|From Havana/Vedado we bused down 5 hours to Trinidad, one of Cuba's oldest towns midway down Cuba's southern coast. Trinidad was once a wealthy sugar town, and as a result the streets are lined with the mansions built for the wealthy sugar mill owners and merchants, most of these colonial houses have been restored and painted in different pastal colours. However Trinidad is no longer a wealthy area (hard for Cuba's sugar industry to compete when the main form of rural transport is the horse and cart!) and most people make a living off the tourists that visit here in July and August. Stepping of the bus we were beseeched by dozens of middle aged women pushing photos of their homes at us and asking us to stay in their houses. With the communist system not really providing the necessities and people not allowed to move, these people were desperate for any spare money. We moved in with one family and stayed for a week. Walking the cobbled streets in the evenings we were constantly invited in for dinner by desperate locals trying to make ends meet selling contraband lobster (it is only ment to be sold in hotels). We were happy to oblige and had some of the best lobster we have ever tasted for less than $8 each. Trinidad is also famous for its music. With a mix of african and Spanish heritage the salsa scene here is big. Every night the town plaza is transformed into an open air dance venue where the locals strut their stuff and the awkward tourists shuffle their feet.
Even though life is pretty tough for the locals here, most of them were genuiinely friendly and some invited us in just to talk to us about life outside Cuba. One old man a retired vetenary surgeon invited us for coffee at his house and in return wanted to know as much information as possible about Australia - population, cities, daily life, house prices, transport, food prices, how health insurance worked. But there is also a constant underlying frustration among most people, and some resentment towards tourists. Some people were pretty direct, asking us to give them the clothes on our backs and were genuinely annoyed that we didn't.
After Trinidad we stopped in Cienfuegos for a few days. Designated as an industrial centre the contrast with Trinidad was striking. Here people had jobs and the place had a buzz much like a large Australian country town. We stayed a few days there, long enough to take in the place and to pay a visit to the former Yacht Club for a drink, it was an impressive place, making the CYC look ordinary (see photo).
Then back to Havana for a few days where we rented a room in a house in the old city just off Plaza Vieja. This gave us enough time to revisit our favourite spots a last time before clearing out to Mexico.