Santiago de Cuba to Baracoa via Guantanamo

The next day we were off again and on our way to Baracoa for a relaxing time of it. We left at our routine time of 9am and headed on the road to Guantanamo. We stopped of in the town on Guantanamo for a drink and a loo stop as it was a few hours into our journey. The revolution memorial is a lot smaller and more out the way that in the other cities we’d been it, but it was still poignant. As it was behind the fence, we couldn’t go around and see it, but we drove past it slowly.

Entering the state of Guantanamo

It was interesting driving through the town and province of Guantanamo – it was just like most other places we’d been through. It was a smallish town with normal houses and streets and everything. I think it’s because of the things we hear about Guantanamo Bay, I forget that it’s actually just a normal place outside of that. The province is big and there are people who live there who just want to get on with their lives like anyone else in the world. I guess I half expected it to have military personnel wondering around on guard the whole time – but nothing. We drove through and it was as if there was no prison a few kilometres away. I was pleasantly surprised really.

We stopped for lunch at a busy local beach along the way – it was beautiful: white sandy beach, some trees for shade and stunningly clear blue water. We ordered our food from the cafe/restaurant place and then headed to the beach for a relax and a dip whilst it cooked. It was so hot given it was early afternoon and the heat of the day, but the water was refreshing and welcoming as ever and it was nice to stretch out and swim after being cramped in a bus for a few hours. I have to say, it’s swims like that which make you realise what a great idea it is to get some cheap sunglasses just to go swimming in! The glare can get a bit much without.

When we headed up to the cafe for lunch, we were not disappointed! First, we had a lovely view over the coastline and the sea and we were right next to the outdoor kitchen so we could see the chefs preparing all the fresh fish (they were really friendly too when we asked for a picture!) Then the food itself, all freshly caught and freshly made. I had the Octopus – a local delicacy in a sauce with rice and banana chips – it was so so good! It was quite rich but tasted amazing. My boyfriend has the fresh fried fish with banana chips and rice – it was literally the whole fish, fresh as anything. My mouth is watering just thinking back to the place – unfortunately I don’t think the cafe had a name! It was just another great place that was busy with fantastic food on the coast.

Guantanamo lunch stop – the outdoor kitchen

After lunch on our way out of Guantanamo Province, we drove past the Cuban guard on the track to Guantanamo Bay. We couldn’t see much because of the trees and foliage, but from a bit of general knowledge and talking to the guide, behind the Cuban guard is 7km of track and what is essentially a ‘no man’s land’ and then it’s the American Guard and the prison itself. On our drive we caught a glimpse of it, but we didn’t stop to try and look for obvious reasons.

We did however stop at a viewpoint on the border of Guantanamo Province and Baracoa Province for a view of the mountains. It was really pretty in a completely different way to the views of the coast and sea. It was a view of the mountains, totally green and alive and just completely full!

After that, we reached the city of Baracoa and said goodbye to our driver Mario as this was our last destination before flying back to Havana in a couple of days time. We dropped our stuff off at the Casa and then headed for our usual orientation walk (I’ll go more into the town itself in a couple of posts time when we explored!) We were split between two Casa’s in Baracoa and had dinner in our own ones that night. Baracoa is the only province that has food that is particularly different to the others – it’s a lot warmer here and rains more regularly (apparently) and so the food to have here is any dish with coconut milk. I was happy as this is my favourite. In the Casa we has prawns in coconut sauce with rice – it was delicious. I wish I could have eaten more but I was still so full from lunch!

After dinner we headed to the Casa de la Trova of Baracoa. It was different to the others as the event and activity was all outside the actual building in the street. There were tables and chairs set up outside and there was a crowd that had already formed. In the middle of the square of people (locals and tourists) were the performers. the live music wasn’t really anything I recognised but it had a nice beat and it was enjoyable to watch/listen to. In true Cuban style – there was a dance space in front of the musicians for the dancing, which (in my view) makes the evening and the atmosphere what it is. For the first time that holiday, I was asked to dance – I would love to say that after the bits of lessons and the practice I did my fellow Brits proud and showed off what I’d learned. Alas, I struggled to even count to get my steps at the right time and was very much being led and taught by my partner. Having said that, he asked me to dance several more times so maybe it wasn’t as bad as it seemed? The night ended on a high – I really enjoyed it. It was nice to be awake enough to be able to enjoy staying out late and get involved with he country I was in.

Baracoa – Casa de la Trova

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