Roughly ten months ago, we embarked on this round the world journey. I had left my job to take off on this trip, this flight of fancy, travelling Africa and South America, not quite sure of what to expect but certain that the sudden plunge into uncertainty would beat the dreary routine that had been gnawing away at me for a while.
Firstly, let me preface what I’m about to say by declaring that Handcarry Only was never meant to be a political blog, nor am I a particularly astute political pundit. Nevertheless, it is impossible to have visited Cuba and not have an opinion about the political system that pervades all aspects on life here, communism.
Beautiful as Trinidad is, it would be missing the point simply to visit and the see the ‘sights’, nothing in particular has been packaged as an attraction, not in the typical tourist sense of the word anyway. The true magic of the place is the atmosphere, the people, the laid-back lifestyle and the fantastically intriguing sample of humanity on offer.
The old cobbled street was proving a bit of a challenge in the dim light, the scattered street lamps casting strange shadows on the peeling colonial era buildings lining either side of the road. Our footsteps were unsure and the uneven ground, still slightly slick with the brief rain that had fallen in the evening, was slippery, hiding puddles of water in the darkness.
The sticky heat lingered in the afternoon air like a damp blanket, stifling and energy-sapping. It was midday, and the streets were quiet. The few people ambling about-children in the school uniforms, topless men with sun weathered skin hauling large sacks, all keeping close to the pastel coloured buildings, trying to stay within the thin sliver of shade provided by the low rise houses lining either side of the street…
Quite happy to be out of the tourist madness that can sometimes define Havana, we found Viñales really sleepy and quite tranquilo. A main road runs through the town, and single storey houses, painted in pastel colours, line both sides of the street. Small, mostly state-run restaurants and casa particulares dot the stretch. Apart from the occasional bored taxi driver doing burnouts down the main strip, and the tourist Via Azul buses that ply the stretch, traffic was limited to the odd tractor and man on horse.