Tren Blindado in Santa Clara, Cuba

The best music experience in Cuba

Paul Ryken Last Updated: Saturday 14 March 2020 Cuba Leave a Comment

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We travelled the length of Cuba (and return – but that story is in another blog) using the public/tourist bus service called Viazul. After the first bus trip from Havana to Santa Clara, we had learnt to book the next sector before we left the bus terminal upon arriving from the previous one. The bus company has a website that you can book tickets online, however, given our lack of access to the Internet on the island, we had to opt to bunny hop from west to east.

Best Casa Award

We awarded our Best Casa award to Casa Colonial Pergola. The quality of service, enthusiasm, and the food was outstanding. We judged the rest of the Casas on this one, and although each had various qualities, none of them had the consistency that our Santa Clara accommodation and hosts had.

Getting to Santa Clara

We had originally wanted to travel to Santa Clara via train, however, the train either ran during the middle of the night or every third day or neither depending on who at the Havana train station you spoke to. Luckily for our first experience on the bus, we used the six-lane highway however, this finishes just after Santa Clara (280km from Havana). Arriving in Santa Clara, the touts were particularly aggressive in securing our service for taxi rides, day tours or accommodation. However, even this early in our Cuba trip, I was learning to be quite responsive to my firm no thanks, we have no interest response – in Spanglish of course.

We spent two nights in Santa Clara visiting the Monumento Ernesto Che Guevara (Monument, Mausoleum and Museum) and walking to see the (Monumento A La Toma Del Tren Blindado (where Che derailed the train in 1958).

Best music experience

Arriving on a Saturday, we were keen to head to El Mejunje – the much-touted salsa nightclub set in the ruins of a roofless building that had a special drag show. Waiting for it to open the doors at 2200hours, we safely walked the streets of this character-filled town. Two blocks from the Club, we stumbled upon a small band playing in the street. What was unusual is that the street could have been any street or neighbourhood in Santa Clara, except there were 30 plastic chairs set up in front of the band. They were amazing and when an older lady (60+) motioned for us to come and sit down, we felt almost humbled to be there. When she got up to sing, I was blown away. This 5 piece band (with large amplified speakers) was playing great Cuban music with such passion and enthusiasm. At one stage, they played a cha cha cha number and Sandra and I got up to dance (on a cobbled street) behind the chairs but so the band could see us. The night sky was clear and balmy and here were we, dancing in the middle of Cuba with our almost private, little band in the background. We stayed there until the end where we walked up to our hosts (the band) and thanked them for a very enjoyable evening. The old lady, in return, hugged us and kissed us and thanked us for being there. In the end, we had no idea who the band was called, what the occasion was and why they were playing. We had just had one of those moments knowing that we had been part of something small, but truly rewarding. And we were only up to day 4 of 18 in Cuba. This was our best music experience of Cuba. Needless to say, we missed out on the drag show, but I wasn’t concerned. 36 hours later, we were travelling to Trinidad and back 400 years in time.

2017 Cuba trip

We returned to Cuba in 2017 to experience different parts of the island this time.

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