In the colonial city of Trinidad, we had three nights planned. Not only because of the fact that Trinidad is supposed to be a beautiful city, but certainly also because of the surrounding mountains and nature we wanted to visit. At Casa Ruth we found our lodging.
The first hiking day we drove by car into the mountains to Topes de Collantes. The climate at this altitude, where warm temperatures alternate with slightly cooler periods is great for coffee trees and cacao plants. It is a pity that chocolate cannot be eaten directly from the plant. A lot of preparation is needed to make the cacao fruit edible, otherwise we could have eaten our fill here.
Sendero La Batata takes its name from the open dripstone cave that we passed by after about four kilometers. The path was barred halfway by the water flowing out of the cave and converging in a clear pool. Romy and Frank took off their shoes and socks in order to view the last part of the cave as well. In the coolness of the cave’s shade, we took a small break that we felt we had certainly earned after climbing 100 vertical meters. The climbs were never long, but at times were so steep uphill that we were sweating quite a bit.
Actually, we had not considered lunch on the way, but were pleasantly surprised halfway through at Hacienda Codina. An initially grumpy lady was willing to make us a sandwich and in the end served us a complete meal including salad, fruit and coffee. The setting in the middle of the greenery was also perfect.
The second half of the hike was along the five-kilometer access road to the hacienda. A small black puppy that had already joined us during lunch was determined to accompany us back to the car. As sweet as we thought the dog was, there was no point in coming with us, which it finally realized for itself, thankfully.
The next day we spent in the Parque Natural El Cubano. In this area there are several waterfalls, some of which you can also swim in. From the parking lot it was only a 2 kilometer walk to the Javira waterfall, but we found that a bit too short. Therefore we extended the hike with an extra round through the park. We really wanted to earn the swimming and cooling off. So we finally made a circular walk of about 8 kilometers with a dip in the cold water of the waterfall as a reward at the end. On the way back to the parking lot we saw another all-green lizzard and hundreds of wasps’ nests hanging from a rock.
We enjoyed lunch at the affiliated restaurant and drove back toward Trinidad. We did plan to take another cool off in the Caribbean sea and chose the beach Playa La Boca close to town for this purpose. After dinner in our favorite restaurant “Mimi” we walked around the historic center of Trinidad one more time and of course we ended this evening with a cocktail as well.
Then it was time to say goodbye to Trinidad. Since we had only seen the old town in the dark in the evenings during the last days, we decided to make a short car stop in the center before we left for Santa Clara. We climbed the hill to the ruined church Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de la Candelaria de la Popa, which had a nice view of the city. We really had to be careful not to break our ankles on the patchwork of cobblestones as we strolled through Trinidad. Another round about the Plaza Mayor, which is, however, very quiet during the day, compared to the sociable hustle and bustle with music and drink and the many tourists in the evening.
Just 20 kilometers from Trinidad is the Valle de los Indigenos, where sugar cane cultivation flourished in the 19th century. In this area there were once countless sugar cane plantations and in some places you can still admire the colonial haciendas of the rich owners. Unfortunately, life was less rosy for thousands of slaves and it is hard to imagine how they must have toiled. In Manaca Iznaga we had a short look at the Hacienda Ingenio. And accompanied by numerous souvenir sellers we walked to the 43 meter high Torre de Iznaga, whose wooden stairs we climbed. From the top, we had a great 360-degree view of the Valle de los Indigenos.
On the way to the university town of Santa Clara, the mountain landscape soon gave way to smaller hills and finally ended in the flatlands. Our penultimate overnight stay was in a hotel this time. There were few guests at La Granjita, only the pool was quite full of day visitors and a DJ was playing deafening music. At the snack bar we treated ourselves to a sandwich that turned out to be a bone dry affair with some cooked ham. There was no coffee either. After a quick dip in the pool and a stroll through the resort, we relaxed in our rooms for the rest of the afternoon. After dinner, we had another cocktail by the now empty and dark pool and so ended this not-so-eventful day.
Before we tackled the 270 kilometers to Havana the next day, we first drove to downtown Santa Clara. This is where the revolution ended victoriously in 1958, after the last major battle of the rebels against the military took place here. The capture of Santa Clara is considered Che Guevara’s greatest military achievement. That is why the Mausoleo de Che Guevara with a huge bronze statue of the national hero is located on the huge Plaza de la Revolucion. Che is omnipresent in every city and village in Cuba. He was killed at the age of 39 while fighting in Bolivia, his remains were transferred to Cuba in 1997 and are located here in Santa Clara.
Actually, the drive to Havana would have been relatively relaxed, but the tank had to be filled. That can be a bigger challenge in Cuba. After we had unsuccessfully approached three gas stations, all of which had no Gasolina Especial, we could at least buy 10 liters for our car at the fourth one. With that we could get to Havana. There we tried again at two gas stations, but also without success. We decided to return the rental car empty and then pay the extra price.
However, the office of the car rental company was closed. It was Sunday, but we had booked and confirmed the car until today. The doorman of the underground car park could not help us either. Eddy then struggled with the car through the narrow streets of the city center, which was a challenge with all the pedestrians, bicycles and cars. But we made it without damage and parked the car in front of our accommodation.
We then contacted the employee of Cuba Incentives and described the problem to him. After about half an hour, he gave us the address of another branch. However, the employee there said that we could not leave the car here either and sent us to a third branch. Fortunately, this branch was just around the corner. After a short wait, an employee actually showed up and we finally got rid of our rental car. However, not without paying the missing gasoline at four times the price.
To say goodbye, we treated ourselves to a pizza on the Plaza Vieja. Of course, the obligatory cocktails and a farewell cigar for Eddy and Frank in the pub in front of our casa with live music were not to be missed. Tired we fell into bed, tomorrow it was again early to get up, because our transfer to the airport would pick us up at 6:25 am.
In style we were picked up the next morning by an old timer. The streets were empty and the old center seemed to be still processing last night’s intoxication. Within 40 minutes we were back at the Havana airport where it all started two weeks ago. As expected, there were problems at check-in, just as there had been on the outbound journey, and a supervisor had to be called in to help us get our boarding cards. In the end we arrived in Cancun with a three-hour delay. However, it had been a wonderful trip and well worth all the effort. Cuba is definitely recommended.