Camaguey Travel Blog› entry 115 of 134 › view all entries
A mere 6 hours journey, we left Santiago and headed out to the UNESCO world heritage site of Camaguey. Famed for it's maze like designed streets that were built to confuse and trap pirates and bandits who tried to pillage it, it seemed a shame to only have one day to explore but we planned to make the most of it. The journey itself was interesting for two reasons;
1. The roads were empty apart from the odd bus or horse drawn cart. This is because you have to have special permissions in Cuba to own a car, unless it's a pre 1959 car. All number plates have different colours to identify you as a resident, government official, tourist etc.
2. We had to endure a lecture from Abel about the injustices of Cuba and how we couldn't possibly understand them as we were Western and everything was better in the west (although he'd never like to live there!). It became incredibly frustrating to try and discuss the differences to be met with such cycnicsm and be cut down. No matter how liberal and open minded Abel claimed to be he was quite clearly Cuban and had only one idea which he expected you to conform to.
We arrived in Camaguey tired and hungry. Fortunately our cycle taxis were waiting for us. Todd and I shared our taxi and we had a great driver who was suprisingly chatty for a Cuban.
We visited the famous Ntaional Theatre - home of the national ballet company and opera who have travelled the world. An honour for any Cuabn where the system is designed to be as complicated and expensive as possible to discourage Cubans from leaving. The system was set up in 1960 to keep Cuban Pesos in Cuba but the travel restriction was never lifted. Cubans require and invitation to visit a country and a visa from that country before they can apply to the Cuban government for a visa to leave Cuba.
We travelled through the city looking at Plazas and buildings and eventually came to Plaza Carmen designed by Cuban artist Martha Jimenez. It's a pastel coloured square complete with statues of characters of the city. We also visited acclaimed Cuban artists Illena and Joel Jover in their home in the main plaza - their house is full of iconic images, paintings and collectables from all over the world. It's the kind of house you could spend years in and never see everything. I loved the artwork but unfortunately the bank card was at home ... or fortunately?!
That night we finally got to eat in a Casa Particular resturant. These restaurants are owned by locals and run as a business, although controlled by the government. The food wasn't great but there was the usual choices of meat and fish available, more choice than most Cubans get. It wasn't exactly the experience i had expected, it was more of a restaurant than someone's front room and the ownerswere elusive to say the least. Guess that's what happens on a tour!
The time in Camaguey was short but memorable - definitely a place i'd like to return to and explore more.