I now knew the neighbourhood.

4  Santa Clara to Camajuani, Sat. Jan. 19

I had intended to go to Remedios, but ran out of steam about halfway there. On the way I stopped frequently and usually someone came over to talk. Unfortunately, my conversational Spanish is non-existent, so I generally did not have any idea what was wanted. However this nice woman wanted to give me some coffee, which I accepted.
This was not Woodside, California, but it is horse country.
At about 4:00pm, two hours before sunset, I tried to find a place to camp. I had no success at all. I arrived in Camajuani after dark and slowly rode up the last hill into town. Most Cuban bikes are single speed and their riders walk. After some questions, and the help of a neighbour, I found a totally unmarked Casa Particulaire and settled in for the night. My trailer is with me in the room because they have an elevator to the second floor.

5  Camajuani to Remedios, Sun. Jan. 20

Although chickens are most common, some farmers are rich enough to have a huge turkey, with chicks. The turkey roamed free, but the cow was tethered.
I had seen flocks of huge birds circling above me for the last two days. Then a pair landed on a power pole. beside me.
I arrived in Remedios at about noon and found the Casa Particulaire recommended by a group of three cyclists from Germany, coming from Remedios. Then I rode the few short blocks to the Plaza Martí that is the heart of Remedios. On this Sunday afternoon, all the spots in the shade were taken.

6  Remedios to Remedios, Mon. Jan. 21

This turned out to be a very eventful day. It was very hot (over 100°F, 39°C) with unrelenting sun. My energy levels were so low that I was only able to sustain a few minutes of riding at one time. I also was occasionally dizzy after getting up from my rest. This, I think, is related to my problem with Aortic Valve Stenosis that I have now had for several years At one point, after about 10km, I stopped in a pleasant shady area, got out my pillow, and lay down on the ground. In a short while, several families came across the road to try to help. One little boy ran back home and brought me two bananas, which I ate. They kept asking what they could do to help, so I told them I would like a taxi or bus to take me to Sancti- Spiritus. They decided I needed more, and when I was trying to leave, they said NO, a car was coming. In a short while the car, which was really an ambulance, arrived. I insisted NO, several times, and went on my way. Things were a little better, but not much. I stopped in front of a bus shelter, hoping, but intending to stay until it was cooler. The next town was only 4km away, but it was very small and there was no guarantee that it would have a Casa Particulaire .
Wild camping is virtually impossible in Cuba, not to mention illegal. Everything by the road is fenced except for the dirt lanes that lead to houses. As I was waiting at the bus shelter, I saw a man, with a big sack, appear suddenly down the road. After I had decided to move on, I discovered a small opening beside another bus shelter that led to a large, unkempt meadow with some palms in the distance. It was clear that I could easily be totally invisible from the road, so I decided to stay.
However I was not totally invisible. Just after I put up my tent, a man on a horse came through the opening, and retrieved a shovel down by the palms, and came back. In normal circumstances I would have moved on as soon as I was noticed. However, my terminal exhaustion, and the odds that the next town would not have a Casa Particulaire convinced me to stay. Apparently my presence was fearful, and instead of harassing me I was reported to the police. At about 7:30pm, in total darkness, I was awakened by the police, and told to follow them. I took down everything, repacked the trailer and was forced back to Remedios. What had taken me all day to come, I was able to cover in 40min going back. It was mostly downhill, and much cooler.
At the police station, they were very polite, took all my details and entered them. They also knew that there had been an ambulance sent for me. I had to explain that I did not ask for an ambulance, but instead asked for a taxi or bus. That they accepted. They also asked me the details of my travel plans, where I had been, and where I was going. Then they let me go, insisting that I find an appropriate place to stay. I told them I would stay where I had last night. I found it, and am safely back.
It is clear to me that there will be no more attempts at wild camping. One police encounter was just a warning. A second one and I am sure will be big trouble. I will ride back to Santa Clara and leave all my camping gear at the Amalia.

