In Cuba '08-'09
 
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Ron's Ruminations
Judy's Jubilations

 

Varadero, At Last!

"We do not remember days - we only remember moments". From Debbie Armstrong's "Thoughts " book - most appropriate for our 2009 adventure in Cuba.

On our crossing we had only three intimate encounters with big ships.  Two of these were cruise ships and it was very hard to figure out their direction because of the multitude of lights.  In both cases we talked to the ships on VHF to determine what actions we needed to take to avoid them.  Our newly fixed radar worked like a charm!  When we arrived at the Paso Malo, we knew that we were home. 

 

Beacon light at the entrance to the Paso Malo - hey matie, we're home!

 

 

Partway down the canal, we were greeted by Debbie and her dog Lobita (permanent boat residents at Marina Darsena). 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Debbie and Lobita greet us as we navigate the Paso Malo

 

 

 

 

As we pulled up to the dock at the marina we were greeted by the dockmaster, Julio, and the local representative from the Guarda Frontera (Coast Guard). 

 

Local fishermen in the Paso Malo - oops, I dropped my camera!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The "boarding party" awaits!

 

We had to wait almost an hour before the doctor came to give us her stamp of approval, but it was worth the wait to see Doctora Betty once again.  Then we had the Customs people, the agricultural inspectors and the veterinarians.  The entire process took 2 hours once it got started and we were able to enjoy some laughter with the officials as they inspected us and Pioneer.

Interesting boat traffic as we wait for Doctora Betty - smile for the nice gunboat!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good looking men paddle by......

 

Once we were checked in we spent the rest of the day and the next cleaning the salt off Pioneer and our bikes.  Then we had to reassemble the front wheels and clean, oil and adjust the gears on both bikes. Judy also had to attach her produce basket on her back carrier to bring vegetables and fruits home from the market.

 

 

Our first sight as we leave the marina heading into Santa Marta - what year is it, Ron?

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, after several days, we managed to take our first ride into the market at Santa Marta.  That first day out we ran into Mel, s/v Metal magic, a friend from our last trip to Cuba and we shared a Cuban beer with him at the local street bar.

Judy and Mel at a local street bar in Santa Marta - don't you dare snap that picture!

 

Then it was off to the market to get some fresh vegetables and say hi to our Cuban friends manning the stalls. Everyone was glad to see us again and insisted on giving us vegetables instead of paying for them.  Then it was off to the ice cream man for our 5 cent cones.  So far every trip into town has resulted in at least one cone each!

 

 

Ice cream is still 5 cents - no price hike in 2 years - now this is the real Cuba!

 

 

The black market is much less active now and more secretive than before. We did manage to purchase 3 kilos of German Gouda from one contact, however. They seem to be clamping down on free enterprise and many of the roadside food stands have disappeared.  The people do not seem as happy as they were before.  Unfortunately the few privileges that have been granted to the people by the new leadership can only be enjoyed by the rich Cubans. The poor Cubans still have no improvement in their quality of life. There are visibly more police and undercover inspectors looking for Cubans who are fraternizing with tourists.  On the other hand, they have also relaxed the restrictions on tourists. We have the feeling that when Cuba opens up to the Americans, the restrictions on the Cubans will increase considerably.

Scenes from our trip into town:

 

Horses can be found everywhere, some tethered, some free - two bodies, one head - unusual species

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bargain day at the local hardware kiosk

 

 

Judy rides her bike along the back roads - check out the basket from Belangia's

 

 

 

 

 

A peek through the fence at one of Varaderos oil pumping stations

 

 

 

 

Biker meets horse drawn buggy

 

 

 

 

Young Cuban girl poses for the camera - ooh I must smile pretty!

 

 

 

 

 

Kids love to clown around for the camera - hey man, you got funny hair just like me!

 

 

 

 

Ron stops for a bite of lunch - yum - just one more, then I'll stop!

 

 

 

 

 

The food is prepared behind the kiosk. Not the "sanitary restaurant"  - lots of flies!

 

 

 

 

 

Imaginative car decorations depict American themes - Playboy wannabe

 

 

 

Ron trades hats at a local bar - hey mister, what is YMCA?

 

 

 

 

 

Palm trees line the final road to the marina - royal palms abound on the island

 

 

 

 

 

 

Judy stops to admire an old restored motorcycle and sidecar just outside the market

 

 

 

 

 

The Guarda Frontera go out for their nightly patrol

 

 

Christmas Eve was shared with several Canadian boaters, Debbie (La Vida Dulce), Mel and Kathy (StarSinger) and one Swedish boater, Jan, s/v Bold Venture.  We had everyone over to Pioneer and they all brought goodies to share. 

 

We gave each of them a polished hamburger bean pendant that Judy had put together the day before - they were thrilled with the gifts.

Judy works away at assembling the hamburger necklaces for the Christmas Eve party - the jewelry shop is now open

 

 

 

Judy models her polished Mary bean

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jan with his hamburger bean necklace

 

 

Debbie and Jan at the Christmas Eve party - smile for the camera!

 

 

 

On New Year's Eve we will go to a local Cuban home for a traditional pig roast.  Then, on New Year's Day we will have a pot luck here at the marina for the boaters and some of the locals.

 

Ron didn't waste any time offering to cut hair and Debbie was his first Cuban customer.  Unfortunately there are only a few women at the marina and all the men like their hair long and ragged or shaved. That means that Debbie can get her hair cut whenever she wants!

 

 

 

Ron snips off Debbie's curls on the docks at Darsena - not too much, please, Ron

 

 

 

The boys play at repairing the electrical service to the docks

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the workers takes a break from "fun" in the water - the order of the day was short, and lots of breaks!

 

 

 

 

 

Mel and Kathy, s/v StarSinger, flew in Cuba just before Christmas.  Their family stayed in one of the all inclusive resorts while they stayed on their boat, preparing it for a run to Mexico.  The night before they headed off to Mexico, the whole family was invited to Darsensa for dinner and a singsong at their boat.  Since we shared the finger dock with them, we got to join the party.

 

 

Mel and brother John play and sing on Star Singer

 

 

 

 

 

Sunset over Darsena

 

 

 

Mel plays and sings while his nephew looks on

 

 

 

 

Kathy (centre) sits with family on the dock

 

 

Mel and Kathy have to fly back to Toronto, Canada in mid January.  The were very fortunate to get a weather window of calm breezes and mild waves for 7 days, giving them an opportunity to get to Isla Mujeres, Mexico before they fly home.

On one of our outings, Judy accompanied Debbie and Dan (a tourist at one of the hotels) to Centrale, about 3 km outside of Santa Marta.  There Dan found some recipients for the clothing his family had brought from Canada to leave behind in Cuba. After giving out the clothing, we sat in the park at Centrale and watched the kids playing while we enjoyed a beer. When it was time to head back to the boat we hitched a ride on a horse drawn cart.  It is not permissible for tourists to ride in these carts but the driver was kind enough to take us as far as the city outskirts.

 

 

 

Young boy at a house compound in Centrale - pedaling his wares

 

 

 

 

 

 

Locals check out the clothes brought by Dan

 

 

 

 

Pink roller blades give this young Cuban boy a challenging task

 

 

Hitching a ride makes it so much easier!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This motorcycle and sidecar were "eye-catching" when we got back to Santa Marta

 

 

 

 

 

The Cuban flags come out in preparation for the New Year's celebrations

 

 

 

On December 30th, we said goodbye to Mel and Kathy on StarSinger.  They headed off to Cabo San Antonio and on to Mexico.  They only had a short time here and they needed to get their boat closer to the Rio Dulce where they hope to leave it for the summer.  They left it in Cuba this past summer and the Cuban who was caring for it took it up a local river during the hurricane.  It weathered the storm well, unlike several boats that remained behind in the marina.

