Cienfuegos sightseeing

Cienfuegos Travel Blog

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That Graham Greene scene

Cienfuegos, about 250 km east of Havana, has a huge sheltered harbour and is the main oil port for Cuba. Venezuela sends 8 or 9 tankers a day, happily hidden from the town. The town is very attractive, with hundreds of late 19th century buildings, many beautifully restored. The pedestrianised main shopping street has some better stocked shops. Anita, our hostess, is lovely and provides a delicious breakfast of tropical fruits, fresh pressed orange juice and eggs. We booked a boat trip round the harbour. The crewman spoke good English, learnt he said from the Cuban OU equivalent. He had an MSc in engineering from Leningrad, where he'd studied in the 80s for 5 years. All expenses paid.

Welcome!
His stopovers in Shannon had allowed him to visit Limerick! He also spoke Russian and German. Now he made a better living in tourism than engineering. The return trip across the wide bay to the narrow harbour entrance took a couple of hours. At the harbour mouth by the old Spanish fort a large slogan said Bienvenido a Cuba Socialista. Pelicans and cormorants dived, a few fishermen in small boats gathered shellfish, clapboard houses stood at the waterside among tropical vegetation. In the distance, the Sierra de Escambray rose up. Truly a Graham Greene scene.

On Thursday we visited the lush botanic gardens outside the town. Both afternoons we'd spent at Punto Gordo, a spit of land at the south of the town with a mirador giving views all round the harbour and with a lovely breeeze to cool us as we read.

The town, like the rest of Cuba, is in a time warp. The traffic is very light, and the driving is slow and careful. The few town buses are crowded, but many horse drawn taxis ply the streets on regular routes. 8 people sit on benches in the back, and another up by the driver. Bread is delivered by horse and cart. Cycles are fairly common, with a friend perched on the back. Cycle taxis for two can be flagged down. Motor cycles and side cars, all users wearing helmets, are also very common. In the country, lorries double as buses. Only tourist hire cars or coaches are new, while beautiful 50s American cars are lovingly looked after.

We took a horse taxi back to town. He clearly wasn't registered to take foreigners, as he was warned of a police check and took us along back streets watching out at each junction.

In the evening, over coffee, a Cuban joined us. He worked at the power station and got paid in national money the equivalent of about £7  a month. Even the boss only got about £10 a month. Streets were safe, schools good, medical services good, but life was hard.. One day , in the future....

On to historic Trinidad.

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That Graham Greene scene
That Graham Greene scene
Welcome!
Welcome!
Cienfuegos
photo by: lizzy1987