Trinidad to Camagüey was to be our longest bus ride – 255 kilometres door to door – or so we thought. Again, we were picked up from the bus station by our host’s nominated taxi driver. This was our first ride in a classic Oldsmobile – and the driver could have been someone from WWF. His driving through narrow, sometimes cobbled, streets was impressive – but then, everyone got out of his way when you heard and saw him on the street.
Our host and his language skills
Our Camagüey host, Delfin and Elena were extremely hospitable and with Delfin’s desire to practice his English, we had a few good conversations around his kitchen table. This was one of the benefits of staying in the Casas – getting to know the local people even more. They were more like parents in the way they treated us, to the point of telling us off (in a good-natured way) on the first morning at breakfast. We had arrived the previous evening and had indicated that we would be going out dancing after dinner. In fact, once they had served dinner, we went back to our bedroom to get ready and realized we were exhausted from the day’s travel and promptly fell asleep (at about 2100h).
We had neglected to advise Delfin who had thought we had gone dancing. The next morning, he advised he kept waking up every hour from 0100h until daybreak checking to see if we were at the front door or even worse, worrying that his newly arrived guests had come to some grief in town. After that, we told him every time we came and went from the Casa.
We also had the best conversations with Delfin – he told us about his broadcasting career before semi-retiring, the economic conditions in Camagüey and about his goals for his immediate and extended family. We awarded him the best conversation with our hosts’ award. Their hospitality was generous and by the end, we felt very comfortable there.
Not everything is roses and sunshine
Unfortunately, in Camagüeyfor us, there were a couple of negative experiences:
- The beggars in the main square were extremely annoying, persistent and insincere. One young man with no hands was walking around begging. I broke a rule and gave him some small change. We walked halfway around the square to sit down at a famous bar, only to find the man walked in and up to the bar to order a drink. We encountered him again the next evening begging at the same spot – I declined the request for more money.
- Strangely, we felt the most unsafe in this town when walking between the main square and our accommodation. Difficult to explain, but the kids were acting more suspiciously and touts were more persistent in trying to offer services.
Camagüey does have a good amount of churches and museums and we occupied ourselves for two days using our Lonely Planet – Cuba book as a guide. We did go to El Ovejito – a restaurant recommended in the Lonely Planet, but unfortunately, it didn’t cut the mustard. We were the only ones there and we ordered the recommended dish, but it was tough and overcooked and the overall meal expensive (CUC35).
We tried to go to the local Casa de la Trova on one of the nights that we were in town and after waiting until 2100h for it to open, I was advised that my black singlet wasn’t appropriate attire. After attending the Trinidad bars wearing it, obviously, they were more strict here. Needless to say, we decided to head back to the Casa and not even go dancing in Camagüey.
In hindsight, two days and one night in Camagüey would have been sufficient. Next city, via our favourite bus company Viazul, was Santiago de Cuba.