Trinidad was by far our fav of the 3 cities we visited. It is the smallest [73,000 people] and the oldest . It is genuinely quaint!
Because it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is definitely on the tourist maps. Yet it never felt too touristy. The central plaza is all narrow, cobblestone streets closed to cars, so it’s a pedestrian sanctuary with many small shops and restaurants, and none of the crass commercialism of first world capitalist resorts.
Our first evening we, of course, walked [using the Lonely Planet book as our guide].
Our first full day was largely the amazing horseback tour. Our guide promised to take us to see sugar plantations and to have a relaxed stopover at a waterfall and natural swimming pool in a cave. His assistant came to our guest house on time at 9 AM and walked us to the horse corrals about 20 minutes away. There were many other tourists and many horses and guides! It’s a going concern. Our guide was just for us and another couple: a husband/wife around 60 from Queensland, Australia. She was from Chile, and he from Ireland. So we had a fluent Spanish speaker among us, which was most helpful.
While all of Cuba is a time-warp, this experience was totally outside the modern world. Horses really are a way of life in much of the country. So we were having a pretty genuine taste of life here.
The horses were very tame: totally trained to be gentle with us foreigners. Our pace was very leisurely. After riding about 40 minutes we stopped at a cantina where they were juicing sugar cane by hand for our amusement and refreshment. I was pleasantly surprised: pure cane juice is not sickeningly sweet like manufactured soft drinks. It tastes like a whole food, which it is…very refreshing!
Our next stopover was a thatched-roof “cafe” where men were hand-roasting local beans, grinding them in a wooden pastel, and serving up a strong brew! Yum!
What I loved about Cuban coffee both here and at all our guest houses: it is thick, rich and very smooth, never bitter.
Our final stop was the promised waterfall and swimming hole. Sadly the waterfall was dry! The area has been in chronic drought for many years. I local botanist told us it’s a clear result of global climate change. The swimming hole was packed with other tourists. All were weary from riding in the hot sun, and eager for the cool refreshment. Local musicians played typically festive music.
On the hour plus ride back to Trinidad, after getting used to being on a horse, under the effects of the hot sun [upper 20s/70s], the cane juice and coffee, and the refreshing splash, I went into an altered state. There were hardly any signs of modern life on the dirt road. The few homes we saw were pretty ageless. I began to feel like I was WAY outside the 21st Century. It could have been 200 years ago…or 2,000! I was simply some guy on a horse somewhere on Planet Earth doing what countless humans have done for thousands of years. Here’s what I was seeing:
Back in Trinidad after being outside time all day, we tried to navigate the complexities of getting internet access: a major challenge anywhere in Cuba! The internet is, of course, totally controlled by the government. Access requires finding a vendor who sells “wifi cards.” Each card provides a Username and Password good for 1 hour. The next challenge is finding wifi! We learned the posh Hotel Iberostar had both the cards and the signal…yay! The front desk directed us to the bar. The bar tender said we had to buy a drink plus pay for the cards. Feeling already a bit out of our minds from hunger and fatigue after such an unusual day, we uncharacteristically ordered alcohol: Pina Colas. Wow! Did they pack a punch! We both got totally tipsy and giggly! So of course we two tidly Leos had to take silly selfies in front of the lion fountain in the lobby:
Once we got some dinner and were thinking more clearly we decided to extend our stay in Trinidad one more day so we would have time to enjoy the beautiful beach, Playa Ancon, 12 km / 8 miles south by cab. We’re so glad we did! It was stunning:
Our time in Trinidad was for sure the highlight. I would happily go back there for a longer sojourn.