7  Remedios, Tues. Jan. 22

Today I rode up to the north of town where I had heard a train whistle, wondering whether there was train to Santa Clara. There wasn't, but I did discover that Remedios brings new meaning to living close by the tracks.
This is evidently not an affluent part of town, but the residents do have pride in keeping their houses nicely painted.
I waited until 2:00pm in the Plaza Martí, to avoid the morning tour busses, before visiting the inside of Iglesia de San Jaun Bautista de Remedios. Much to the delight of my private guide, I spoke French and he was able to give the tour in French, and contrast the Remedios and Québec views of St. Jean-Baptiste. He was especially proud that the alters were original Cuban works of art.
After the visit, I went over to look at Iglesia Buen Viaje. Although this may be the only plaza in Cuba with two churches, this second one is quite dead.

8  Remedios to Santa Clara Wed. Jan 23

Just out of town, I saw a gathering of about ten turkey vultures. However, the flowers by the side of the road had much more charm than the vultures.
Cubans trim their trees in a particularly intensive fashion that I say for the first time while I was living in Austria. At an appropriate height, they just cut off the branches. Then the new ones grow like suckers from the stump giving a bushy head. I think it is rather bizarre.
I arrived at Camajuani just before noon and rode slowly through town, enjoying all the activity. A few km out of town, my pace deteriorated rather dramatically. Just after I met a group of three Vancouver bicyclists on their way to Remedios, I stopped to rest, sitting on a small rock, at the top of the most difficult hill between Santa Clara and Remedios. As I was there, a huge truck stopped and the driver asked me if I wanted a ride to Santa Clara. I said No, but he insisted. Then he squeezed the back tire of my trailer and I discovered it was flat. That convinced me to take up his offer, and we lifted the bike and trailer onto the truck. Just outside of Santa Clara. at a place I knew well from my wrong turn coming in from the airport, he let me out.
I spent sometime repairing my trailer tire, but couldn't find anything wrong, and rode into the Amalia. They had room, and phoned to the bus station to get information on the bus to Trinidad. I will take it tomorrow, and leave all my camping gear here.

9  Santa Clara to Trinidad, Thurs. Jan. 24

I had detailed directions to the ViAzul interdepartmental bus station and passed the Catedral de las Santas Hermanas de Santa Clara de Asis, the top sight in Santa Clara according to Lonely Planet . It was closed the last time I came by.
I also passed the Che Guevara monument, and decided to stop. I had no real inclination to see it but it was on my way.
Then I passed the bus station. It was on the other side of the street, and completely unmarked. I turned around after it was clear that I had gone too far, stopped, went back, asked, and found it. It was then that I discovered that my shop Spanish was not good enough to navigate the complexities of going by bus with my bicycle. I first had to go to the bus entrance and take my bicycle to the freight dock. I left it there, and went back to get my ticket. They wouldn't sell me one until it was certain that my bicycle would fit on the bus. The bus arrived just 15min before it was to leave, so I ran back to get my ticket, and then the agent came back with me to be certain all was OK. It was, and off we went. The bus was less than half full, so it was quite pleasant. I had hoped it would go over the mountains to Trinidad, but instead it went via Cienfuegos. At that point, the bus completely filled up, as did the luggage bins, but my bicycle and trailer stayed on.
The entire trip went through typical small Cuban towns, and not particularly interesting countryside. When we arrived, the station was surrounded by 50 or so people holding names and others flogging Casa Particulaires. After unfolding my bicycle, and saying NO may times, I discovered where I was and went in search of a Casa Particulaire that had been recommended by an Australian I had met in Santa Clara. It was full, but they phoned a neighbour who had room, and that was where I am staying.
I then rode up the two blocks to the Park Cespedes with the city hall is off to one side an long arbour leads right up the middle.

