Into Cienfuegos For My First Look Around

July 1, 1998 3:15pm

Just back from a quick tour of town. We've moved the boat to a more secure area, away from the beach and potential swim aboard theft and begun to clean up from the tuna catch yesterday.

On our first walk about, the first order of business was to stop at a Cuban store for cigars. The cost is the equivalent of $1.25 US for twenty-five and are a very nice smoke, much better than the Cubans we had resorted to buying in Grand Cayman for $10 each after the cigars brought from home ran out!

  Off to the hotel to call my friend Penny in Grand Cayman so she could e-mail my family that all was well after the crossing. That call was difficult enough, communications with the US seem nigh on impossible. On our way towards town, we managed to secure a 'Casa Particular' a room in a private house for $10 each. A real bed in a room with a shared restroom between us - almost heaven.

We hopped onto a horse drawn carriage with hard bench seats, a common form of mass transit and went to El Centro in Cienfuegos. Transportation for most is via bicycle, often with two or three people balanced precariously. Motor vehicles consist of vintage pre-revolution American cars,an assortment of European vehicles and an occasional motorcycle.

  Visits to several shops demonstrated an extreme scarcity of goods. There are two types of stores, dollar shops where US currency is used which were better stocked but more expensive and peso shops. These are primarily for locals to obtain staples via a voucher system which are disbursed with a hand shovel into the customer's sacks. Coffee, rice, flour, salt and tobacco are sometimes available in these spartan shops.
Downtown Cienfuegos, Cuba    

A visit to the restroom at the finest hotel in town where rooms run $75 per night was disappointing. There was cold running water and two private stalls but was filthy and no paper goods whatsoever. Over the course of the day, this was the best I've found. Most had no sinks or even toilet seats. Carry your own paper!

Food was on my mind, so Chris and I bought several pieces of 'pizza' through a doorway. Unrecognizable from traditional pizza, this was a piece of round fried dough about eight inches across with some local cheese melted on top and folded over served in a piece of torn cardboard. Not terribly tasty but edible.

Back on board "Defiance", I managed to ask one of the Marina personnel to bicycle off for more ice for us. Clearly to stay provisioned will be challenging. Tapping into a nearby lamp post for electricity seems promising but water is still out of the question.

The Marina Jagua, Cienfuegos       View from Marina Jagua

Tonight we'll walk the town a bit and then partake of the local pastime - sitting on the sea wall (malecon) on the main thoroughfare and watch the world go by.

We've also made an arrangement to have a private car drive us to Rancho Luna to scuba dive and then to Trinidad, Cuba's oldest city for a look around.

1998 John Petrak

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