At 7 am it was time to say goodbye to Yalissy, her family and the few neighbors that were up this early. Yalissy served us tea and coffee before we left, and gave us a bag of sandwiches and juice for the trip to Cuba’s oldest city, Baracoa. It was really sad to leave, but our taxi to the bus station was waiting for us. The check-in was quick and surprisingly efficient, so we sat down in the waiting area and quickly started talking to a couple going on the same bus as us. It took us a while to realise that they were also Norwegian, and that we didn’t have to speak English. They were seated right behind us on the bus, so we pretty much talked the entire bus ride (5 hours). The trip itself was very scenic. We were stopped on a check point when entering the Guantánamo province, and everybody had to leave the bus to wash their hands. After that we continued along the coast to Cajababo where we started on the impressive mountain road, La Farola. This road was not opened until 1964, and before that the only way in and out of Baracoa was by sea. Because of this isolation Baracoa is different from the rest of Cuba when it comes to culture, traditions and especially food.
At the bus station in Baracoa we were picked up by our host José. It was a bit of confusion, since we thought we were staying with Gustavo, we hadn’t booked any pickup and his note said Frederik instead of Fredrik. But as soon as he mentioned Lourdes, which was our host in Havana who booked all the other casas for us, there was no problem. We were taken to our casa in two bici-taxis, one with José and our suitcases, and the other one for us. Baracoa seemed like a small and charming city, with a lot less tourists, and because of that less people yelling “Taxi!”, “Sigars!”, “Casa!”, “Guide!” etc. Lovely! We got a nice room with twin beds on the first floor of Casa Mary y José. There was a back yard just outside our room with two rocking chairs, lots of caged birds and a cute little turtle walking around. On the third floor there was a roof terrace, where we had a beer and relaxed for a while.
After unpacking a bit, and giving 3 bags of laundry to Mary, we went out for a walk in the city. It was a small town, so it didn’t take long before we met the Norwegian couple (Hans & Jorunn) from the bus in the street. We went with them to Cafetería el Parque for lunch before continuing down to Malecon, over to the bus station and back through the city center. We went shopping for some rum to enjoy on the terrace, and agreed to meet again in the evening. We had ordered lobster for dinner at the casa at 8 pm, and finally got to taste the famous Baracoan cuisine. We had a really tasteful soup made on lobster stock, and the lobster itself was prepared with a lot more spices than we are used to from the other parts of Cuba. Delicious!
In the evening we went to Casa de la Trova, house of music. José insisted on going with us, probably to make sure that we got in and got good seats. We were taken to two chairs very close to the stage, but with a view towards the entrance as well. This was perfect because we could see everything happening on stage, and we could also see Hans & Jorunn when they arrived. There was a live band playing, a mix between locals and tourists in the audience, lots of people outside in the street and plenty of good drinks. In the beginning we mainly listened to the music and watched the people dancing in front of the stage. When Hans & Jorunn showed up we moved over to them further back, and later at night it was people dancing everywhere and almost impossible to say no to everyone wanting to dance. A few mojitos also helps you forget that you really don’t know how to dance salsa…