10  Trinidad, Fri. Jan. 25

Today I rode up to the historic district. At least I rode part of the way. The cobblestones are an incredible pain, and the potholes add real danger, so most of thr time I walked.
The centre of the historic district, the Plaza Major. I locked my bicycle to the fence and walked all around from there.
The Church of the Holy Trinity is the centre piece church in the historic district.
There were horses and donkeys everywhere. One donkey had a sign on its forehead, For Rent .. Pictures 50 cents.
I wandered around the historic district and discovered that the it was rather strongly delimited.
The tourist street vendors often took up several blocks.
However, near the Plaza Cespedes, well outside the historic district, the street vendors were for local consumption.

11  Valle des Los Ingenios, Sat. Jan. 26

This morning I walked down to the Trinidad train station to take the tourist train to the Valle de Los Ingenios. Currently, and probably forever, Tren de Valle de Los Ingenios is the only train that runs through Trinidad.
Los Ingenios is the local name given to the sugar refineries that are the reason for Trinidad's great wealth. The valley is a lush green, but I saw only a couple of remnants of cane fields and no sugar refineries. It was, though, a pleasant trip. My map showed a road into the valley, and I had thought about riding along it. However, I couldn't find the start on my map, and after seeing parts of it, I am just as happy I didn't try.
On the way out of town, we passed a `pretty church up on a hill.
The track passed numerous small houses, and few big ones. The children seemed quite excited to see it come by.
We stopped for about an hour in Iznaga and were joined by number of tour busses. It was drizzling, and not overly pleasant tourist stuff stall destination.
Some passengers had a scare as the train disappeared, just before we were to leave, to let a shunting trolley pass.
The end of the line was a few minutes later at the Casa Guachinago. We stayed there about an hour and a half and arrived back in Trinidad at about 2:30pm.

12  Trinidad markets and Soviet style housing, Sat. Jan. 26

Saturday is obviously market day and there were tiny ones set up all over town.
It was also time for play. I was invited to join in.
The historic district may be a World Heritage Site, but the southern part is depressing Soviet style housing.

13  La Boca and the Playa Ancon, Sun. Jan. 27

I left early this morning to ride to La Boca and the Ancon beaches. La Boca is a small beach town, full of Casa Particulaires and only 5km from Trinidad. It was extremely quiet this early Sunday morning.
Just south of La Boca was a strange little enclave carved out of the sand.
There were a few birds in the mangrove swamps, but not too many.
Much to my surprise, the parking area on the beach charged five dollars to park your bicycle. I am not a beach type so I just took a few pictures and turned back to Trinidad.

14  Trinidad to Camagüey, Mon. Jan. 28

I left my Casa Particulaire just before dawn and rode to the bus station. I was quite early, and waited for about an hour. There was much less hassle than in Santa Clara, and my bicycle was loaded easily. The trip to Camagüey was about five hours through uninspiring countryside, with an hour stop at the Oasis, a very nice Parador. A Parador is a privately run restaurant, and generally much better than the government run variety.
I am out of my original territory so I don't have any maps, other than the one on my Kindle Fire. The Kindle Fire is virtually impossible to read in daylight, and the maps difficult to use, even if you could see them. Again I went totally the wrong direction and had to back track to the bus station. I then was pointed in the right direction, but really did not have any idea of the distance or where I should go. A local bicyclist offered to guide me, and I followed him through the labyrinth of streets to finally find the Casa Particulaire of choice. It was full, but a neighbour led me to another. This one is very nice, but not very bicycle friendly. I had no idea where I was, even after asking the Casa Particulaire owners so I went outside and started walking. This way I figured I could get lost slowly. Finally I was oriented, and wandered around the neighbourhood.
Camagüey is also World Heritage Site which, along with having a labyrinth of streets that were supposed to confuse the pirate Henry Morgan, is noted for a considerably different architecture than the rest of Cuba
Some of the modernization is getting rid of old streetcar tracks.
Eventually I found my way back, passing the Iglesia La Merced in the Plaza de los Trabajdores.

