As I had mentioned in the last post, one of my goals was to get to the very northeastern corner of the Cuba, to the town of Baracoa. I had spoken with other travelers about Baracoa, and done some reading on it, and it seemed like a must-see. Getting there is no easy task however. It is protected, on the north coast, by a rugged and time consuming drive through the mining town of Moa. This road had been closed for almost a year due to damage from hurricane Mathew. Most travelers use the southern route, starting in Santiago de Cuba, and then passing by Guantanamo. Eventually, the route starts its climb, ultimately peaking in the highest mountains in all of Cuba, before descending towards Baracoa.
In all, I was kind of disappointed with Baracoa. I know that it has been through a lot the past few years, trying to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Mathew in October of 2016. I have to admit being more intrigued by the drive through the countryside, following the coastline westward. Again, this road is only recently re-opened, and rough. I loved it though. I felt like I was seeing places and people that most tourists never find.
People in Cuba lack in many things. They get the basics through hard work, their monthly rations, and a good deal of black-market trading with one another. And they are amazing at using the things that they have, repairing their cars, building carts and wagons, you name it. For kids, they will use anything for a ball. Soccer in Cuba is getting huge. Although baseball is still popular, soccer is easier. All that kids need to put together a game in the street, is something that rolls. No mitts, no bats, no catchers gear, etc. I now bring soccer balls with me on every trip. While in Eastern Cuba, I sought out the kids really needing a new soccer ball. One of the best I found was in the evening, while driving. I saw a huge field next to me, and in the middle a gang of kids playing a rough game of soccer with a flat ball. I found a place to park, and had to make this long walk across the field. They saw me coming forever, as did their parents who were all gathered in the shade nearby. They were so pleased to have a new ball.....the kids all lined up one by one to shake my hand. It was great. After, the parents waved me over, shaking their heads in approval for the gift, and offering me some rum.
In short, this was a great, great adventure. As with so many travels, it is the people that you meet that make it so worthwhile, and memorable. To close, one last man that I met near the downtown of Ciego de Avila. He was making his way down the street slowly, carrying a heavy bucket by one arm. I knew I had to get his photo. I stopped him to ask and talk with him. He shook his head about the photo, and said "pero soy muy feo." Can you imagine? Look at this beautiful guy........