It turns out the boys had slept through all of their alarms and missed their morning bus. When they finally woke up at 9 a.m. they promptly arranged for another transport to Habana that would be leaving at 2:45. Perfect!
More time with the boys. We had breakfast together (and Frank was sufficiently hungover that he quickly went back to bed), and then Peter and I did some walking around town. Trinidad as a colonial city is pretty cute, with cobblestone streets and colorful homes. It reminded me of a smaller, more disheveled version of Cartagena or a more colorful version on Barichara. Aside from the church and some of other museums and towers with nice vistas of the city and its surroundings, there's not much to speak of in terms of things to do (other than shopping). Peter and I wandered around the old town and made our way back up to the ruins to survey the lay of the land. We tried the peso pizza (which is a very common food all over Cuba) and then waited their bus to Habana.
I said goodbye to my buddies and was on my own all over again! (The way I like it). I did some more browsing around Trinidad and ate an enormous dinner at my casa. I had planned on going out that night, but ended up napping after dinner and not venturing out that evening.
I woke up early – at 6 a.m., packed my things, had breakfast, and then was off to the bus terminal headed to Santiago (a 12 hour bus ride from Trinidad). I was in luck! There was a taxi leaving for the same price and heading to Santiago directly at the same time. We would get there 3 hours earlier! I was very grateful for the ride, and got to sit in the front seat, practice my Spanish, and ask lots of questions to my driver Giovane. Nine hours seemed to whiz by, but I certainly got a better sense of the transportation system in Cuba.
As you would guess, transportation all over the country is quite unreliable. There are essentially two bus lines that travel across the island: Viazul and Astro. Viazul is the preferred bus line for tourists and richer Cubans. Astro is about 20% cheaper, but sometimes a little less reliable and more crowded with Cubans. The other option for nationals is to stand on the side of the road, hold out a peso or two, and hitch a ride with any passerby. The only problem is that few Cubans have enough money to own a car or travel long distances, so you could be waiting a long while for a single car to cross the national highway. National taxis like the one Giovane drives are not even allowed to pick up Cubans, or the driver will lose his job. It's common to find at least a dozen Cubans at any given bus stop waiting – some patiently, others not so patiently. On our 9-hour drive, we passed at least 10 men waving money in the air and visibly upset that we weren't stopping to let them in. It didn't help that there were plenty of seats available in our taxi van. Only once did we pick up a mixed-race couple with their daughter from the side of the road on the last hour of our journey. Giovane kept repeating, "Lento! Tan lento!", complaining how they hopped in the car so slowly, which reconfirmed the risk he was taking to give them a ride. We dropped them at a junction about 20 minutes later.
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