2 February 2010
AS WE SAID in the post Thoughts On: Touts and Beggars, Trinidad is a tourist hotspot. It has lots of character: colourful houses, cobblestone streets (which, by the way, are not conducive to cycling), narrow alleyways. There are also great venues for live music and dancing. At the Casa de la Musica, people sit on the stone steps sipping a drink, watching the band play. When the dancing gets going, Cubans search the audience with their eyes and pick out ladies to dance with (it’s possible girls will find guys too, but we didn’t see this.)
In our casa, we sit in rocking chairs in a covered courtyard, the abuela (grandma) making us some coffee. There is a welcome cool breeze coming through.
A songbird in a bamboo cage hanging near the kitchen serenades us. It’s a big thing in Trinidad, these birds in bamboo cages. You will see them hanging outside doors all over town. The shot of coffee she serves us is dark and sweet. It’s good. She sits down with us and we have a small chat.
We tell her where we’re from, which is always a chore trying to explain that I’m Canadian, Yvonne is German, but we just moved from Australia, and now have no fixed address. Then the question we dread: “Tienen ninos?” she asks, her eyes as wide as saucers. It’s obvious she loves kids.
When we tell her we don’t have children, she asks why not, and we have to explain that for now, we just travel. She gets it, then her face lights up. “Ahhh…despues!” she exclaims, smiling like a little child herself. We don’t have the heart, nor the vocabulary, to explain that we probably will never have kids. Not after. Not ever.
Walking around Trinidad I noticed that every house has bars on the windows and doors. I don’t remember seeing this in other towns, but maybe it was so. For whatever reason it really stands out here. It might be the people that sit behind these bars, looking out onto the streets, watching the world pass them by. Arms stick out of bars as we walk along, like prisoners in a cell (at least form what I’ve seen in the movies).
The best views can be had walking around at night (this is true wherever you are). Doors and windows are open and lights are on, giving a good glimpse into the daily lives inside these homes. Unlike the western world where doors are shut and window blinds drawn, everything is open for all to see. These are very transparent lives they lead.
One day we took the bikes out and headed into the Valle de los Ingenios (Valley of the Sugar Mills). In the 18th and 19th century, the valley was full of sugar cane fields and slaves. Sugar was Cuba’s main industry back then, when it was the foremost supplier of the world’s sugar consumption. From Trinidad, the ride is a big downhill coast, beautiful and relaxing, yet you know at the back of your mind that you will have to cycle back up this later.
The Sierra Escambray provides a mountainous backdrop to the vast green valley. Every once in a while we pass a farmer with a machete or a cowboy on a horse who always takes a moment to stop, look up, and wave at us. Goats and lambs wander around freely and we wonder how the farmers keep track of them. There is a tower in the valley, Torre Iznagio, that has 360 degree views of the valley. We climb up the steep, spiraling, rickety steps (but not before paying $1CUC for the privilege) and look out.
The late afternoon sun casts a huge shadow of the tower onto the villages below and from the top we can see into yards where chickens and roosters roam about and perfectly white laundry hangs from lines.