NEW YEAR'S EVE AT THE HOME OF CARLOS AND LUISA

New Year's Eve brought big celebrations and parties throughout the country.  Debbie (s/v La Vida Dulce) took us to a friends home where they were celebrating a family New Years .  They roasted a pig on an open charcoal fire and covered it with banana leaves.  The entire family was there from very young to very old.  We felt privileged to be invited to their home. At 11:30 pm. we caught a cab home to the marina where we watched the midnight fire works and exchanged our New Year's wishes.

These are some pictures of the New Year's Eve pig roast:

 

 

 

The pig is roasted over the fire for 8 hours - the burnt crisp skin is delicious when dipped in lemon juice and garlic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ron and Debbie sample the roasted pig

 

 

Chef Vladimir prepares the salads

 

 

 

 

 

A watched pot never boils!

 

 

 

 

Time to turn the pig!

 

 

Chickens roam the compound

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Luisa's tame Jutia - looks like a beaver without the tail - a wild animal native to the mountains of Cuba that Louisa has raised from a baby.  Normally, Jutias are killed and eaten as a source of meat.

 

 

 

 

Another pet that whistles! This is a parrot similar to the Tocororo - the national bird of Cuba - but the Tocororo is blue where the green is

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The family car plus the family hen (not Judy)

 

 

 

 

1946 Buick - Carlos's wheels

 

 

 

 

 

The other family car - English methinks!

 

 

 

 

Gabi - the dancer in the family

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chef Carlos - knives make great bottle cap openers!

 

 

 

Carlos carves up the pig

 

 

 

 

 

The multitude is fed!

 

 

 

Yucca, pork, beans and rice, salad and a tamale wrapped in corn husks

 

 

 

 

 

Eight tiny dogs are part of the family - small but mighty!

 

 

 

Luisa models her hamburger bean pendant

 

 

 

 

 

and those amazing glasses and cross!

 

 

 

 

The boys enjoy a beer after dinner

 

 

 

 

Our hosts - Carlos and Louisa

 

 

JANUARY BEGINS

 

 

 

 

 

Debbie cycles with rum in her basket - no wonder she's smiling!

 

 

 

On New Year's Day, we biked into Santa Martha, with Debbie where we picked up some 40 oz bottles of rum for $4 each, then we headed into Varadero for a Cuban coffee at a local coffee bar managed by a friend of Debbie's.

 

Che Guevera and Fidel Castro adorn the walls of the coffee bar

 

 

 

Even the older set can dress with a flare!

 

 

At 4:30 all the cruisers gathered in the staff cafeteria at the marina where we all enjoyed a potluck supper.  A great way to spend New Year's Day!

 

 

 

New Year's Day potluck for the cruisers and families

 

 

 

 

At this point it seems that our life is full of parties, dinners, outings on our bikes and chores at the boat.  It is a tough life, but someone's got to do it! 

On the 4th of January we were invited out to the country in the afternoon for a chicken barbecue at another Cuban home.  We got on our bikes in the early afternoon and prepared for the five mile bike ride through the country to Mario's house.

Judy riding out to Mario's

 

 

 

 

 

Debbie heads off the paved road to Marios

 

 

 

Mario and his mother share a very basic house - cement floors, dirt yard with chickens, surrounded by banana trees.  They are wonderful, kind people who share their home and meal with neighbours, friends and new friends.

 

We arrive at Mario's house

 

 

Bananas growing in Mario's yard

 

 

 

Signing the Guest Wall!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just before dinner, one of the guests discovered that Mario's rooster had been killed by a neighbour's rooster.  Therefore, before eating, the rooster had to be de-feathered , gutted and put in the fridge.

 

Miguel plucks the feathers from the losing rooster

 

 

 

 

This chicken would freeze to death in Canada!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ron and Miguel inspect the chicken legs on the barbecue - yes, Miguel is a survivor of 28 marriages!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mario, Miguel and Judy check out the chicken

 

 

 

 

 

Ron rests his arm and rum drink on the washing machine

 

 

 

 

After dinner, Omar, another guest, presented us with 4 wonderful Cohiba cigars and loaned us a book on the history of Cuban cigars.  It was his wife, Betsey's, birthday, so we had brought some handmade soap and a hamburger bean pendant for her. Apparently they have hamburger beans in Cuba on some of the beaches, just like in the Jumentos Cays. However, here they call them the "eyes of the oxen" (oyo de buey).

 

The group check out the cigar books that Mario brought to the party

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Omar enjoys one of his Cohibas

 

 

 

 

 

This chicken tried to hitch a ride home with us!

 

 

 

Another guest, Miguel, who lives in the neighbourhood is a 43 year old retired military who works for Mario at his home. He had some interesting tales, the best of which was that he has been married 28 times and divorced 27 times. Each marriage lasted 3 to 5 months.  Unlike in North America, there is no settlement, no alimony, nothing.  You pay 30 national pesos to marry (equivalent to $1.50) and you pay 120 national pesos (equivalent to $6.00) to divorce. The marrying age here is quite young - 14 year's old. Most single foreign men have very young girlfriends or wives here - half their age at best. Their is not much hope for the aging Cuban woman when the ratio of women to men is 7 to 1.

When it was time to head home, we loaded 15 bottles of rum into our back carriers and carefully tried to avoid the many bumps in the roads!

 

Judy and Debbie carefully mount their bikes that are loaded down with rum - easy does it girls!

 

 

 

 

 

Riding past the oil wells on the way back to the marina

 

 

 

 

Roadside goats - a common sight!

 

 

 

 

Horse on his days off - another common sight

 

 

 

 

 

The last leg home- the old Varadero airstrip at almost sunset

 

 

 

 

Tonight we talked on the SSB with our friend Dick, back in North Carolina.  We also got a chance to speak with Its About Time, in Georgetown, and La Coquette in the Exumas. It's always good to touch base with friends when you're off on your own. Tomorrow we will see friends from Lethbridge who are staying at a big hotel out on the penninsula.  We will show them Santa Martha and then bring them back to Pioneer for dinner.

We had a great time with our friends, Cliff and Linda.  We went out to the penninsula to meet them on a double decker bus. 

 

View from the bus on the way out to the hotel

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once in  Santa Marta, the old cars abound

 

 

 

Judy, Mel, Cliff and Linda chat it up at El Latino

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ron picked up this medicinal fruit but we threw it away because it smelled so bad!

 

Then we all came back to Varadero and walked over to Santa Marta where we had ice cream cones, a few beers at El Latino (with friends from the marina, Mel and Mike), picked up some fruit and veggies in the market, had more ice cream cones and then headed back to Pioneer for happy hour and dinner.

 

Handmade Cuban child's bike seat

 

We had German gouda cheese, fresh pineapple, lobster, Mahi Mahi and salad - all from Cuba. Late that evening we put our friends in a cab, well fed and relaxed, heading back to their hotel. We think that they had a great time - we sure did!

Judy washes the market fruits before they go aboard - go away "cucarachas"!

