Feb 21 – Remedios to Varadero via Santa Clara
We decided to leave Remedios early so we can spend Sunday in Santa Clara and soak up the last bit of Cuban life before we spend a week at the beach in Varadero. Our taxi driver is much calmer than the driver who brought us to Remedios; we are thankful we are not in a rattletrap Lada and for our driver’s professionalism!
On the one-hour drive, Victor engaged the driver in a chat about baseball and eventually the discussion turned to the challenges in Cuba. He explained that a doctor in Cuba can expect to earn about 500 local pesos which is about 20 CUC (25 CAD) per month. A taxi driver would earn double that mostly because of tipping. Doctors can only survive if their patients give them something a bit extra (eggs, a chicken) to supplement their inadequate salaries.
While Cubans struggle in nearly every aspect of their lives, they are very close to their families, and have warm relations with their neighbours. We spent most of our Saturday in Santa Clara’s main square watching three or four generations of families enjoying the sunshine and visiting with their neighbours. And, as is typical in Cuba, the focus is on the children. Two small carts, each holding at least 12 children, were pulled by goats and lead by an older man. Round and round the square the cart went, and the children enjoyed the journey without one parent having the slightest concern for their child’s safety or security.
After a late lunch at a restaurant for locals, we walked the 2km through the city to the bus station. Horse drawn carts carrying workers home are the only traffic jam we will encounter along the way. Our bus is a bit late, so we purchase some ice cream to pass the time.
After the three-hour Viazul bus ride (quite uncomfortable because the air conditioning is blasting) we head to the main street to catch a taxi. It’s 9:30pm and the streets are nearly deserted. After three blocks of walking we flag down a taxi ; the driver says the trip will cost us 15CUC! We are both shocked since the trip is only 8 or 9 km. We realize that we are in tourist town and things will be quite different from now on. After telling the taxi that the cost is way too high, he asks how much we want to spend. Victor says 6; the driver mutters something and finally agrees to charge us 10CUC.
When we arrive at the palatial Blau Varadero, we feel like country bumpkins with our road weary clothes and dusty backpacks. Regardless, we check in to our room, admire the king sized bed, and head to the buffet for a later dinner. A buffet!! Chicken, fish, beef, spaghetti (guess what Victor had), vegetables of all kinds, a salad bar and desserts galore. It is a decadent display. We feel incredibly lucky and, at the same time, feel the pangs of guilt knowing that many Cubans will have rice and beans for dinner. However, we know that our tourism dollars go a long way to supporting the local economy.
We are told that we can expect rain over the next 24 hours … and it does rain non-stop. Time to catch up on reading and laundry.