Trinidad in southern Cuba explored
By Lisa Maxwell

Aaaaah Cuba. Havana is the usual hotspot for travellers, and is certainly well worth a visit, but on my last trip, I wanted to venture further south, to see another side of Cuba, away from the frantic activity of the capital city.

So, backpack in place, I ventured along the only main road south, to the quieter colonial town of Trinidad,which is about half way down the boomerang of the country, on the Caribbean coast.

Trinidad is a wonder of one and two-storey pastel-painted, higgledy-piggledy houses, stretched out lazily, along with their occupants, beside the cobble-stone streets. They really are quite beautiful, with mahogany shutters, and intricately crafted wrought iron gates and window covers. The houses are in much better condition than those in Havana, possibly because there aren't so many people trying to cram into one building. The whole pace of life just seemed to slow, and Trinidad appeared to take on the 'chilled' attitude of it's better known namesake.

First stop, the Museo Del Revolucion. Not surprisingly, it's propaganda-laden exhibits blasted all the seemingly imperialist nations who had once tried to deny Cuba its identity. In the frangipani-lined courtyard stood the boat used by Castro and Che to enter Trinidad's harbour, complete with loaded semi-automatic weapon.

The clothes, identity cards, and personal possessions of those who martyred themselves were proudly displayed in shiny glass cases for all to see. The placards were all in Spanish, so, it was obvious that they didn't expect overseas visitors eyes questioning their vailidity.

The views from the narrow windy tower at the top of the museum looked out over this most picturesque of places, with the dark, rambling hills behind. The terracotta roofs below contrasted with the dark bottle-green of the rainforest that seemed to flow out of the edge of the town. I also visited the Museo De La Romantica. A huge beautifully decorated colonial house, formerly owned by a Spanish merchant, whose belongings still fill every room. Capodimonte, Baccarat crystal, Limoges, antique inlaid mahogany, wonderful pieces, but in total contrast to the abject poverty I saw outside its doors.

I ate lobster in Trinidad. It's being fished to extinction in Cuba, but I'm afraid the cheapness, and the fact that I adore that particular crustacean, banished my guilt until after I'd swallowed the last morsel of tail.

I blushed though when, the next day, I swam alongside an enormous blue/black lobster as he scooted backwards on a jet of expelled water.

Aah, the diving. I have never seen coral like it in my life. The most astonishing array; luminous purple fronds extending into the nutrient rich streams between the caverns; huge, snow-white open-fan corals swaying elegantly with the current; sole, large furry phallic fingers brushing my legs as I glided past. Sheer wonderment and awe.

I also swam through the middle of a shoal of Barracuda; considering their aggressive nature, it probably wasn't the wisest thing I've ever done, but hey, you only get one chance at these things!

There were also tiny family groups of neon-tetras - the first I've seen in the wild, who thoroughly enjoyed bouncing around on the tiniest air bubbles given out by my regulator.

I will definitely go back to Cuba to dive. It really was something else.

After diving, I walked along the beach back to my hotel - a state-run prison-style hotel. I heard the strangest noise, like lots of tiny nut-crackers clacking together at once.

It was dark, there were no street lights, and my eyesight isn't great at the best of times, so imagine my surprise when I nearly stood on a family of sand-coloured crabs, frantically waving their claws in the air.

These crabs were the largest I've ever seen, besides the giant spider crab of Japan. Really quite frightening looking things, with their beady eyes rotating independently on stalks on the top of their heads, and a single serrated claw, at least half the size of their bodies, noisily warning me off. They were not afraid of me, oh no. They just stood there, until I moved to one side to try to get by, and then their little legs would kick into action to block my path again. Aggressive? I'll show you aggressive!!
In the end I had no choice but to do a 'run and jump' and sprint it up the stairs to my room.

When I had recovered from my close encounter of the clawed kind, one of my new-found local friends took me to a disco Cuban-style. This disco is sunk deep
beneath the earth, in an underground, flickering lit cavern. While the lightening played with the clouds outside, I danced the salsa, the merengue, and the Madonna
'Vogue' among a throng of smiling, arm-waving, tush-wiggling Cuban hotties several hundred feet down.

Aaah Cuba, yes. But ooooooooooh Trinidad……..


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