It was quite a night for me . . . trips to the bathroom, toilet not working, changing rooms are 1:45am, trying to sleep, etc. etc. etc. Luckily we had Doctor mike and Emergency Room Nurse Karen who supplied several remedies. Between the Imodium, Cipro to kill everything in my gut, yogurt for creating new friendly cultures in my gut, Sprite to keep my electrolyte levels up, and even some Dr Shen’s Stomach cure that Laurie had. It was a real East meets West battle going on to combat whatever bad ju-ju I had got. Several others would need to use various versions of this regime before the trip would be over.
Be boarded the bus after breakfast for our tour of the city.
As we pulled away from the hotel Eliseo pointed out, across the square from our hotel, a famous government administrative building . . .
. . .where, from the balcony, Fidel Castro gave his first public speech after his successful revolution.
We arrived at the famous Santiago cemetery where the most famous hero and patriarch of Cuba, Jose Marti is buried.
Here is the Cuban version of the tomb of the unknown soldier. Each crypt holds the ramains of an unidentified soldier from the final war between Cuba and Spain for their independence.
Along the way Eliseo pointed out the black and red flag by many graves. These are freedom fighters who fought during the revolution led by Fidel Castro.
The tomb of Jose Marti, the Cuban national her. There is a changing of the guard every half hour and we were present to witness one.
Must be hot in the morning sun. We ourselves were sweating like dogs and it was only 9:30am!
Here come the two replacements. Their ‘goosestep stride’ brought their legs up to a 90 degree angle. Very Russian looking!
Marti’s body lies in the bottom of the monument . . .
A famous author, he lived from 1853 to 1895 when he died in military action during the Battle of Dos Rios. Through his writings and political activity, he became a symbol for Cuba’s bid for independence against Spain.
His request before his death was that his tomb be supplied with fresh flowers each day. His crypt is covered with a Cuban flag that faces east to the rising sun.
We make a ‘pit stop’ at a local five star hotel that is a joint venture between Cuba and Sol Melia, a Spanish hotel group that owns 350 hotels in 40 countries. Interesting that the first stall I went to in the bathroom had no toilet paper. We were warned by Jon to bring our own rolls of Charmin to Cuba because in most public bathrooms there was none. This proved top be true to the point that even the bathrooms in our hotel lobbies also did not usually have any!!! Most toilets in the public sector did not have toilet seats or they were broken. We started doing a survey and those that had toilet seats usually the right hand bolt was loose or broke off. Once the left one broke I guess they just never replaced them!!!
These beauties were parked outside the hotel . . .
Many of the old cars are now taxis like this one. Holy shnikees, Batman!!!
Time for a nice lunch in a government owned hotel. Almost on que, the moment we were seated our lunch entertainment arrived. Great voice and great guitar player.
Typical of the government restaurant plated meals. The buffets were a different story which many more options. As Raul headed to the head of the table with his guitar ,our waitress suddenly broke into dance to which Brenda and Karen quickly joined in. Fun!!!!
From lunch we toured the Cuartel Moncoda, the famous Barracks and Garrison where the revolution was started when Fidel and his band of revolutionaries stormed the door. The Cuban soldiers were tipped off though. Although Castro and his group had procured Cuban military uniforms in en effort to create a surprise, they were still wearing civilian shoes!! An alert guard woke the troops who defended the garrison. Castro and his band of revolutionaries’ retreated to the mountains. In true Cuban entrepreneurial spirit, the museum was charge 5 CUC (about $5US) to take photos in or on the grounds. We, in true American style, voted with our pocketbook by saying NO!
After the garrison tour it was time to head down the coast through Guantanamo province towards Baracoa. We stopped at the ocean to wade and swim. Being on the Caribbean side of the island, the water was warmer than many of the showers we would take during the week!
and found this perfectly preserved mummy on the beach!
Our faithful stead awaits our ride over the mountains. Most of the busses one saw were imported from China. Not much leg room and REALLY underpowered . . .
. . .looking back at our route the bus lurched rolled back a few feet each time Alberto shifted the manual transmission. We weren’t sure we were going to make it over the top. The road was in the best shape of any we would travel on during the week and is considered on of the ‘7 Engineering Marvels’ of Cuba.
Lets stop for a break . . .
. . .time for a Brenda and John selfie . . .
At the pullout, Gary admires the stead one of the ‘salesman’ rode up to the look point. We climbed to over 1,800 feet and passed over 11 bridges.
Our driver buys some beautiful snails from a vendor . . .while emJay does some bartering in the background.
We were heading for Baracoa located on the spot where Christopher Columbus landed in Cuba on his first voyage. It is the first Spanish settlement in Cuba during the 1500’s and was only assessable by water until the 1960’s when Castro build the road we traveled to get there.
We finally arrived at our 3 star government hotel in Baracoa, Porto Santo, our home for the next three nights.
Swim up bar to the left, out of the picture . . . and also on the left the ‘outdoor showers’ Carol and Mike enjoyed!
As we checked into the hotel we noticed this poster regarding the snails the vendors were illegally selling at the pass. They are endangered and harvested by the locals for tourist souvenirs. Who knew!
We had what became our customary ‘Welcome Cocktail’ usually provided by the hotels in their outside bars. Here was our ‘water only’ group enjoying a cold one . . . with no ice of course!
Nicely landscaped grounds. We were ‘right next to the airport’, like 100 feet, but never heard a plane take off or land. Evidently there is only one commercial flight a day!
Clean room . . . but the wall safe and light in the bathroom light over the sink didn’t work and although we requested several times during our stay they be repaired, they never were. Several of our gang did not have water and Carol and Mike’s shower never did work. They showered using the fresh water showers near the swim up pool.
After a quick shower (barely warm water again) it was time for a few rums at the bar and them time for a group dinner which was included in the price of our room. Service not so god . . .and menu was similar to our lunch menu. Then more rum . . . which was beginning to become a habit!