The Long Way to Santiago de Cuba
Post of the Day: Adding a bit of light to the darkness as we get through the pandemic together.
This series features travel photos from my archives, shared with you while staying at home.
July 6th, 2020
After yesterday’s tour of Havana, we’re headed all the way south to Santiago de Cuba. Today we’ll go by magic carpet, but my journey there in 2016 wasn’t quite so easy.
It was July ~ the peak month of domestic travel in Cuba. Going by air was impossible (sold out far in advance) and undesirable (communist-era planes that haven’t been well maintained). Trains were infrequent, if they ran at all. Buses were packed with people and made infinite stops along the way. Our last best option was to take a taxi 565 miles (910 kilometres) all the way to Santiago de Cuba.
The owner of our casa particular helped us arrange said taxi after much discussion about price and vehicle (large and comfortable, please). In the end I think we agreed to $100 for the journey, divided among the four of us (we were traveling with two close friends). Not a bad price for a journey by land across the ENTIRE island of Cuba.
The taxi arrived in the dark at 6:00 a.m. We spotted the NOT-so-large vehicle from the balcony. Immediate, fervent discussion began about what we were going to do. Should we go? Should we bail? Would we make it? Would we fit? Would we still like each other at the end? After negotiating through a yes, a no, several maybes and a dash of ambivalence, we agreed to go as far as Sancti Spiritus, where we could bail out to Trinidad if we really needed to. We took our bags downstairs, squished them into the trunk and then squished ourselves into the tiny taxi to the other end of Cuba.
Our driver was an older guy, partially blind, but he knew the route like the back of his hand. I was in the back seat sandwiched in the middle, with my feet on the hump near the console. My direct view out the windshield was a tiny reward for folding my body like origami. Away we went in silence with the sun rising, the AC only whispering, and the summer heat increasing with every mile. All I remember is countless potholes, miles of sugarcane and a brief stop for lunch and a coffee.
After 7:00 p.m., we finally arrived in Santiago de Cuba.
Elapsed Time: More than 13 HOURS
Average Speed: A whopping 43 miles per hour (70 kilometres per hour)
Cost: $100 USD or $7.69 per hour
Travel Memory: Priceless
So, maybe you’re asking yourself … why was it so important to get to Santiago de Cuba? Well, find your feather boa because I have more about that tomorrow!