15  Camagüey, Tues. Jan. 29

Today, the major quest was to find the bus station. The reason I was so lost when I arrived was that the two bus stations on the Lonely Planet map were only local and inter-municipal, and on the north side of the city. The inter-department bus station is on the south side, and not on any maps. I went around in huge circles, passing the local stations twice, which also happen to be beside the train station. and rode down Republica twice.
I finally was able to get a map of the historic district from the information office, and received instructions that the station was 2km down the Carreterra Central. The major complication was that the Carreterra Central was one-way, the wrong way, when I approached it from the north. I finally discovered that a second street, Avenida Libertad runs parallel. found the station at the point they merged. Then I bought a ticket to Havana for tomorrow night. I want to go to Viñales. which is supposed to be a wonderful valley for bicycle riding, but could only get one to Havana. Hopefully I can make connections.
The rest of the afternoon was spent visiting the Lonely Planet sights that I might find interesting. The first was the Catedral Metropolitan and a Cultural Centre on the Plaza de Armas.
None of the churches that I have seen in Cuba have much external or internal charm.
I also visited the Iglesia Carmen, with its interesting plaza, and Pablo Trias Escolapio which I first saw from the tower of the San Juan de Dios museum.

16  Camagüey, Wed. Jan. 30

I spent today wandering around the back streets of Camagüey. They did not show abject poverty, but there was little affluence.
A local artist has painted cats on walls all over town.
I also rode down Avenida Libertad which is the south direction of the Carreterra Central towards the train station. I was astounded at the elegance of the houses, some of which are now commercial, on the street.
I spent the latter part of the afternoon eating lunch and supper in the large Casino Campestre park. It was there that I had my second encounter with the police. The first time the patroller was curious about my bicycle and trailer and asked me questions about where I had been and where I was going. The second time was just after I had been harassed by some guy, During the harassment, he asked if he could sit down and I said No. Just as he finally quit, the patrol arrived and took him into custody. He was frisked, and put into the police car. The officer that I was previously speaking to came over to ask me questions and accepted my answer that I had understood nothing. The third time they came bay they waved, and the fourth time they stopped to wash their car.
I then rode to the bus station to wait for my midnight bus to Havana.

17  Camagüey to Havana and Viñales, Thurs. Jan. 31

Today really started just before midnight yesterday. The bus to Havana was not totally full so I had the seat to myself. We arrived early enough, at the tiny ViAzul station for me to make the connecting bus to Viñales. The bus trip from Camagüey to Viñales was almost entirely on the Autopista Nacional. Although it does have clover-leaf accesses, it also has entrances for dirt roads, houses, and restaurants. It is also accessible to all: hitchhikers, including soldiers and National Policemen, busses, trucks, autos, horse carts, bicycles, and pedestrians.
All the long-distance busses stop at Paradors for a respite from the trip. Between Havana and Viñales it was at Las Terrazas, an eco-village originally started by a group of hippies. There were three other busses there when we arrived. It was a pleasant, quite rainy interlude in the middle of a Biosphere Reserve.
We arrived in Viñales at about 1:00pm and were greeted by a crowd of people hawking their Casa Particulaire . One woman stayed around to watch me put my bicycle together, and so I decided to accept her offer at the Casa Anara. just out of town. The Casa Particulaire was very nice, with turkeys next door.
However, we had an altercation when the venetian blinds broke and fell off as I was trying to open them. I believed it was faulty, but she threatened to call the police if I didn't pay for them. I decided to pay for them, but will leave tomorrow and find another place.

