Trinidad is an adorable little city in the Cuban south coast. It’s a lot smaller than Havana but it has similar colourful architecture. The houses are not so high though and that gives the town a more genuine Caribbean feeling. You can see the whole town on foot, all the little squares and street vendors. The main attraction here is the music. Live music throughout the day on some random street corner and every evening at Casa de la musica. It’s an open bar with a stage of salsa musicians and a dance floor where the old Cuban charmers show their talent to the audience. You can join the party or just watch, sitting on a theatre-like stairs and wish you knew how to salsa.
Trinidad is also known for numerous salsa lessons and dance instructors. Apparently they even have a disco club carved into a cave on the outskirts of the city centre. The northern part of Trinidad ends at the foot of a small hill – and there you can find this masterpiece (disco cave) and some other local specialties as well (like a butcher shop out in the open – at 30+ celsius). Like all the hot countries, they probably have all that figured out and slaughter only as much as they sell within a few hours, but still…. It was weird seeing a pigs head just hanging outside an old shack waiting for a buyer.
The food options (like in most tourist destinations in Cuba) are very limited. Most of this cities don’t even have restaurants, so you are forced to eat in your casa particular (where you sleep). That would all be fine if they wouldn’t all offer the exact same menu and the exact same amount of spices (which is none what so ever). In the two weeks of Cuba we ate roasted chicken or pork (and once a lobster) and to go with that – cooked rice, every single day. Beef seems to be forbidden – at least that’s what our landlady told us – and nobody really had it on their menu. (When we got back from Cuba, we drove straight to Ljubljana’s best fast food for some burek (a balkan cheese pie) to wash of the taste of all that rice.)
Just a short drive from Trinidad is a nice sandy beach Playa Ancon where you can cool off in a hot day. And it’s not the only beach nearby so you can explore around a bit. The road that leads to these beaches is quite lonely and you might have to overtake a few herds of goats or other animals. They are all just free range and they can walk around and eat whatever they like. If they like the street, they’ll eat the street.
Topes de Collantes
We took a day trip to the hills on the north of Trinidad to a park called Topes de Collantes. It’s a lovely oasis – a dense jungle-like forest with lots of little lizards and birds and a beautiful rock formation at the beginning of the trail. A short walk (about an hour) takes you downhill to a beautiful little lake with a waterfall. If cold water isn’t a problem, you can dive in and enjoy the solitude – the place is quite well hidden and not on many tourist maps. Diving into that cold water may be a good idea even if you are not a fan of chill surprises – remember, you have another hour to walk back to your car. And this time the hike is uphill and it’s hot (as Cuba usually is).
Roasting tourists – local sport
As much as I liked Trinidad in general, it did serve us some nerve wrecking scenes.
Here the local are absolutely obsessed with tourists – as is the case in pretty much all Cuba. Understandable – they have to get money somewhere.
We came with a rented car and immediately drove into a huge crowd – pedestrians and bikes everywhere and we felt trapped. Some guy turned up and offered to take us to his mother’s place and she apparently has a guest house (casa particular) with a garage in the city centre. When we came to the house, his mother turned out to be black (he wasn’t) and about the same age he was. It was obvious that he was lying but we really didn’t have the energy to drive through the busy feels-like-pedestrian-only streets again, so we agreed to his terms. And since the mother wasn’t really his mother, the garage was also not really close to the house. In fact we gave him the keys to our car (yes I know – unbelievable but we did that) and he took the car to the garage at the other side of the town. We figured since it’s an obvious rental car (with red plates which only rentals have and it was a Chinese Gilly that the locals don’t drive) – what could he really do? (Cubans can’t really travel abroad or anything.) Well he couldn’t steal the car, but he stole some of my clothes that were in the car and some snacks.. And a lot of gas. We were never before or after in our lives, screwed so hard. And he would rip us off even harder if some German tourist wouldn’t notice us arguing about the gas and warned us, that they pulled the exact same tricks on him.
Needles to say that his “mother” kicked us out of her casa two days later, with same weird excuses that she has no more room for us because some relatives were coming. She was acting very nervous and seemed scared all the time (like she had a crack factory in her basement or something). Her “son” immediately had a solution for our homeless problem – he has a friend who also has a casa particular and is now vacant. And that was something completely different – our room was pretty bad (had no windows) but we only used it for sleeping anyway. But beside the shabby room, everything else was much better. The owner of the house was very friendly and relaxed (apparently no crack factory in the basement) and he had a roof terrace where we ate our breakfast – with some Cuban music to go with it. It was really nice.. until we had to meet our “friend” again and he had some final rip offs prepared for us. Thankfully the German tourist told us the exact thing that was going to happen, so the whole thing just ended in a verbal fight and the rip off didn’t work. We took the car and left Trinidad.
I am not taking all this as bad experience but a good lesson. Now we try to be a little less stupid 🙂