Variety Cruises – Sights & Sounds of Cuba – Chapter 2

The Kapetan and the Bag

We watched the colourful fishing boats bob around in the harbour at Casilda as Panorama docked at this old fishing port.  Following our full indulgence in the sumptuous American buffet breakfast, we met our guide and driver for the day’s excursion.

Tower at Manaca Iznaga Manaca Iznaga, an estate dating back to 1750, is set in the Valle de los Ingenios.  It was here that the wealth of the region came from, producing Sugarcane.  Many local traders had set up here, close to the 44m tower, to sell their skilfully produced local crafts.  Tablecloths and bed sheets billowed in the wind and gave the impression that this was a giant laundry, rather than a tourist spot.  A climb up the tower, formerly used to watch the slaves, was rewarded with unobstructed views of the valley and the distant Sierra Del Escambray mountains.  The colonial mansion is now a restaurant but at the back it has (allegedly) the oldest remaining, functioning, sugarcane press in the area.  Donkey Boy (yes me) was put to work to turn the press and the resulting cane juice was used to make us a very refreshing drink.

Before we got into the centre of Trinidad we paid a visit to Casa El Alfarero where local clay is used to produce a whole range of ceramics spun up on a traditional potters wheel.  The owner Chichi seems to be somewhat of a local celebrity but the real interest for me was the 1914 car out the back, complete with wooden wheel spokes.  Sadly it needed massive amounts of renovation, so we toasted its journey to corrosion with a rum, honey, lemon juice and water concoction, served in the traditional ceramic jugs made on site.

View on 25c coin Trinidad’s Spanish Colonial splendour was best seen by branching out from Plaza Mayor, the tranquil and attractive main square.  From the corner of the square you can see the tower belonging to the Church and Monastery of Saint Francis.  As well as being one of the most photographed points in Trinidad, it is also the view on the 25 Centavo coin.  The main buildings now house The Museum of the Fight against Bandits.  Next we headed into Museo Historic Municipal where we drank (metaphorically speaking this time) in the well preserved remnants of the Cantero Mansion and the history that surrounded it.  Fortified by Chichi’s “pick-me-up” I climbed to the top of the tower (yes more steps) to get a bird’s eye view of not only the mansion but of Trinidad itself.  It seemed to be the day for trying new drinks (when in Rome eh!) so at Cafe Don PePe we rested our weary tower climbing legs over a Turquino, which is coffee, Ice Cream, Milk, Cream and Honey (no calories though, honest).  This excursion was made special by an engaging and excellent guide (Yonelvis).

Kapetan and the Bag The following days trip to Cayo Largo, a narrow island with an excellent beach plus Turtle and endangered species protection program, was cancelled.  Rough seas meant the transfer to the tender wasn’t safe, so instead we had a day to enjoy our luxury yacht and the sunshine.   The Captain says Panorama was built with love and somehow you get the feeling that much care and attention went into this custom built vessel.  Its when the sails go up that the true beauty is unveiled and for the first time we saw all the passengers up on deck, talking with admiration about “their” yacht.  Perhaps its at sunset though that Panorama tenderly grips our hearts, as the sails are turned orange by the dipping fireball in the sky.  Talking of hearts, has my bag captured Kapetan Konstantinos’s, how would I get it back?

Political correctness wasn’t big in Cuba when they named our next step on dry land at Maria La Gorda (Mary the Fat).  The seas had calmed such that our transfer by tender from Panorama was trouble free and we headed off to Guanahacabibes National Park.   

Sails at Sunset Our visit to this UNESCO Biosphere Reserve was somewhat tainted by Havanatur’s inability to secure us an English speaking guide.  Sadly Havanatur were somewhat inconsistent in their provision of excursions, but Linda’s knowledge of Spanish (albeit a little rusty) saved the day.  We thoroughly enjoyed the deep rock pools and seeing some of the 172 species of bird here in the Reserve.  Our biggest adrenaline rush came when we disturbed one of the 35 species of reptile.  Aligatorro, shouted the guide (or something like that), but no translation was necessary as 3m of lumpy scales and teeth decided we looked too scary and fled for the lake.

Back at the beach for a BBQ lunch and more sampling of local drinks (Bucanero is the pleasant local beer), then its back on board as we set sail for Havana.

Silver Travel Advisor recommends Variety Cruises

•  Read Variety Cruises – Sights & Sounds of Cuba – Chapter 1
•  Read Variety Cruises – Sights & Sounds of Cuba – Chapter 3

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Steve Aldridge

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