Wednesday, January 16, 2008     « Baconao Lagoon (Panoramic) »


I believe that strange group of sticks on the left-hand side is a nesting area for birds. I could see a few huddled in there with the aid of low-powered binoculars Davin packed for the trip. Other than that the lagoon did not offer much in the way of birds. I think we needed to be there in the morning and we were lucky to have made it to the lagoon at all.

Our last day in Cuba fell two days after New Year's Eve. We woke up with the intention to hire a cab to the lagoon only to discover that a post-party lock-down was still in effect. It turns out Cubans know how to party and had continued to do so like it was 1999. They also know how to take a day off. Few taxi drivers were working that day and the ones that were had already been booked. I was not to be deterred. God damn it I was going to make it to that lagoon! The first issue was finding out the location of the lagoon. One thing we noticed about Cuba was that nobody seemed to know where things were. The map we bought of the area was terrible. Many roads had no name or weren't shown at all. Distances were vague. Few destinations were listed. That was the best of all the maps I found. I knew about certain interesting locations before we left through extensive online research. But as previously mentioned The List turned out to be useless. Books about local destinations sitting in the lobby of the hotel did not indicate where anything was actually located. Distances were not marked. Asking at the reception desk was mostly unhelpful. Thank god for Raphael who helped me locate some places on the map and provided vague directions for others located off the map. Turns out it's dang hard to make a plan on how to get to a place with only the very vaguest idea of direction and distance.

We tried to rent scooters even though neither of us can drive and the prospect of operating a sort-of functioning motor vehicle in suspect condition on bumpy and broken country roads to an unknown distant location with no service station and no parts available anyways at the non-existent service station scared the shit out of me. I imagined skidding over a particularly sandy patch into a wetland or breaking down within miles of just about anything with nothing but my pathetic baby Spanish to aid us. In the end it didn't matter because all scooters were rented.

Next we tried mountain bikes. We managed to get the last two; both with almost no working breaks and all kinds of problems too numerous to list. My bike was so small I had to ride hunched over with my knees under my chin. Both wheels were bent and aligned as best they could be given their shape. My bike didn't ride so much as wobble and hobble its way in an indeterminant direction. We got as far as the end of our street before giving up.

I started to feel hopeless. Then pissed off, complaining about this fucking place where everything is vague, things kept going wrong, and nobody plans anything. I haven't talked much here about the problems but there were many. We made a lot of jokes over the course of the week that started, "So sorry but...." I started to feel like a prisoner. The ocean is lovely but I did not want to spend my last day laying on a chair with a whole country out there to explore. I can barely stand to lay on a beach for longer than 30 minutes period on any given day. When I have limited time in a place I want to see and experience that place. I would have felt more comfortable about trying to walk even a bit further than we had the day before but the problem we encountered in the Cuban countryside is that it is spread out and hot as fuck out there. Everything shuts down for the holidays. There were no stores or restaurants around to be open or closed anyways. And with the holidays we would be damn lucky if we passed a vehicle to get a ride from. The place was SHUT DOWN. The day after New Year's Day was quiet as can be. People were out walking to the beach and partying in their yards on New Year's Day. The day after was just dead. Eventually we made it back to the hotel lobby on those wobbly bikes with the hope of at least putting our names on a list just in case something came up at some point in the day.

We lucked out! We must have looked particularly desperate because the receptionist took pity on us promising to look into finding a private driver he knew and instructing us to come back in an hour ready to go. Shortly after our return a small red fiat drove up, idling behind a row of palm trees. We were instructed to haul ass and get into the car before we were spotted by other hotel guests since everyone had been told the same story about the impossibility of hiring a cab. We could not believe our luck. I was so thankful and took several self-portraits of myself leaving in that little fiat with a huge smile on my face. It was a day after New Year's Day miracle!

It turned out to be a great day. We loved our driver (I'm not saying his name because private cabs are illegal), loved the drive, and came upon all kinds of amazing things that I haven't even shown here yet.

« Baconao Lagoon (Panoramic) »