18  Viñales, Fri. Feb. 1

This morning I left immediately, without breakfast and rode north to the Parque Nacional Viñales. I was immediately greeted by the Sierra de Viñales, which is part of the Valle de Viñales and is also a World Heritage Site.
The El Palenque de los Cimarrones cave system in the park, is apparently one of the largest in the world. The stalactites join with stalagmites even show on the cliff outside the cave.
I continued, all up hill, towards the Valle de Ancon but stopped after seeing some interesting wild life, three recently pregnant sows with a huge litter of piglets.
While watching the piglets, a young Belgian couple stopped and told me that the road finished a short while later, so after 3.5km of continuous up hill, I turned around and went back. On my way back to Viñales, it was made clear again that most hills are too difficult on a single speed bicycle with a passenger.
After returning to Viñales, making reservation for the direct bus, very early tomorrow morning, to Cienfuegos, and finding a new Casa Particulaire , I found a road that led north of town through tobacco farms and an organic pineapple farm. The dirt track finally stopped me with some serious mud.
This track seems to be a popular route for horse trekking tours. I met three separate groups.
I stopped at the recreation field just before coming back into town to see a Cuban passion, baseball.

19  Viñales to Cienfuegos, Sat. Feb. 2

The bus left at 7:30am. Bicycle charges seem to be unpredictable. This time I was charged 5.00 CUC, but in the past it has been 1.50 CUC, 3.00 CUC, or 5.00 CUC. The agent came out to look at my bicycle quickly decided it created no problems. A Swiss girl also loaded her bicycle, and had to remove the front wheel. She tried to take it into the bus to minimize any damage but was told NO. I put it back by her bicycle in the Cienfuegos compartment. On the way we stopped in Pinar del Rio, Havana, and took, what may be a propaganda detour, through the Playa de Giron, the site of the Bay of Pigs fiasco or triumph, depending on your point of view. The bus driver also stopped on a small side road to greet a friend, and once to let a hen and her chicks safely cross the road.
We arrived by mid-afternoon the, now familiar, gaggle of people, pushing their Casa Particulaire . No one could explain where their Casa Particulaire was located sufficiently well to allow me to find it. A little later, just after I left the station, I was accosted by another man, who gave me his card, for an address on Avenida 60 just two blocks above where I was. I found two of the Casa Particulaires recommended by Lonely Planet , one was full, and the other never answered their bell. I then found the new one and ended up there.
Cienfuegos is built on a grid pattern of streets, with odd numbered ones, called Calle, running north/south, and increasing value from west to east. Even number streets, called Avenida, run east/west with the numbers increasing from south to north. The house numbers are determined by the cross streets. Thus 3903 Avenida 60 is on the north side of Avenida 60 between Calle 39 and Calle 41. 5816 Calle 39 is on the east side of Calle 39 between Avenida 58 and Avenida 60. It would have been nice if Lonely Planet had explained it.

20  Cienfuegos, Sun. Feb. 3 to Thurs. Feb. 7

Cienfuegos is another of Cuba's World Heritage Sites. A native singer Benny Moré said it was the city he liked the best, and that has become an advertising motto for Cienfuegos.
I spent almost six days in Cienfuegos, not because that there was so much to see or do, but rather because I had arranged to be back at the Hostal Amalia on Thursday night.

20.1  Parques and Plazas

20.1.1  Parque José Martí

The heart of Cienfuegos is the Parque José Martí. At the west end stands Cuba's Arco de Triumpho. I guess all countries need one.
José Martí was the primary hero of the war of independence from Spain, and his bust has been everywhere I have travelled in Cuba. It was never labelled so I kept wondering who it was. It is clear now that it did not need a label because every Cuban, beyond childhood, would instantly recognize him. It is to Fidel's credit that, unlike Mao, he did not try to erase the past.
Surrounding the square is a collection of Cienfuegos most notable buildings. I enjoy the facades more than the interiors so I stayed outside.
Local Cienfuegos congregate and escape the sun by occupying almost all the benches in the shade. One place that had a lot of free shaded seats was the gazebo and, unlike Santa Clara, it was open.
While I was there, a man and an oriental woman came in. She immediately stood in the centre of the gazebo, taking advantage of the enhanced acoustics caused by the dome, and started singing arias. For me, the most beautiful song was her final one, the Ava Maria.
I spoke to her afterwards and it appears that she is Korean with Russian citizenship, and is living in Cuba. I must admit the existence of Korean/Russian combination confuses me.

