The next day, an early rise to first exchange money and
then, an entire day of exploring Trinidad and
the nearby âValle de los Ingeniosâ (Valley of the Sugar Mills). Since weâd had
to pay for our casa in cash, we had to change money twice and had already
gotten to know the security guard at the bank, a friendly fellow who was
clearly curious about those clearly-not-European-but-not-really-Latin-looking
tourists talking a language sounding liking Spanish. ;-) Like most Cubans, he
hadnât really heard about Aruba but the âAntillas Neerlandesasâ were familiar
and of course, the fact that we are located so close to Venezuela (and ânuestro amigo
Chavezâ) is always reason for some enthusiasm.
The bank was an interesting affair, like being transported
back into time to when I visited the bank as a little girl with my mother.
computers of course, an old fashioned calculator, and our friend the security
guard telling everybody (there was quite a line!) where to stand, sit and whose
turn it was.
We spent a pleasant enough morning wandering around in the
small town, exploring the sights, mostly along the Plaza Mayor, where the
majority of tourist sites are located. There were very few people around, maybe
because of the midday heat.
The pretty cobblestoned Plaza is dominated by the church,
the Iglesia de la Santisima Trinidad, which
was unfortunately closed so we couldnât take a peek. We observed a couple of
characters posed photogenically in front of the church (an old man with his
donkey, another one in an old-fashioned suit with a hu-uge cigar) for tourists
to take a pic (for a small fee) of a âtypicalâ Cuban (hmmmâŚ.
for them, there werenât many people around.
There are a couple of small museums around the Plaza, too, but
by now, the heat had gotten to us and we decided to head for the interesting
looking bell tower dominating the town a block away to see if we could catch a
little breeze by climbing it.
The tower, of course, is part of the oddly named âMuseo
Nacional de la Lucha contra los Bandidosâ (National Museum
of the Struggle against the Bandits). First question of course: who were âthe
Banditsâ? Well, I guess this museum is mainly interesting if you have a good
knowledge of Cuban history, since this would help a lot in understanding the
displays, mostly pictures of, and personal objects (like uniforms etc.
Viewing tower, Manaca Iznaga
) used, in
battles against counterrevolutionaries (ah! so those are âthe Banditsâ) in the
Sierra del Escambray in the years 1959 to 1965, of which the most interesting
(for outsiders anyway...) are a boat reportedly used by CIA-infiltrators and a
Soviet-era truck, both in the courtyard. The signage makes interesting reading,
too (all only in Spanish), if only because of the lack of any objectivity!
It is worth making the effort to climb the steep stairs of
the bell tower for great views over the town. You could take 100âs of pictures
in all directions from this vantage point, very nice! This is the only remaining
part of the former convent of San Francisco de Asis, that used to be located
After our short walking tour, we decided to get the car and
tour the âValle de los Ingeniosâ, or Valley of the Sugar Mills.
Another view: Valle de Los Ingenios
In the 19th
century, the fertile lands around Trinidad were home to dozens of sugar mills
and produced a big part of Cuba
total sugar crop. This made Trinidad
wealthy little town and some of the houses of the rich sugar barons can still
be seen around town. There still is some sugar cultivation around here,
although almost all the âingeniosâ were destroyed. The best known, and only one
that is still standing of the old âingeniosâ, is the âManaca Iznagaâ, where you
can see a restored hacienda house and lookout tower, used for keeping an eye on
the slaves working the fields. Thereâs a small fee to go up the tower, where
you have excellent views of the surrounding fields. Watch out for the many wasp
nests in the tower, they were fierce! Next to the tower, women offer crafts,
mostly pretty embroidered tablecloths, napkins and childrenâs clothing.
Also, donât miss old the sugar press in the back garden.
There is a fee for parking, too, and the usual touts, who
were, franky, even more annoying than those in Trinidad
itself. Not knowing that we understand Spanish, they were quite insulting when
I wasnât interested in buying some small animals made from palm fronds that
they were offering.
Another option for visiting the valley is by a tourist
train, which you can book at local hotels. We missed it entirely, however.
After touring the valley, weâd had quite enough of history
and set off to search for a beach. On the coastal road from Trinidad
to Playa Ancon (which is basically closed to the public open only for guests of
the hotel there) are a couple of small beaches and we settled down at a
palapa-covered restaurant for some cold drinks and to relax.