Wednesday May 15, 2013
Of all the possible restaurants or casa particulars that Brian and Stephanie could have made it to while getting into Trinidad an hour after us with absolutely no communication of where we were going or even wanted to be, them walking into exactly where we were sitting was nothing short of a miracle. Giving them a few moments to catch their breath, we let them have a cocktail at the restaurant, run their bag up to their room, and then it was time to explore. Having to leave by about three in the afternoon the next day gave us just over 24 hours to experience this town, and we didn’t want to miss out on a thing. Walking back to our ‘official parking’ officer to see what the overnight situation for our bikes would be, the man indicated he wanted them brought inside where they would be safe from any rain or possible vandalism, although in a town like this it seemed very unlikely. And where was this indoor space you might wonder? In a garage, or a shed, or behind a gate and under a tarp? None of the above. The place where he was planning to store two motorbikes overnight, was his living room. Having Matt and Brian grab the back end while he used his brawn on the front, both bikes were lifted up the few steps and into the man’s living quarters. Waving, we told him we’d be back the next afternoon to collect them. Now we were free to explore the town, although we set off with no particular destination in mind.
Selecting any random street to wander down, we strolled for a bit before happening upon an area with musicians playing. Stepping in through the arched entry way, we watched a group in front playing a variety of instruments and singing in very lovely Spanish vocals. As this group finished, another artist brought up his instrument to begin playing. None of us could be sure, because of the language barrier, but it looked as if there were some kind of contest or talent show being held. Even though we didn’t have much of a clue to exactly what was going on, we were just happy to be there and soak up a little of the culture while we were in the area. When the awards started to be passed out we left and continued down any street that caught our eye. Stephanie’s big goal for the afternoon was to find the church that we had seen from the roof top in our casa particular. We followed the steeple as we saw it poking up between buildings, until we finally stumbled upon it. Only, it wasn’t the church we were looking for. Turns out there are just a couple of them here. Stopping to check out this other church as long as we were there we found out it was mostly ruins, and the grass poking up between bricks in the open air center was now being taken over by children playing soccer. One church checked off the list, off to find the intended church now. Which, even though we could now spot the steeple of the one we had originally been seeking out, was easier said than done. Poor Stephanie must have a tattoo on her head that reads “I’m a social worker, please tell me all your problems”, because at each new street she was getting sucked into a conversation of someone asking for money, soap, shampoo, even the shirt off her back (literally), or just wanting to vent about their problems. The first few times we stuck around with her as she listened to their stories. After that, we just kept walking, thinking it would give her an easy out. ‘Oh, there go my friends, I should probably join them.’ But no. Often we were cemented down the street waiting for her for a good 5-10 minutes while she stood there and patiently listened to each person that stopped her. Stephanie, you are much more saintly than I.
I LOVED this guy’s outfit!
We found the church we had been looking for although this one we did not go inside. Passing by it we sympathetically smiled at the old men trying to sell pressed flowers, animals woven from straw, or the ever popular horseback tour. I think we turned down ten of them in the space of just two streets. From all our walking we were getting a little hungry at this point, and it was time to search out a meal. Matt and I remembered there were a lot of restaurants where we had first parked the bike when we came into town, and after checking the many maps that line the road since I had managed to store the street name in my head, made the necessary turns to get ourselves there. Getting dropped out a few blocks from the central area we were headed to, we began walking down the street and noticed they were becoming more filled now that it was evening and some of the shops were closing. Outside one restaurant was a long line of locals swarming around a small counter next door. Checking it out, we saw a young man pouring draft beer into little 8 oz plastic cups. A roadie was sounding pretty damn good at the moment so I went to order Matt and I one while Brian came up to take care of him and Stephanie. Having the glasses placed in front of me I was told the price was ‘diez’. As in, we could use our pesos here. Also as in, your two beers only cost $0.40. I honestly think I might never leave this place. For that price we sat right down on the curb to enjoy our first round, knowing that we’d quickly want a second. When our cups were refilled to the brim, we finally headed into the main square to search for food.
Although there were plenty of restaurants for fine dining or even just a relaxed social atmosphere, you might forget that we’re always on the search for things cheap. Our 20 CUC had exchanged over to 480 pesos, and they were burning a hole in our pocket, they needed to be spent! Locating another local pizza stand, we saw they offered a pizza especial with a good amount of toppings, but they also had many other items, one catching my eye in particular, the pan y jamon, or bread and ham. Each of us ordering one, we walked down to a park bench to sit down and eat. They went down way too fast, as also did our beers. Brian and I scooped up all the empty cups and made our way back up the street for one more fill. If we had been smart, we would have done what the locals have caught on to, and started bringing larger bottles from home to fill. Too bad the Nalgene bottles were back on the boat. Going back for yet another ham sandwich as well, we saw a guy across the street selling tamales. Just while talking to him a little bit about his life and explaining that, yes, we were from the states, it was enough time for him to sell out of one of his buckets of tamales, families coming to collect 10 at a time. We managed to grab the first few from the second bucket and make a quick leave as he was trying to sell us on horseback trips. I’m starting to think that it’s all this town is known for. ’Come to this historical World Heritage site and ride horses!’