20.1.2  Parque Villuendas

Martí was not the only revolutionary hero to have his own park in Cienfuegos. Coronel Enrique Villuendas, who died in 1905 also has a small park.

20.1.3  Plaza Aduana

Even the customs building has its own, rather uncrowded, and delightfully shaded, small plaza. For me the highlight was the huge Banyan tree at one end, a reminder of the one in front of the Iolani Palace in Honolulu.

20.1.4  Plazuelas

There are several Plazuelas, unnamed small plazas, spread around town. One interesting example was in the far west.
What made this one interesting was the story on the surrounding wall. It looks like a revolutionary triumph, but I am not at all sure.

20.2  The Prado

Calle 37, known as The Prado is the central, and longest street in Cienfuegos. It is divided by a central,, treed,, pedestrian linear park with benches that is used for more than strolling and keeping out of the sun.
One evening I saw a crowd in the centre. It had gathered to listen to the Isonovidad Cubana band.
Both sides are lined with notable old houses, most of which are now commercial.

20.3  The Malecón and Punta Gorda

At the end of the Prado's central park, Calle 37 becomes the Malecón, a seaside sidewalk and wall leading to the upscale peninsula of Punta Gorda.
Although Punta Gorda used to be high end residential, it is now mostly Casa Particulaires and hotels.

20.4  Castillo de Jagua

The Castillo de Jagua, built in 1745, is an old Spanish fort built at the entrance to the bay, designed to keep out pirates. It is reached by an old ferry, that has three intermediate stops. It is a commuter ferry and was packed as tightly as a Tokyo subway car on the trip to the Castillo. Apparently everyone, except the tourists, was going home The return trip actually had room enough for everyone to have a seat.
The brown pelicans were roosting near the dock delighted everyone.

20.5  Outside the Historic District

Another Cienfuegos is west of the Historic District. It shows life as it is for many of the natives.

21  Cienfuegos to Santa Clara, Fri. Feb. 8

My bus leaves at 4:30pm, and there are very few streets of Cienfuegos, that I have not yet been on. My major indulgence of the day was to continue to taste some Cuban cocktails. El Rapido is a fast food chain, and at about noon on San Fernando they start selling Cuban cocktails, such as Cuba Libre, Mojito, and Cubanito for 1.00 CUC.
I arrived in Santa Clara in the late afternoon and it was dark when I arrived at the Amalia. I was greeted at the door by the owner, and my bicycle and trailer were carried upstairs. I was comfortably back.

22  Comments and Curiosities

Cubans are a very friendly and curious people, although there were times when it was difficult to tell if it was curiosity or just an attempt to get you to do something, like rent a Casa Particulaire or give them some money. If you were called Amigo, it was certain they wanted to part you from your money.
It almost appears that the whole country is a large extended family. Friends greet each other in parks, on the street, while riding their bicycles, from horse carts, and ... The common way to meet is with a kiss on the cheek. This is true for all encounters, men/men, men/women, and also teenagers and children. It may be a police state, but the society is very open. Nobody appears to be wary.

22.1  Waiting in Line

Cubans seem to be used to waiting in queues for almost everything.

22.2  Casa Particulaires

In general, the Casa Particulaires recommended by Lonely Planet are a total waste. They always seem to be full, and being bicycle friendly is not a Lonely Planet criteria. The Los Vitrales Casa Colonial, in Remedios, recommended by the German cyclists was quite pleasant and typical of the Casa Particulaires
Quite often the Casa Particulaire has no name posted, but they all have the Casa Particulaire symbol. The current symbol is not the green triangle reported by Lonely Planet .
Having the exact address of the Casa Particulaire is critical. The Casa Particulaire owners seem to have networks of friends in neighbouring towns, and will recommend one as you leave. In a lot of cases they will phone them up and make the reservation for you.