 

 

 

Cliff, Linda and Judy relax before dinner - enjoying black market cheese and crackers

 

 

 

 

 

Linda enjoys a drink in the cockpit

 

 

 

Debbie, Tony (another marina resident) and Judy. Tony is "The Man"!

 

 

 

 

 

Heurisko - owned by friends we met while we were in Key West in 2007

 

 

La Vida Dulce, Debbie's boat

 

 

 

Santa Clara and Trinidad

 

Our road trip was a great success. We caught the early bus in Varadero (a 1/2 hour bike ride from the marina).  The trip to Santa Clara took three hours. 

Our bikes wait to be loaded onto this Viazul bus

 

 

 

 

 

 

Never a dull moment!  The Havana bus next to ours had an electrical fire while we were waiting to board.

 

We passed through many little towns and one bigger one, Cardenas, on our way.  We also passed many orange orchards and looked longingly at the beautiful ripe oranges.  After a while, our bus driver couldn't resist it any longer so he stopped the bus and ran over to a tree with a basket.  It took him all of 5 minutes to fill his basket!

Our bus driver checks for police as he gets ready to pick oranges!

 

Santa Clara, our first destination, is very large with a population of near 200,000 people.  As soon as we got our bikes out from under the bus, we put our packs in the baskets that were tied on to our rear carriers, then we set off for one of the casa particulares (Cuban home that is licensed to take in tourists).  The casa was very nice.  We had the entire upstairs to ourselves with our own bathroom, fridge, bedroom, sitting area, eating area and roof top balcony. The cost for us was 20 pesos (about $25.00 Canadian).  The casa was close to downtown so we left our packs there and then went off exploring on our bikes. 

Ron enjoys his first ice cream cone in Santa Clara

 

 

 

Judy munches on a deep fried dough ball in the busy Santa Clara streets

 

 

 

 

 

Ron lines up for his 3rd dough ball

 

You catch 40 winks wherever you can!

 

 

 

 

 

 

School kids, in uniform, enjoy street pizza on their lunch break

 

 

 

 

There is a very impressive park/monument to Che Guevera (one of Fidel Castro’s freedom fighters from the 1958 revolution when Castro defeated Batiste). While there we met a young woman from Uruguay who was a teacher and traveling through Cuba and Guatemala on her three month vacation. We enjoyed talking with her and hearing of her adventures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Che Guevera monument

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Judy and Ron with Virginia, from Uruguay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dogs soak up the sun by the monument

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Judy admires the cement relief sculpturing of Che on horseback

 

 

Che used this bulldozer to derail  Batista's train - a turning point for the Castro rebels

 

 

 

After the monument we went to a famous cigar factory located in the city – but it was closed for several weeks – so much for that attraction.  The next spot was the location where the battle took place that determined Castro’s victory over Batista.  The Castro rebels drove a small earthmover into a train carrying 340 government troops, derailed the train and then managed to defeat them in a heated battle. 

Ron enjoys the rooftop patio at our casa in Santa Marta

 

 

Pink Cuban toilet tissue - very common.  Also all tissue in the waste basket, never in the toilet!

 

 

 

After that we headed back into the center of the city where our accommodations were.  We tasted some street pizza and some deep fried dough balls for dinner/lunch.  We have never had so much bread in one day! Normally we eat no bread or very little bread, so by the end of the day we were bloated!  Many Cuban people are overweight from the amount of bread that they eat.  Bread as the main part of their meals three times a day!

The next morning we cycled to the bus station to catch a bus to Trinidad, on the south coast of Cuba. Trinidad is a port city, the oldest city in Cuba. The architecture was supposed to be quite lovely but we thought that, like most everything else in Cuba, it was a bit run down.  We also got approached by people trying to sell this or that.  Ron was trying to give away some of his t-shirts to poorer Cubans.  Each time we found one, we would talk with him for a while and then give him a shirt, or soap, or pens that we had to give away. As soon as we gave something away, we would have women rushing up to us, asking for things.  It took away the fun of it. 

The Cuban home that we stayed in was very old and quite nice.  The ceilings were 20 feet high and the furniture was very old.  They had a pig in their courtyard and fighting cocks in the back yard.  Pepe and Rosa were gracious hosts.

Guillermo, the pig, in Rosa and Pepe's courtyard - waiting for the market. It was bought to slaughter for the New Year's meal but they had so many people, they had to buy a bigger pig!

 

Pepe's fighting cocks

 

They fed us breakfast and supper and with our accommodation it came to $25.00 each per day.  We stayed for two days. Our breakfasts consisted of fresh fruit, cheese, bread, eggs and coffee.  Supper was lobster or shrimp with sweet potato, plantain, rice, salad and a sweet dish for dessert. 

 

Rosa and Pepe's casa particulares

 

The cocodrilo hanging from the wall on the front porch of the casa

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ron and Rosa at the breakfast table

 

 

Pepe poses for the camera

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The "great room" at the casa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The front doorstep of the casa.  Pepe's family has had this casa since it was built

Cuban’s are not known for their ability to cook, but Rosa (the lady of the house) did OK.  Ron is a much better cook, however. Rosa’s husband, Pepe, was very personable. He raises and trains cocks (roosters) for the cock fights.  Cock fighting is legal in that part of Cuba, although it is illegal in the Varadero area.

 

 

 

While we were in Trinidad, we took an old steam train ride up into the hills and back.  It was lots of fun and we got to see some small villages and country houses on the way.  The Cubans outside of the cities live very primitively.  In the country, many do not have electricity and none have running water or indoor plumbing.  A hand pump in a dirt yard and an outhouse are commonplace. They wash their clothes in a bucket or a very primitive washing machine and dry them on lines. The countryside in many areas is quite mountainous, not like the Canadian Rockies, but more like the foothills leading up to the Rockies. The entire trip was very picturesque and we even got to taste fresh squeezed sugar cane juice!

The engine and engineer - all aboard!

Passing countryside from the train

 

Steam train ride pictures:

 

 

 

 

Mountains and valleys

 

 

 

 

 

Do you think I can steer from here?

 

 

 

 

Home in the country

 

 

A small village en route

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vaqueros heading to their herds

 

 

 

 

The communist star adorns our steam engine!

 

 

 

Now, that is a narrow bridge!

 

 

 

 

The tracks are switched manually to enable the train to turn around at a junction

 

 

 

 

The linemen get ready to hop back aboard

 

 

 

Even trains get thirsty - but the glass has a major leak!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cuban women are colourful dressers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bell tower at our plantation stop

 

 

 

Buey (oxen) are used throughout the country

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crushing sugar cane for refreshing drinks

 

 

 

 

Our experiment with widescreen - still need some practice!

 

 

While in Trinidad, we walked around the central part and bought ice cream cones (for 6 cents) every time we passed a vendor.  In one of the main squares, the Parque Cespedes, they had what is called a “hot corner” where sports are debated – or should I say argued over! The day that we were there, there were about 8 men arguing, very heatedly, over baseball. It was quite a sight.  There was also one building in which several chess games were going on.  Then we would run into men playing checkers on tables and chairs in the streets. No women would be involved in any of these things, just men. 

Hey, you're wrecking my concentration!

Ron contemplates life in the Parque Cespedes

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of several colonial buildings surrounding the Parque Cespedes

 

 

 

 

Afterwards we walked around some of the poorer sections of town and gave away pens and soap to many of the children playing in the streets.  They were all very polite and said “gracias” (thank you in Spanish). 

