I continued my “weekends out of Havana” tour, with a possible overnight trip to the city of Matanzas which lies 2 hours east of Havana in the Matanzas province. This town is the capital of Cuba’s sanitaria religion developed by African slaves as a mechanism to preserve their culture when the slave master’s outlawed it. From my last trip to Playa Girón, I got the put in touch with a casa particular out there and talked to the owner a bit about trips in that area. Like Las Terrazas, the proximity of Matanzas, made me consider making it a day trip so when I get off the bus, I immediately went touring and decided that I would go to the hostel and check in if and only if I missed the last bus back to Havana. I was a little disoriented when I get off the bus though and I blame this on spending the night before at an art show trying out my salsa moves with several cuba libres in hand. The bus pulled in the terminal in Matanzas at about 10:30am, I spent about 2 hours just walking around aimlessly then I finally stopped to buy some water and ask questions on how to find the tour bus which does a loop around the city of Matanzas. It turns out that I was 2 blocks away from it and its next departure time was in 45 minutes. Turns out also that it didn’t do a tour of the city of Matanzas but instead, it run between Matanzas and Varadero (45min) stopping at Playa Coral which lies in the middle of the 2 cities. Varadero is Cuba’s biggest tourist attraction filled with beautiful beaches, great sand, crystal clear water and a ton of all inclusive hotels so for that reason, I intended to skip it on this trip. The plan now was to take this bus to Playa Coral, walk on the beach a bit then walk 30 min to la Cueva de Saturno (the suturno cave) then walk back to catch the tour bus to la Cuerva de Bellamar (bellamar cave) then finally catch the last bus to La Iglesia de Monserratte (the church of Monserrate) and then ride the bus back to the City of Matanzas.
The cave of Saturno is a beautiful cave filled with crystal clear water that is open for people looking to swim, snorkel or scuba dive. I wanted to watch people dive in this 22m deep cave and ask them what they saw but I had just missed all the divers when I showed up. The next stop was the cave of Bellamar which is similar to saturno except that swimming is not available here. It is just a dark cave with beautiful natural architecture. Monserrate is a church built on a hill overlooking the bay of Matanzas by the Catalonians. There wasn’t much else I wanted to see in Matanzas except the pharmacy museum and a bridge named Calixto Garcia which the guide book said was a must see. I walked over this bridge twice and honestly, I wasn’t that impressed it was like 60ft long. To be fair, I have walked over the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges a couple times so my expectations are high. I think I was done doing all this by 4:00pm and so I caught the 4:30 bus back to Havana feeling accomplished and happy to cross another location off my list. Matanzas is a beautiful city with more Cubans than tourists and so I felt for a second like I was in real Cuba and was more than happy to not be surrounded by tourists or people who look like tourists. Being black in Cuba has its benefits given that I pass as Cuban a lot until I begin to speak Spanish then my cover is blown. It makes it so much easy to do things around here without constantly attracting hustlers. On this trip, the only hustlers attracted to me where the people on the beach who tried to get me to snorkel and buy an expensive lunch but even with these cats, ignoring worked best.
Mantanzas is Cuba’s City of Bridges. It has 21.
It is also Cuba’s Santaria Capital as well as the city with the biggest shipping port.