I left Cayo Brenon at the top of the tide to do an overnighter to the major port and city of Cienfuegos. It is further to the west than the usual stopping off point of Casilda which is shallow and not very attractive. There was no wind for 12 hours as I motored north west towards my destination. A long slog however the sea was flat and the moon came up soon after the sun set. LL had put the throttling down and was way ahead. I was not worried because I wanted to cover the 86 nm and arrive at dawn.
The colour in the east was just showing as I sighted the Punta de los Colorados lighthouse on the eastern shore of the entrance. Be careful of the tide that sweeps along the coast eastwards for you will not make the entrance. I arrived at the half dawn to find a well marked channel filled with rowing boats - fishermen setting of out to sea. They carried only one light and in the darkness I was just able to see them. They row out with the tide and return with the incoming tide. The entrance is straightforward, a turn to the left then an turn to the right, northwards to the Cayo Carenas and a hard turn to port past the red flashing light No 14 and then a course of 008T into the large bay and the Marina Jagua.
I arrives as the sun came up and dropped the anchor some way off shore in only 2.9m of water under the keel. I showered, put the entry uniform on and went ashore to be met by the Customs fellow, same routine here. they do the paper work then the refrain.... what can you give me?. The immigration was straight forward plus the harbour master and port control. All done and dusted within half and hour. Back to the boat to clean up and a lie down. No sleep, so I went ashore and walked into the town - a long walk down a wide Malecon Boulevard with trees and two lanes. It must have been a sight in its hayday but now it is just run down.
It was Sunday morning so the locals where out in force. The central Plaza Parce Jose Martin. It is an amazing large square with a large Government building on one side, a Cathedral de la Purisima in another corner, a teatro Tomas Terry and in the final corner a watch tower which did have a complete view of the bay. I walked round the square and found an open air performance of musicians and poets performing for the locals. It was under some vines so I took a chair and spent two hour enjoying the music and poetry reading. Great experience. On my way back I stopped into a small art gallery where a young man was displaying his picture. Not my style but he told me that an agent had organised a showing of a few of his pictures in Sydney. On my way out I asked if he knew of a good local restaurant. He tried to explain then said I will take you. I followed a few blocks and then through a narrow door into a small room with about ten tables set up with the full range of cutlery and wind glasses. He introduced me to the proprietress who gave me a menu, at which point I asked the young man if he would join me for lunch - I would pay. Yes.
We had a very simple prawn based meal with salad and a beer all for less than 15 CUC.
I walked home along the paved walkway flanked by all types of shops back to the Marina.
That evening I went ashore to try and contact the local people who had helped Eye Candy have such a good time in Trinidad and Havana. Unfortunately one of the fellows was in Havana while the other did not answer the phone used by a young man who offer to call them for me. It turned out he was prepared to organise a private taxi to take me to Trinidad the next day.
At 8:30 the next morning Alex arrived in a car driven by a friend to take me the 75 km. Trinidad was founded by Diego Velazquez in 1514. It has been declared a world heritage city. From 1600 to 1800 it was the centre of the sugar trade and the money flowed into the city as the sugar flowed out. The buildings reflect the wealth of the people however when the sugar stopped so did time and development so the city is well preserved. The old centre has been restored with the original cobblestones streets and the pastel coloured buildings housing local people, restaurants, hotels and casa - a home stay room in a persons house at a controlled rate but paid for in CUC.
I was taken to the house in the poorer down town area and given a large high ceiling room with on suite bathroom all for 25 CUC. The owner a woman who did not speak very much English offered to show me around the town. We walked to the main square then returned to a small restaurant where I had chicken and she had pork. A very simple meal for a few CUC. That evening I had dinner cooked by the owner's husband who is a chef in an up market hotel in the town. Not a bad meal but nothing to write home about.
As it got dark I walked to the Plaza Major and on the right of the church on the stair leading up to the Casa de la Musica local music is performed. On Monday and Wednesday it cost one CUC to attend which dissuades the locals but the committed attend to dance to the music. I sat at a table next to a party and got talking to a German girl who was spending a month in the town learning Spanish at some school. Her hobby was dancing and could she dance. She was known by the local hot shots so she was on the dance floor all the time. She was as good as any of the local girls and enjoyed the different steps executed by the young dancers as compared to the more traditional steps used by the older blokes who can really move to the beat. It all closed up at 1:00 am. I found my way back to the house and slept well.
The next day I walking the city streets. There are many fine restaurants, houses and hotels in the down town area - all with their windows open to let you see in side. A few houses have been turned into museums with an entrance fee of 5 CUC.
After lunch my private taxi arrived and we took the drive back to Cienfuegos along the coast. At one point the road was covered with squashed red crabs who had been caught by the passing cars. My driver slowed down to a crawl as he did not want to puncture his tyres. Some where not so lucky and four or five cars where parked by the roadside with one missing wheel. We arrived back and I gave the driver 25 CUC for the return trip and 20 CUC to my guide - Alex.
That evening I met LL and we sat around the marina bar swapping stories while drinking beers at one CUC a can. One of the best beer I have tasted in the Caribbean.
Tomorrow I set off to make some long hops to Cabo San Antonio and round that cape to Havana and Marina Hemingway.
A magical moment on Malua.