Priceless photos of Trinidad:

 

 

You like my new outfit"?

 

 

Girls afternoon out!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not jail, just a window on the world

 

Another window watcher!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guard dog on the watch

 

 

Cobblestone streets with gutters down the centre

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bonnie and Clyde?

 

 

 

I can only hold up this pole for so long!

 

 

 

 

A street sweepers work is never done!

 

 

The two days that we were in Trinidad were festival days for the artisans, which meant that everyone partied all day and most of the night. They had beer wagons set up around the large gathering areas.  You could bring your own container or buy one near the wagon.  They had used pop and water containers and "double decker" beer cans for sale if you forgot your container. The beer out of the wagons is a homemade "swill" that is pretty powerful and the beerwagons are mobbed with people trying to get their containers filled. 

 

Jeringa (enema water - yuch!) is the often used name for the homemade beer that comes out of these trucks

 

 

You see people all over town sitting in the main square and on the sidewalks enjoying their beer and munching on the pork sandwiches that you could buy from booths set up along the street.  Each of the booths had a stuffed cooked pig (including head) next to the booth, where they carved up the meat needed for the sandwiches.

 

The apple of my eye!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The artisan's festival was more like a "beerfest"

 

 

There was also an amusement park set up for young children (no teens and adults on these rides).  Everything was in miniature and looked old and homemade, but the kids were having a great time. The roller coaster was small, but so primitive that it was scary to watch!

 

The amusement park was very primitive but the kids sure had fun!

 

 

 

Smile for the camera!

 

 

 

A bicycle version of the "mouse"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The pirate ship in rough seas!

 

 

The next day we toured the streets and saw some more sights in the morning and then took the bus back to Varadero – it was a 6 hour trip and we got in at 10 pm. Then we cycled to Pioneer at the marina – getting home at about 10:45. 

When we arrived back at Pioneer, Ray and Diane, from Heurisko, had arrived and had our spare tire tube order with them.  Luckily we didn't need the tubes on our first road trip.  The next day we all went off to the market, and stopped in at El Latino for a Crystal.

Ray and Diane enjoy a relaxing beer after a tough morning of shopping

 

The next night we were invited back to the Cuban home that we went to for New Years.  Carlos works at the bar in one of the tourist hotels and he had invited a Canadian couple from the hotel to dinner that night at his home.

Carlos puts together his famous lasagna

 

He wanted us and Debbie (our friend who lives here at the marina) to join in the meal as well.  We all contributed something.  We provided spaghetti sauce, Debbie brought the noodles and Carlos made a delicious lasagna.  So our Cuban meal was very much Italian style last night – spaghetti, lasagna and bread.

 

Bob and Teri from Vancouver are Carlos's guests for dinner

 

 

 

 

 

 

The whole family plus guests sit down to pasta dinner

 

The next day we did our regular market run and bought fresh produce at the farmer’s market –fresh onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, bananas, plantain, grapefruit, watermelon, leaf lettuce and green peppers. We filled both of our basket carriers on our bikes full and the cost was about $3 for everything. We did our regular stop on the way back for ice cream – still 6 cents – and then headed back to Pioneer.  It takes most of the day to shop and store the food because you have to wash everything thoroughly before it comes on the boat.  We don’t want to have unwanted bugs aboard!

Our bikes stand out with our matching Belangia's baskets tied to the real carriers.  They're great for the market run!

 

 

 

 

Judy loads up the veggies on the galley tray after washing them thoroughly on the dock

 

It's a good thing that we shopped when we did because the cold front came through later in the day with a vengeance. We have had two very windy days and one very cool day.  Only one of the days did it rain a little but today was so cold that you needed long pants and a sweater. The wind was strong enough to give Pioneer a gentle bounce in her slip.  She was securely tied up so we just enjoyed the rhythm of the boat on the waves, sort of like getting rocked to sleep! The next day it warmed up a bit, enough to do the washing of the bed linens.  It sort of gives a new meaning to the sailing expression "let the sheets fly"!

Our bed sheets are flying from our genoa sheets - it lends a whole new meaning to the nautical phrase "Let fly the sheets"!

 

 

Now we are planning our next land trip, of which Ron is in charge. Judy is working on the navigation for the boat trip down the north coast eastward from Varadero. We have decided to forego Mexico, Belize and Guatemala this year in favour of spending the entire winter in Cuba.  We have the feeling that things might change considerably in the future here and the charm that we now enjoy may become a thing of the past. Best to enjoy it while we can!

The weather this winter has been very cold and windy, so we are happy that we are plugged in at Marina Darsena.  When we arrived back from our road trip, a cold front was just lifting.  One week later we had another cold front  and so on.  They seem to be coming through about every four days and they bring with them cool temperatures (Cubans say "mucho freio").   Apparently, the seasonably low temperatures are widespread throughout Florida, the Bahamas and Cuba.  The winds associated with these fronts are very strong when they go into the northern quadrants.  We are glad not to be at anchor somewhere. Our friends in the Jumentos are dealing with stronger winds than we are.  It seems to be an unusually windy winter!  There is, of course, the odd day when we get out for beach walking, bike riding or heading off to the market.  However, even the cold temperatures (in the 50's) that put us in jeans and sweaters could not stop us from buying our 5 cent ice cream cones!

Judy checks out the waters in the Paso Malo - the entrance channel to Varadero

 

The Paso Malo in close-up - good thing no one was entering!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beachcombing on a windy day!

 

 

 

Sea life, like this Portuguese Man-o War, are washed up everywhere

 

 

 

 

 

Judy hunts for treasures

 

 

This one looked like a cross between a Lion fish and a puppy dog

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think we're on the right road, Ron.....

 

Life is not all touring around and beach combing.  There are the necessities of life that take us out to the market for fresh veggies and fruit.  On one of our market days, we took with us some three ring note books to give away as well as some of Ron's sweatshirts from his earlier running days. Ron created quite a stir with his gifts.  Now the fellows at the stands won't even let us pay for our purchases! 

Pepe fights off his fellow hucksters to keep Ron's yellow sweatshirt

 

 

Friend, Joel, squeezes his body into this Moonlight Run shirt of Ron's

 

 

 

 

 

 

One thing Judy has noticed, however, is that going to the market is quite different without Ron.  Maybe it is that Ron can chat and have fun with the vendors, whereas Judy is only versed in the casual Spanish greetings.  On careful thought, Judy has proclaimed it a "guy thing". Cuban men are just not comfortable kibitzing with a woman! 

On one of our trips in, the three women at the marina, Judy, Debbie and Diane, accompanied Ron, just to get out of the boat for a few hours.  It was very cold and we had to dress warmly.  It was also very windy which made it a chore to pedal into town but an easy sail home!

The girls enjoy getting away from Ron, but they can't escape his camera!

 

 

 

 

 

The bicycling Divas!

 

Then, of course, there is always the most important reason that we go into town - you guessed it, ICE CREAM!

 

This is the ice cream machine - and 90 % of the time, it works!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The chocolate gets poured in, so we waited and had 4 cones before the chocolate worked through the system - mind you, the strawberry chocolate swirl was great!

 

Our bicycles are just like a car here.  Without them, your range is very limited.  Also, when you go into the market or shopping in some store, you can check your bike at a bicicletta parqueo.  The cost id about 3 cents a bike.  We have our two favourite bicycle checkers, Dolores and Raol. It is people like them and the fellows in the market that make our time here so much fun.  When we cycle down the streets of Santa Marta now we often wave and say hi as we ride past Cuban friends that we have made.

