On our way to Caleta Buena, one of our group is in need of a veggie fix, so we make a roadside stop. Just a gas station, a couple of local veggie carts in this tiny settlement, but everything feels like a party here.
Soon we arrive at Caleta Buena, a gorgeous little spot near Playa (Beach) Giron, about a half hour SE of where we stayed in Playa Larga.
Fish of every colour and shape love doodling about the rocks that form the border of this calm cove.
If you don't feel like going in (hard to imagine), you can see plenty of fish from the shore.
A few dozen shaded cabanas provide private spots, or there are spots for larger gatherings at the beach.
This breakwall is the reason the cove is so calm and perfect for snorkeling. It's the best I've done anywhere, including Bali and Hawaii. I find it hard to get out of the water after a full hour of just drifting and watching the beauty below.
I catch Judy by surprise settling into her beach chair. Later Judy leads a few of us in a little Yoga stretching. Thank you,Judy! I've incorporated that down/up- down/up-dog thingy into my daily regimen.
Yours truly. On his way to snorkel heaven.
The entrance fee to Caleta Buena includes a wonderful buffet lunch and a bar, too. (if I member creckly.) Fish, chicken, salad, red bean soup, mohito… mweee bueno.
Onward and eastward to the city of Cienfuegos, "Pearl of the South," less than an hour and a half drive from Caleta Buena. The French were the first to invade and settle here. That lasted about 50 years until the Spanish kicked them out. Ahh. Civilization.
Cienfuegos sits a little ways inland, but on a large bay - Bahia de Cienfuegos - so it is very protected, but still connected to the Carribean Sea. Our hotel, the Passacaballo, is on the south side of the bay, at the mouth of the pass that connects the bay to the sea.
Upon our arrival in the main square, Plaza Jose Marti, Rita has arranged for a historian friend of hers to meet us a give us an overview. Rita does an excellent translation in her uniquely funky Cuba/Brooklyn accent. More on that later.
Tour buses line the Cienfuegos main square. I hate to think how this will look once the post-blockade flood gates have opened. May Cuba have the fortitude and foresight to keep control of her destiny.
It isn't until later that evening that I learn this bronze sculpture was a living breathing human being. I'd like to think the reason is her skill and not my gullibility.
No traffic on this Cienfuego street. It's an open-air mall. The blend of retail capitalism and Communism is hard to figure out at first glance. Second, third and fourth, too, now that I think of it. But the ambiance is extremely pleasant, so shop away!
Sam and Michael. The three of us hit the streets in search of a baseball cap bearing the insignia of the Cienfuegos Elephantes. This quest will go on til the end of the trip and will be the source of much merrymaking and camraderie between us, and one of the many seeds planted for a lasting friendship.
The Hotel Passacaballo is the most luxurious place we will stay this week.
Hotel Passacaballo Lobby
This is the view from the 3rd floor balcony. If you remember from the map above, we are on the long pass (passa=pass, caballo=horse) that runs from the Carribean Sea to the Bahia de Cienfuegos.
Oh, the buses keep idling and the birds keep chirping away.
In the lobby, later that evening after dinner, there is a band. They are way better than the dinner. Sam, if you recall, is a Cubo-phile. He not only talks the talk, he dances the dance. The tall dancer in the black shirt is our driver, Lazarito, winner of the Smile of the Year Award. He is with us the whole trip and participates in all the activities with great delight. What a wonderful human being.
Next chapter, on to the Provincial capitol of Santa Clara, and the wonderful Che Guevara Museum.