Day 13. 1/11. From Cienfuegos to Trinidad to Topes de Collantes.
Todays destination, Topes de Collantes is one thing I was looking forward to particularly when planning our trip. The huge natural park northern of Trinidad is said to have some of the most beautiful waterfalls in all of the Caribbean and made a great contrast to our beach-heavy trip around the island.
After a quick but rich breakfast in our hostel in Cienfuegos we said goodbye to our generous polish travel companions and took off to fetch our bus to Trinidad. A shame we didn’t have more time to see Cienfuegos, the little I saw through the bus windows and alongside our alk to the ASTRO station looked beautiful and worthy of more then just a few hours. It was in Cienfuegos when we were unlucky for the first time of our trip and could not find two free seats in an Astro bus but only with Viazul. Not only that this ticket cost us around 5 times the price we would have paid with Astro, also my neighbor in the bus turned out to be a real asshole. (speaking to her companion, she complained about me in english as “probably the noisiest person in the entire bus”, not knowing that I speak english. When I confronted her she got upset and into a pointless discussion with me).
The second we got out of the bus in Trinidad we were overrun by tons of locals that were awaiting the new Viazul delivery of fresh tourist meat. We literally could not walk from the bus to the next corner without having to say “No, gracias” a hundred times. Taxi! Bicitaxi! Casa Particular! Bicitaxi! Restaurante particular! Taxi! – Trinidad seemes to be only too aware of its charm and tries to suck every last penny out of your pocket. 3 hours, some 20CUC invested in food for our upcoming voyage to the mountains and roughly 20,000 “no thank you”s later, Maricel had found a free ride to Topes de Collantes with a group of french tourists who had rented an entire bus. We sat down in a corner and I made Maricel’s long awaited phone call to her school’s secretary. Maricel, poor thing, is in hospital with a serious food poisoning and unfortunately will not be able to make it to work on wednesday and friday. “No problem at all, thank you for letting us know, we wish her a quick recuperation.”
One hour later, it was already late afternoon, we took of to Topes de Collantes. We made almost half of our trip in first gear, creeping up a stunningly steep and scenic route through Trinidad’s nearby national park. When we finally arrived at roughly 700m altitude we found ourselves in Topes de Collantes’ famous microclima: High humidty, a smell of thick woods and herbs and chilly temperatures around 17 degrees. Maricel immediately put on long sleeves and long trousers and so did I have to do – after 30 minutes of playing the “I’m not cold, I’m german”. Neither the tourist information nor the nearby hotels could help us finding a nearby gaming spot and had it not been for a friendly local, passing by the street where we had put up our provisory supper (brea, avocado and sardines on a dirty sheet on even dirtier sidewalk) – we probably would have slept on the cold stone in front of the tourist information. But we were lucky – once again – and the friendly local walked us to the cabin of a friend of his who not only got up from being deep asleep but also could not be stopped from brushing and wiping a cement platform until he considered it good enough for us to put our tent on.
Once again an incredibly manifestation of the cuban people’s altroistic hospitality.