Judy and Dolores, one of our good friends here

 

There are many shops like this for bicycle repairs, this one is in Santa Marta

 

 

 

At the market, and on the streets of Santa Marta, people watching is fascinating.  From the handsome, friendly market vendors to the brightly/tightly dressed women, the Cubans appear to enjoy life to the fullest.

Good looking market vendors make market day fun! Onexy is wearing a jacket that Ron gave him

 

 

 

It doesn't take these vendors long before one gallantly offers to start this maiden's motor bike

 

 

 

 

This young woman is not on her way to the gym - this is her "town" outfit

 

Yes, there is some unrest with their meager accommodations, very poor salaries, tight controls and insufficient supplies of ration food, but overall they are definitely better than under the former dictator, Batiste. Will life really change for the Cuban people in the next several years? Probably. Will the advent of the American tourist drive up the cost of living? Definitely.  Will the present ambiance of Cuba change for the worse in the near future?  We are afraid so.

Today, we received an invitation to dinner at the house of one of the market vendors.  We are so very excited to meet Raymond's family and get to know him better.

 

 

Ramon gives us the "thumbs Up" as we pass his market booth

 

 

 

Rush hour and a full cart at Santa Marta

A unique experience can even be had just picking up some fish/lobster/shrimp at the local fisherman's house. 

 

 

Jorge fillets the snapper wile the cat waits patiently for his share of the scraps

 

Jorge had three huge red snappers for sale as we passed by his house.  We bought the mid-sized one, about 10 pounds.  He filleted them right there on the street for us while his family of cats waited patiently to get the scraps! We also got some shrimp and lobster tails.  The tails cost about $1.25 Canadian each. 

We wait patiently for our fillet to be finished

 

 

Another day at the fisherman's house - a much bigger catch!

 

 

 

 

 

More fish than we can eat!

 

Every day we are thankful that we have the opportunity to come here and just relax and enjoy the experience of living in Cuba.

 

 

 

Full moon over Varadero

With the weather taking a turn for the better this past week, we have been doing lots of laundry.  The laundry method has advanced from the toilet plunger in pail technique.  With the help of Debbie's "washing machine", Judy thinks that this technique is the best because she can 1) wash clothes and sheets, 2) get some exercise and 3) get a tan at the same time  (except when it is cool and a jacket is required!)

 

 

 

Judy stomps on the sheets as Lobita looks on "amazed"

 

 

 

 

In the past week we have been enjoying new company on the dock and out in the country. A new boat arrived - Carpe Diem from Vancouver with Chris and Penny aboard. We have enjoyed happy hour with them and have hiked into Varadero with them and Debbie to enjoy a reasonably priced meal at a nice outdoor restaurant.  On the way to the restaurant we passed by some sculling and kayak races on the canal. The races were on all weekend and went from singles to four-man contests.

Spectators and competitors look on as a team prepares to race

Debbie and Judy have been taking off on their bikes on several afternoons, leaving Ron behind to work on his projects.  They call it girls afternoon out and will often spend some time at the internet, some time visiting Cuban friends, Carlos and Louisa, some time having a coffee and Cuba Libre at the outdoor cafe where another friend, Omar, works and some time having a leisurely lunch.  On Valentines Day, Judy and Debbie were visiting Omar and he gave them both long stemmed red roses. Cuban men can be very gallant.  That afternoon, the girls saw several men carrying single red roses on their bikes as they pedaled home.

 

 

 

 

The cars and trucks in the parking lot at the marina are classic

 

 

The afternoon at Ramon and Carida's, out in the country, was a wonderful experience.  They cooked a leg of pork in their barrel barbecue - their only oven - in the backyard. 

 

Ron pumps up a pale of water in Ramon's backyard

 

Ramon and his neighbour check the pork leg in the barrel-q

 

Like our other friends, they have banana trees in their backyard, but no chickens.  They have a 12 foot deep well with an old hand pump that they use to get their water.  They have indoor plumbing but must flush the toilet by pouring water into the bowl. 

 

Judy, Ramon, Carida and her sister check out the barrel-q

 Their home was essentially three rooms - a living/eating room with a refrigerator, a bedroom and a bathroom.  In the short hallway between the living room and bedroom there was a counter on which food was prepared on a hot plate and in a crock pot. 

The dinner table displays a feast

 

All the Cuban homes we have been in use crock pots, especially for the rice and beans that are a staple in their diet. Ramon had acquired a bottle of champagne for the occasion and we contributed a few bottles of wine for the meal.  The meal consisted of yucca, rice and beans, french fries, pork and salad.  The pork was prepared according to an old traditional Cuban recipe - during cooking, crushed garlic was poured into cuts made in the meat.  It was all very tasty and although our Cuban Spanish was limited (especially Judy's), we were able to communicate well and have many a laugh. Raymond told us that after the hurricane, there were no vegetables or fruits for sale because of the crop destruction.  For a few months, the had to survive on rice and beans that were imported from China and Venezuela.  It was a very hard time for them.  Now it is much better.  They get their meat, fruits and vegetables from the market where Raymond works and the rest (bread, rice, beans, eggs) from the ration store. The diet of the working class Cuban people is pretty standard and high in starchy foods.  It is easy for them to get overweight and out of shape.  Their health suffers from the lack of a balanced diet and, for many, it suffers from their smoking habit.  Apparently, the incidence of lung cancer is extremely high in Cuba. Easy to believe as people smoke everywhere and with cigars being such a big industry in Cuba, there is little desire on the part of the government to promote anti-smoking education.

Our trip to the south eastern part of the island will be delayed until late February as Ron is getting treatment for his torn rotator cuff.  The treatment is carried out for ten days at a rehabilitation clinic in Santa Marta - no charge, but we have been tipping the young doctor in training who is treating Ron.  We were fortunate to be referred there by a friend of the doctor whom we already met and knew quite well. The equipment is similar to a physiotherapy clinic at home but far more "rustico".

 

Ron gets his shoulder treated at the rehab centre

 

 

Chino gives Ron a treatment with the laser on his injured shoulder

 

Ron works away on the rehab equipment - no rest for the weary!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ron thinks that the finger walk exercise is especially fun!

 

 

 

 

 

Then there is the "torture session"

 

 

 

 

There was some excitement in the marina one day as four of the "marina men" headed off to Florida for a supply and visa run.  They were taking a trimaran that had been dismasted on a trip in 2008 and was doing the trip now as a "power cat". 

 

 

 

The boys head out on the "power cat" at 5:00 pm

 

 

Then they return unexpectedly - just before dark

 

 

Unfortunately, their engine overheated, but fortunately they were only two miles out, so 2 hours after leaving, they limped back in to the marina.  Now the weather is starting to deteriorate again so their next chance to cross will be Thursday.  Judy is now doing the weather for them on the Thursday passage with perhaps some help from Chris Parker.  It is too bad that another cold front is upon us, the warm temperatures were great while they lasted!

Our tours of the markets and surroundings of Santa Marta and Varadero, while Ron is undergoing his shoulder treatments, continue to yield interesting shots such as........

 

A customer, with his undersized bike, for Dolores at the bike parque (3 cents to check your bike!)

