Leaving Vinales we took the long 7 hour bus ride to Cienfuegos. We hadn’t booked any accommodation and had no problem finding casa particulares with space but there didn’t seem to be anything decent available. After comparing a few we ended up drinking juice in the house of a heart doctor whilst we waited for his son who apparently had a beautiful house by the beach to accommodate us. You know you’re in a crazy country when a heart specialist is desperate for tourists to stay with his family as he can make more money from this than in his actual day job fixing peoples hearts.
Eventually his son (also a doctor) turned up in a 1957 chevvy (CHECK CAR) and off we went to his casa. His casa ended up being a 15-20 minute walk away from Punta Gordon where we thought it was, and although the room was really nice, it was located in a neighbourhood we nicknamed Chernobyl.
We gave it the name Chernobyl as it looked like a deserted eastern Europe town that had been part of a nuclear experiment 30 years ago. The roads were quiet with communist looking buildings in the back drop and old, unused parks and spaces everywhere. That pretty much set the tone for Cienfuegos, not what we expected, we spent three nights there but could of seen what it had to offer in an afternoon.
THE TOWN CENTRE
Billed as clean and picturesque, the main square lived up to expectations as did some of the roads off the main square. Having seen so many colonial style towns though it wasn’t as impressive as others we’ve seen on this trip. Nevertheless it was good to see a Cuban one, that still looks like it probably did 50 years ago.
The highlight was probably the photo opportunities, so many to choose from but this cracker taken by Shaun looks like the album cover of a failed 90’s band and takes the hat.
EL NICHO NATIONAL PARK
Our main activity in Cienfuegos was a visit to the highly rated El Nicho national park. We hired a driver for the day who went by the name ‘El Papa’, Which can either mean ‘The Dad’ or ‘The Potato’. It was probably The Dad but we chose to assume The Potato.
The Potato was interesting character, owner of gleaming yellow car from the 80’s in mint condition. Unlike other Cubans we’d met, he didn’t smoke, drink alcohol or even drink coffee. He made it clear that he only ate mints, and throughout the day that’s all he did.
The national park itself was impressive with one particularly amazing viewpoint. It was good to see but hard to justify the $70 we spent on The Potato when we compared it to other national parks.
Having our own driver though did mean we could stop off at some Botanical Gardens on the way back, where we took a leisurely stroll and realised that the best thing about Cuba is just being here and seeing the country rather than specific activities.
With not much else going on in Cienfuegos, we made a thing out of going out for food in the evening which was actually really nice and it definitely felt as though me and Aimee had entered the holiday period of our trip.
We went to a nice seafood place with view of the Cienfuegos lagoon and also to another place called the palace, where we went all out, Shaun had lobster, I had three meats and Aimee had fish Fillet. The bizarre moment was when we ordered juice (which was on the menu), the waiter looked concerned and it created a scene between the three waiters who came over again to ask us to repeat the order. Eventually we got it through to him and we got some juice, who knew ordering juice would cause such havoc, that’s Cuba for you though, they probably ran out last year and nipped to the neighbours.