When our late afternoon snack was finished we wanted to make our way back to where we had found the second church, because there was also a nice little outdoor seating area with a stage for live music. There had been no one playing when we first stopped by, but now that it was evening, everything was getting set up. Taking a seat at a table just back from the stage, we watched as the band started and mamba sound came out of the speakers. The singer joined in with the music, and shortly after, people were out in front of the stage dancing. It was a great way to relax for an hour, plus it was one of the things I really wanted to do while we were in Cuba, catch some music being played out in the streets. The crowd made the show even better as the ones that came up to dance were amazing, and made me wish I had some salsa lessons under my belt. We didn’t stay too late though, Brian and Stephanie never had a full meal that day and it was time to search out some real dinner instead of a couple tiny sandwiches. On our way to our 5 peso beer stand again, we were once more assaulted by a slew of people trying to sell us things. Most of them were still stopping Stephanie because of that big tattoo on her forehead. When she finally got up the balls to tell one off, she looked back to find out it was actually a guy that her and Brian had run into earlier that day. Daniel had helped them find a gas station as they were puttering into Trinidad with only one flashing bar left on their tank.
Since he had taken the time to help them earlier, we stopped to chat for a moment, until he as well tried to sell us on a trip. “$30 a person”, he advertised, “I pick you up, we go 50 minutes into the mountains, a stop for a snack, 20 more minutes, then a 2 hour break for swimming, and then an hour to come back.” Not only did we not care to spend that money, although it didn’t sound like too bad of a deal, we only had tomorrow morning and early afternoon to enjoy Trinidad, we didn’t want to spend all of it out of town on the horses. Telling him that we were only in town for a short period of time, he kept lowering his price. “Ok, 24 a person.” No thanks, we’re still not interested. “$20 a person, and I’ll pay your $6 fee into the national park.” Not trying to write you off Daniel, we’re just not up for horseback riding. He hadn’t even finished his last offer of $16 a person to let us get a word in when he pointed at each person and said, “Ok, $12, $12, $12, $12, and I pay the park fee.”. In an instant, Matt’s hand shot out as he yelled “Sold!”. We told Daniel where we were staying and he said he be by the next morning at 9:00 to get us. Looks like we’ve now come to Trinidad to take a tour on horseback. Continuing up the road, still in need of our food, we got our beer and went to try the pizza especial at the place we had gotten our sandwiches from. The toppings did make it slightly better, but it’s something about the cheese in this country, and I don’t think we’ll be seeking out pizzas any more. It’s a good thing they still have $0.20 beer and ice cream to offer.
When the sky turned dark we weren’t exactly sure what we wanted to do next, so Matt and I suggested we try to find ‘ La Cueva’, a night club that Jason from Tamarisk told us about. It’s a club that’s literally held…inside a cave. Checking those abundant street maps we found La Cueva listed under Entertainment and that it was situated on the far outskirts of the town where there were not even roads leading to it, at least not according to our map. Pursuing the listed street that would take us at least in that general direction, we chased it until the cobblestone did in fact end beneath our feet. A dirt road continued ahead, and although a few people in our party were unsure of the route, especially since the lights ended with the roads, I was still determined to make it there. It had been built up so much to us that I was not going to leave without seeing it. Asking a few people on the side of the road, they would just point further up the street. I nonchalantly followed until this dirt road turned into a dirt path with only blackness lying ahead. Almost getting to the point that I was ready to turn around myself, we asked one more person, an old man sitting on the side of the road wearing dirty and ripped clothes. He made a motion to follow him, which we did, and as soon as we got to the terrifyingly dark area, a motion sensored spot light turned on. We followed the path up a small hill and were dropped out at the entrance of La Cueva.
Paying the man a few CUC for his trouble, we walked forward toward the club. The entrance had bars in front of it, locking it closed at the moment, but we could see a flight of cement stairs leading down below the earth. At just that point, another man walked up, one of the managers for the club. In some broken Spanish we found out that the club didn’t open until 11, and it was only just past 8 at the moment. Brian politely asked if we could be let in just to take a look around, and surprisingly, the man obliged. Opening the gate, we all filed down the stairs into a real effing cave. I don’t know what I was expecting. It was called The Cave. I told it was inside..A Cave. Yet, I thought it would be an Americanized OSHA approved version of a ‘cave’ club that we might have back in the states with drywalled rooms sitting next to a rock that you walked past. No, this was far, far better. It was literally a freaking cave that had a cement floor poured in, a bar standing off to one wall, and a DJ booth suspended above a dance floor. My first thought was, “We are so coming back here when it opens at 11”, but even then I knew I was already far too tired to make that a reality. We thanked the man and headed back out, ready to enjoy a beer or two at our casa particular before passing out for the night, at 10 pm. You can take the girl out of cruising, but you can’t take the cruising out of the girl.