 

 

Dolores is right on the ball and the bike is in safe hands!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A new face on the block - a man on a personal quest

 

 

 

 

Meanwhile back at the boat we are cleaning stainless steel, cleaning up odds and ends, and partying with the newcomers at the marina.  Every weather window we seem to get more boats arriving.  In the past 4 days boats have arrived registered in Vanauatu, Germany and Canada.  This is truly an international port!

Ron keeps himself amused with busy work as he cuts up old T shirts for rags

 

 

 

Ron shows off his "pirate bib" after a party on Carpe Diem

 

Thomas (Swiss) and Andrea (American), s/v Good Dreams, arrive for some R and R

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Penny (s/v Carpe Diem) and Judy chat while Judy uses the washing machine on a few loads of laundry

 

 

 

 

 

Jan (s/v Bold Venture) and Don (guest on Metal Magic)

 

 

 

 

 

Ron and Don, part of a delivery crew on s/v Sticky Toffee, a new Hanse 63 - suddenly the neighbourhood is becoming more "upscale"!

 

There seems to have been an increase in boat traffic here in Varadero.  Whenever the weather shows signs of getting better, the boats begin to arrive.  Today, February 27, 2009, the first American boat arrived from Marathon, and it was just in the last 24 hours that we heard that Obama is starting to lift some of the restrictions on travel to Cuba.  We're really glad we're here this year, because it will be very different next year!  In contrast to the 1.6 million that Sticky Toffee is worth, the American boat that came in was a "trade boat".  We were surprised that the engine worked as the new owners picked it up from a mooring where it had been neglected for several years.

 

What a sight coming in to the Darsena dock!

 

 

 

Dock party at Pioneer

 

 

Dock parties are quite an international event at Darsena.  One that we hosted included Canadians (of course), Swedish, Swiss and Americans - it was quite an event and a good time was had by all!

 

More "dock-antics"

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Swiss boat (registered in Vanauatu) heads out for a day sail

 

The next week we headed off to Havana on the bus with Carpe Diem for a few days. We spent three days there seeing the sights, visiting museums and taking lots of pictures.  We stayed in a wonderful casa particulares that was a short walk from old Havana.  The owners were helpful and kept everything very clean and tidy.  For $25 Cuban pesos (about $28 USD) we got accommodation for one night plus a tasty and filling breakfast of fresh fruit, eggs, rolls, coffee, sliced tomatoes and fresh squeezed oj.  It's hard to beat when you get a bargain like that! There is much reconstruction going on in Havana, but only in the old city - the rest they don't seem to care about.  There were few beggars on the streets - mostly old people - but there were lots of hustlers for cigars, taxis and restaurants!  We enjoyed the street ice cream cones for 5 cents and the street pizzas for 30 cents and managed to find excellent dinners for under $15 (USD) for both of us.  During the day we toured the old Spanish fort across the bay from the city, the Museum of the Revolution, the Archeology museum, several small museums and did a complete walking tour of Old Havana.  Ron enjoyed the "esquina caliente" (hot corner) at the Parque Central where all day and most of the night Cuban men would hotly debate sports (baseball mostly).  The following pictures are of our Havana experience.

 

Ron waits his turn for a delicious street pizza

 

 

 

 

 

 

Esquina caliente - Havana style

 

 

 

Ron and Chris get their "precious" ice cream cones

 

 

 

 

 

Hey, you can't work all the time - especially in the middle of the day!

 

 

 

Beautiful restored architecture outside this museum

 

 

 

Peacocks strutting inside the museum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of many museums on Calle Obispo - this one remembering the revolution

 

 

 

Nothing we see surprises us!

 

 

 

 

 

 

This year in Havana we had more time to explore the old city and surrounding areas.  The pictures that we took at the fort and from the fort were by far the most challenging, especially the panoramic views of the city.  They are still not perfect but we are getting better at setting them up.  The fort itself is almost completely restored and contains several small museums.  One of the buildingd housed the office of Che Guevera when he was directing the military after the revolution. The cannons facing the city looked like they were waiting to be fired!

 

Ready, Aim, Fire!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ron checks out the historic Spanish castle in the distance

 

 

View of the city from the fort

 

 

The skyline of Central Havana along the malecon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The entranceway into the old fort

 

 

The architectural renovations in old Havana seem to take a great deal of time and the work is done manually - very little machinery is used, the trusty wheelbarrow is king!

 

A common sight - walker beware!

 

 

They are even restoring old steam engines in this part of Central Havana

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many of the walls in this museum of archeology were filled with hand painted scenes of Spanish origin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Narrow streets are a sure sign that you are in the old city

 

 

 

 

Clothes lines abound from the second floor up on most of the old buildings

 

 

 

 

This is a typical entranceway to the apartments in the upper floors of the old buildings

 

 

 

 

 

Not a usual sight in Cuba - his collection of cans and bottles will supplement his government income

 

 

 

George Bush is labeled as the one who is to blame for the plight of Cuba

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jose Marti is remembered everywhere in many forms

 

 

The "capitolio" - with ceiling frescos that were amazing

 

 

 

 

 

One of two vegetable markets in old Havana - quite a bit more extensive than in Santa Marta

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

View from the steps of the 'capitolio"

 

 

When it was time to leave Havana and return to Pioneer in Varadero, we were anxious to get "home".  The bus dropped us off right in front of the marina, thanks to the liberal bending of the rules by the bus driver and the fact that the police were not on duty out in front of the marina at the time.

On the Sunday after our return we attended our first birthday party in Cuba.  Rachel, the girlfriend of one of our marina residents, Tony, was having a very large surprise party out at Mario's in the country.  We would ride out to the party in a very old and "rustic" Cuban bus. It would be our second visit out to Marios and it was quite some party.  Rachel is one of the Tropicana dancers and her fellow dancers turned out in large numbers at the party.  With the hip hop style Cuban music and the girations of the excellent dancers, we were in awe.....  It was a great time and we were pleased to be invited. Check out some of the pictures we took!

 

 

The bus, with marina residents aboard, arrives at Mario's

 

 

 

 

 

 

A party is not a Cuban party without a "caliente" game of dominos!

 

 

 

 

 

Tony and Rachel create great memories

 

 

 

 

 

 

The birthday cake didn't last long when the dancers got hold of it!

 

 

 

 

The Canadian contingent enjoys the dancing from the "peanut gallery"

 

 

 

 

The birthday girls gets a serenade

 

After the party, life continued on at the marina.  One boat, Heurisko, left to pay a brief visit to Marathon and to do a supply run.  Three other French Canadian boats arrived. So now we have lots of people here at the marina and it will probably stay that way for a few weeks.  We may even get some more boats in as the weather is supposed to turn fairly mild. Meanwhile our life gets into its familiar pattern of visits to the market at Santa Marta, girls day in town so the boys can tinker with their boats in peace and, of course, the yummy visits to our favourite ice cream man!

 

Judy at the market in Santa Marta with the "boys"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heurisko leaves her berth headed for Marathon

 

One afternoon when Judy and Debbie were in Varadero, Debbie spotted an old friend who was part of an excellent group that played/sang at one of the local hotels.  They offered to come to the marina lobby to play for the cruisers - at no charge - just incidental tips.  It was fun and everyone got involved.  Not only did they play traditional Cuban songs, but also some classic folk/rock songs in English.

The band plays on.........