22.3  Transportation

Vintage American cars are a well known icons of Cuba. Here is a 1957 Chevy, with a proud sign on it's windshield so you would not confuse it with an inferior model. There are also many newer European cars such as this Renault.
Are Cuban drivers impatient? Beside each traffic light is a large set of lights telling how much time is left before the light changes.

22.3.1  Bicycles

Almost all Cuban bicycles are single speed. However, in the cities, where they are mostly unneeded, there are many multi-speed. Some are very very nice. Many bicycles carry two, and I did see some carrying the whole family of three. The child rode on a specially made wooden seat on the cross bar.

22.3.2  Taxis

There are conventional auto taxis, but the one of choice for many Cubans is the horse cart, which also carries freight,
The attempt to keep the streets clean was not always successful, but the result was better than I remember in Toronto when I was child in the forties.
Almost anything that moves can be a taxi.

22.3.3  Busses

The big Yutong ViAzul tourist busses are modern and very comfortable. However, the ordinary Cubans have to make do with incredibly crowded and uncomfortable vehicles used as busses.

22.3.4  Trains

The trains were universally depressing and inconvenient. I thought about going by train from Cienfuegos to Santa Clara but it left at 5:00am.

22.4  Cultural Centres

Cultural Centres are everywhere. The Casa de Cultura Augustin J Crespo in Remedios was having a mid morning dance class.

22.5  School Marching Bands

School marching bands appear to be a very important part of Cuban life. All the towns, except for tiny Viñales had at least one out practising while I was there. My first one was in Santa Clara where I had a delightful delay. The street was blocked by the marching band out practising. In Trinidad, training starts very young,

22.6  Small Private Enterprise

Cuba has a large number of examples of small-enterprise capitalism. These invariably involve small scale retail selling or services such as barbers.
Pizza was the most common, and inexpensive, fast food. There were small vendors everywhere. Their pizza consisted of cheese on a thick crust with no tomato sauce. I discovered then how much I needed the sauce on the pizza. After a few trials, I gave up on it,

22.7  Visible Offences and the Law

Cubans appear to both trust and fear the police. They work quite hard at avoiding all easily visible offences, such as riding the wrong way down one-way streets, riding a bicycle in a pedestrian zone, or not wearing a helmet while riding a motor bike, scooter, or cycle. I was also warned while I was sitting with my bike on a bench in Parque Vidal that the police might give me trouble because of my bicycle. I decided the only way I could tell what was allowed was to watch what the Cubans did.
The young Belgian couple that I met while watching the piglets told me a Cuban friend of theirs at home told them that Cuba is the only Latin American country where, if you found yourself trapped between the police and a thief, you would run to the police. Indeed I felt safer here than any other place in Latin America. It is also the only country down here where I felt safe walking at night.

22.8  Pedestrian Zones

Pedestrian zones are taken quite seriously in Cuba. Santa Clara was the first one I in which I walked my bicycle. The Boulevard, a short interruption of Independecia, and when I was being led to Amalia, my guides insisted I get off the bike and push. It does make things much pleasanter for pedestrians, on such a narrow street.
Maceo in Camagüey is a classy pedestrian mall leading off Plaza Maceo. Here you cannot even walk your bicycle
Cienfuego's pedestrian shopping mall is Boulevard San Fernando. It starts at the Prado and ends at the south east corner of Parque José Martí. On this mall you could walk your bicycle.
There were pleasant stone benches to sit, rest, and contemplate the passing crowd. However, there were definite preferences on where to sit.

23  Santa Clara to Montreal, Sun. Feb. 10

Because of my problems in Remedios, I decided to take no chances on the 14km ride to the airport. I paced myself and arrived by mid morning. I was the only passenger there as all the flight arrivals were early afternoon, and the departures were in the evening. My flight had been changed from leaving at 10:10pm to 7:30pm. I was very happy that I had not tried to be just in time. It was as good flight to Montreal, and I finally arrived home at about 1:30am.
It was certainly not as planned but it was a very good trip.

File translated from TEX by TTH, version 4.03.
On 25 Mar 2016, 08:03.