 

 

 

 

Judy sways to the rhythm of "Hey Jude" with a Cuban accent

 

 

 

 

 

 

Judy and her favourite "parqueo" attendant, Dolores - In Santa Marta

 

 

 

 

Neighbours and family help out to pour a cement roof on a second story addition to this house in Santa Marta

 

 

 

Santiago de Cuba and Baracoa:

It didn't take too long before we were planning and executing our next "road trip".  We were obliged to wait a few days while Judy's ribs recovered from a fall she had taken on her bike.  Luckily her bones were strong and the landing was on grass!  Our final Cuban land trip was to the southern-most regions.  Phase one was a fifteen hour overnight bus trip to Santiago de Cuba.  There is not that much to see there; however, in far earlier times it was the capital of Cuba - now it is just a bustling city.

 

Judy is ready to tackle the streets of Santiago de Cuba

 

 

 

Statue the "Bronze Titan",  General Antonio Maceo in the Plaza de la Revolucion

 

General Maceo fought in both of Cuba's wars of independence from the Spanish in 1878 and 1896.  Cuba glorifies every battle that was for independence from the Spanish and later for Fidel's successful bid for a better life for the Cuban people.

Riding our bikes there was a challenge as most of the casa particulares were located in the "hilly" section of town.  Also, close the the bus station the roads were multilane and busy so we had to weave in and out of speeding traffic to get to the "accomodation" district of town. Right outside the bus station, there was an outstanding monument that we quickly headed for to get our bikes and ourselves prepared for the "accommodation hunt". 

 

 

 

 

"Mr. Elvis" prepares to charm us as he peddles his cd music disks.  Music is a talent that Cubans can use to get good jobs as entertainers - with associated  tips!

 

After touring the old city on our bikes and checking out the surrounding neighbourhood we found a casa that had room for us and our bikes on the first floor of a building.  It was also an easy ride downhill to the bus station as the next day we were scheduled to leave for Baracoa at 7:30 in the morning.

 

 

Ron checks out a ceramic wall mural in Santiago de Cuba

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of a very few restored buildings in Santiago de Cuba

 

 

 

Hurricane damage undermined the foundations of this house in Santiago de Cuba

 

 

 

 

 

Santiago de Cuba's famous church the Catedral de Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion

Churches in Cuba are few and far between but as we got into the south part of the island, we discovered that many of the old churches from the times of the Spanish occupation were still used today.  Some, here and in Havana, are nicely restored and used by the people, although religion does not play a strong role in Cuban life. This cathedral site was built upon in 1522, rebuilt in 1675 and the present structure was completed in 1818.

 

Ron takes a short break from the bike at the Ayuntamiento (town hall).  This former governor's house is a third construction/copy of former buildings destroyed in earthquakes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

En route to Baracoa, Judy captures the initial growing stages of the ever-popular "living cactus " fence

 

 

The mountainous road from Santiago de Cuba to Baracoa - sometimes the view out the window was terrifying!

 

The journey from Santiago de Cuba to Baracoa was quite an adventure.  Through the Sierra del Puril mountains along the mountain road called La Farola (the lighthouse road),  the guard rail was short and the road narrow and very winding. The bus seemed very big for such a small road!  There were picturesque small villages in the mountains that we drove through. At the highest elevation it was like a pine rain forest - there were low clouds, a misty rain and giant ferns all over the place. As the bus headed down towards the Atlantic coastline, the lush tropical vegetation abounded. Baracoa is right on the water and had been directly in the path of Hurricane Ike last season.  There were several signs of major damage to buildings  and roadways close to the water.  But otherwise, the town of some 40,000 had recovered well.

Hurricane damage to an apartment building in Baracoa

 

 

 

 

This living hedge of cactus has been replanted on newly restored road/path after the hurricane

 

 After offloading our bikes from the bus and arranging our packs on them, we headed into town to check out the casa particulares.  Casas in this town were a bargain.  Most could be had for 10-15 CUC a day. The one we settled on was on a quiet street near the center of town.  The owner, Pedro, was friendly and helpful - we would definitely return again! 

Judy on the front porch of our casa particulares in Baracoa

 

 

 

 

 

Breakfast at the casa - eggs and fruit - yum!

 

 

 

 

Ron loved to sneak plates into the kitchen through the divider - much to the enjoyment of Lilli, the woman who cooked for us

 

 

 

 

After breakfast on Pedro's back patio

 

 

 

 

 

Ron relaxes on the patio at the casa

 

 

 

Ron and Pedro - our casa particulares host

 

Judy and Lilli - our hostess

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The bedroom of our casa

 

Judy with our bikes in our casa living room

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We decided to have breakfast at the casa and also one supper as the cooking in Baracoa is renowned for its tantalizing flavours.  Breakfast, as usual was fruit, eggs, bread, juice and coffee.  Our supper was swordfish cooked in a coconut sauce served with plantain, rice, salad  and freshly made coconut bars for dessert.  Truly it was a taste sensation!

In Baracoa, we explored the town and surrounding area on foot and with our bikes.   They have many ice cream vendors and pizza vendors in Baracoa so we were in our element.  Christopher Columbus landed at Baracoa in 1492 and there are statues, such as this one, that commemorate this historic event.

 

Good old Chris Columbus the founder of the new world

 

 

 

Remnants of an old Spanish fort

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old church (still used) in the centre of town - under serious renovation!

 

 

 

One afternoon we were exploring some back lanes near the Bay of Baracoa and we noticed a fishing boat being built.  The owner invited us into his yard and showed us his creation - he was one of several local fishermen.  Being a fisherman on this wild coast is very hard and dangerous work because the boats are small and the seas big.  He also had a small sawmill in his yard where neighbours were planning boards for house construction. 

The fishermen explain their boat construction to Ron

 

 

 

 

The fisherman's son, with the sawmill in the background, proudly displays his model boat

Afterwards we headed off to the rugged sandy beach in the bay which appeared to have lots of "detritus" piled up.  The difference in the detritus between the Bahamas and Cuba is simple.  The Cuban detritus is mostly organic as everything else has already been scavenged by locals for some use in their homes.

The Bahia de Baracoa with its fishing boats rocking at anchor with El Yunque their mysterious flat topped mountain in the background

 

 

 

 

Rusted hull of a commercial boat run aground in the Bahia de Baracoa

 

 

 

 

Even sea beans were at a premium, although we did manage to find 23 hamburgers, 37 hearts, one purse bean and one Kathy's bean (a real treasure!).  The sea beans are collected and used by the artisans for making necklaces and belts, which they sell for very low prices to the tourists.  Luckily, there was only one young Cuban picking up beans on the beach when we were there.

Judy finds her fist Cuban hamburger bean called an ojo de buyen

 

 

Ron holds tightly onto his beachcombing treasure - a doll torso.  He later found the arm! - reminiscent of the Jumentos!

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the tradition of beachcombing, Ron finds his first shoe!

 

 

Hurricane damage washed out the roads and beach

 

 

 

 

 

 

On this second beach we explored, there were only a few heart beans - everything else, including the beach had been washed away by the hurricane

 

 

 

After beachcombing, we stopped at this beach bar where we munched on our 25 cent pizza and drank 30 cent beer - hard to beat that!

 

 

Wall mural of Che in Baracoa

 

 

 

 

 

 

This '57 Chevy was a rare sight in Baracoa - the owners proudly posed with her

 

We encountered this car with its owners as we were returning from our beachcombing.  Initially one young boy was in the backseat - another joined him for our first picture.  Then the entire family hopped aboard for a picture.  After we departed and they drove off, we ran into them twice as they drove their car around the town.  Each time we saw them they waved and smiled.  The people in Baracoa were by far the friendliest we have encountered - in a country where the people generally are extremely friendly and helpful.

Baracoa, which was founded as a colonial settlement in 1511, was Cuba's first capital from 1511 to 1515.  It was also the first site of revolutionary activism in 1512, when the local Indian chief, Hatuey, rose up, with his tribe against the marauding Spanish.

A few statues in the area depict the life of the the early Indians in this part of Cuba

 

 

 

Hatuey - the Indian chief who revolted against the Spanish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our sea bean treasures!

 

 

We spent two nights in Baracoa before returning to Santiago de Cuba and then immediately onto another bus for an overnight run to Varadero.  We were sad to leave after two days but we were also looking forward to returning to Pioneer in Varadero.

Once back in Varadero, we started to get more company on the dock.  Sampatecho with Maeve and Bradd aboard were the first to arrive followed by Wayne and Geraldine from Intuition I and Barry and Susan from Night Hawk. Of course, that required that we have a dock party! 

 

Intuition I, Night Hawk, Pioneer and La Vida Dulce relax at El Latino in Santa Marta

 

 

 

 

Sampatecho , La Vida Dulce and Pioneer - once again at El Latino!

 

 

 

 

 

Dock party at Darsena

 

 

 

 

Homemade child's seat on bike - very Cuban!

After acquainting our new dock mates with Santa Marta and Varadero, Intuition I and Night Hawk set off on the bus for a two day experience in Havana, while Sampateco headed back to the United States on a well timed weather window.

 

 

 

Back in Varadero, for the duration of our stay in Cuba is proving to be busy and interesting.  We have said goodbye to several boats and have met several new boats - the last two being from the Netherlands.  Eros, the trimaran with the "boys" aboard tried to take off for Florida twice more and the second time got lucky.  They made it to Florida without overheating and will return after a few days of buying supplies and a new motorcycle.

 

Eros heads off to Marathon - this time, successfully!

 

We had a close encounter with a carrier pigeon on our dock.  He/she? was quite friendly and hopped around on the dock and Pioneer for about thirty minutes.  Eventually Judy encouraged it to head off to its pigeon shelter before the dock dogs got too excited!

 

 

When carrier pigeons land near you, they are usually looking for a drink - give them some water and then they are on their way. 

 

 

Geraldine, from Intuition gave us a short seminar on shell identification.  She had a great collection and several different kinds.  Judy reciprocated with a lesson on polishing sea beans. Susan, Geraldine and her husband, Wayne, all were wearing their hamburger necklaces the next day - using sea beans they had picked up on the beach and helped to polish.

 

Geraldine displays with pride the shells she has collected and catalogued

 

 

Judy works away at the final touches on the sea bean necklaces

 

 

Unfortunately, new friends come and go at Darsena so we were once again saying goodbye to friends that we would miss.  Had it been three weeks later, we would have left with them, but that was not to be.  We had no need to return to the USA early and we really wanted to be able to shake the cold/flu bug that we had picked up on the bus trip back from Santiago de Cuba.  It has taken almost three weeks to feel as though we are on the mend.  Cuban buses are just like airplanes when it comes to spreading germs!

Night Hawk heads off into the Paso Malo for the big trip to Lake Worth

 

 

 

 

 

 

Intuition I leaves Marina Darsena, saying goodbye to Cuba

 

Now the marina seems very quiet - we can catch up on laundry and movies we haven't seen.  It will also give us some time to prepare Pioneer for the trip home - oil change, tightening hoses, securing Scout to the foredeck and transferring fuel from our cans into the main tank.  Spending a little relaxing time will also help get us healthy for the trip. From what we hear on CNN and from fellow travelers  our reentry into the USA should be simple this year.  We also understand that plans for the sailing regatta between Florida and Marina Hemingway are being revived from the past.

Then, there came the "Swine Flu".  In Cuba, the authorities took this pandemic very seriously, although they had no cases so far.  They cancelled the regatta and were planning to quarantine all boats coming from the USA and Mexico.  It's a good thing that we were planning on leaving as you felt self conscious even coughing or sneezing!! 

Our last week in Cuba was a time to visit Cuban friends we had made and take some great bike rides into Varadero, Santa Marta and into the countryside.  Debbie joined us for many of these adventures.

 

A slow day at this market stall!

 

 

Judy and Debbie "on tour"

 

In Santa Marta we made our last market visit and also visited with Anna Ludis, a local woman/friend who sells fish sandwiches from her bike in Santa Marta. We dropped off some clothing and shoes for her as well as a lot of containers that are valued by the Cubans because they have many uses for them but cannot afford to buy the products that they represent.

 

Anna Ludis and her sister at Anna's house - the sneakers we gave her fit perfectly!

 

 

 

We pose here with Dolores, our friend and local bicycle check person

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ron, Raul (bicycle check man) and Giovanni (a man on a mission/crusade)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two old forms of transportation (a old Cuban car and Ron's bike (from the 60's)

 

 

 

Judy checks out the items for sale in the state run market booths

 

Another day we set off to Central - a local community outside of Santa Marta - to visit with Chino (Ron's physiotherapist). 

 

 

 

Judy, Chino, his sister and Debbie at Chino's house

We had a super visit with Chino and got a tour of the upstairs of the family house (under construction).  This upstairs area was to be Chinos when finished. 

 

 

 

 

Chino, Debbie and Judy at Chino's upstairs house (under construction)

 

 

 

 

Ron and Joel (a market seller) exchange hats for this picture!

 

Then we went to Ramon's house to say goodbye to his wife and give her a small present.  Unfortunately, Ramon was working in the market that day.

 

 

 

 

Ron presents Pioneer's hose to Mario's mother

 Our last visiting stop was to see Mario and deliver to him a hose which we no longer had any use for on Pioneer.  Mario has a hose based irrigation system for his banana trees so he was pleased with the gift.  In return Mario presented us with a wooden statue of a man called "Babalao". His purpose is to bring the owners good luck and in our case, good passage. 

Mario relaxes in his yard at home

 

 

 

 

Back at the marina, we enjoyed our nightly shower in the restored shower building.  It was one of the better showers that are usually provided at marinas.  The ladies shower was "roto"/broken, so it was closed off.  The men's shower was usable so Ron put the appropriate "no roto"/not broken sign on it!.

Ron wonders which door to take!

 

 

 

 

Judy spreads out the goodies needed for a good shower

 The inside, although not finished with a fine eye to detail, was large and usually clean.  The hot water was the best!  The actual shower stalls were huge!

 

 

 

Judy enjoys the space in her shower (before she turned the water on!)

 

 

 

 

 

Finally we got a break in the weather - it stopped blowing like stink!  We checked out the weather with Chris Parker for a Saturday, May 2 leaving date.

 

Home | Our Boat-Buying Trip | About Pioneer | Our Sailing Dream | Preparing to Sail | Preparing to Cruise | '05-'06 Bahamas | Off Season '06 | '06-'07 Cuba | Off Season '07 | '07-'08 Bahamas | Off Season '08 | To Cuba '08 | In Cuba '08-'09 | Cuba to Minnesott '09 | Off Season '09 | NW Caribbean 2010 | NW Caribbean 2011 | Ron's Ruminations | Judy's Jubilations

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