For breakfast we got a large platter with a big pile of fresh fruit. So much for trying to order a small breakfast. 🙂 Our friend Tom back in Norway had given us his old digital camera, and we had decided that Lourdes who has been taking care of us the entire trip, changing our bookings when needed, arranging airport pickup etc. was the one who deserved it the most. Also she is a grandmother to 3 girls and is one of the few casas with a webpage. She was so thankful for it, and immediately took a picture of us and said that she would always keep that as the first picture on the camera. After packing our bags, we paid for the room and the taxi from the airport, and left our luggage in the living room. We walked the few blocks to Hotel Plaza where we were supposed to pick up our rental car. But since pretty much everything is paper based, they had no idea we were coming and didn’t have a car ready for us. After a few phone calls they found an available car at another rental office, and they sent a driver to pick us up. After a lot of paperwork and a quick look at the map, we were ready for the drive back to Lourdes to pick up our luggage, and at around 11.30 am we were heading towards the autopista to Pinar del Rio. Like last year we were offered help by the rental car agency to get out of Havana, but again we did it on our own without any problems.
We arrived in Pinar del Rio around 13.30 pm. We found our casa, but the guests already there wanted to stay a few days extra, so we had been moved to a different one. We had a small car and had put the back seat down to fit all our luggage, but the owner of the casa still jumped in there and guided us to our new casa (Casa Nonna), only a few blocks away. We had a quick look at the room which had two beds, a small kitchen, a fridge and a large bathroom. It looked great, so we moved in right away and had a beer on the terrace while the owner did the paperwork. It turned out that our new casa was only one block from the restaurant where we met our friend José last year, so we walked over there hoping to find him. We didn’t see anyone we recognized, but we sat down in the rocking chairs on the patio for a mojito and a beer. It got a bit too warm after a while, and we took a walk around the city center instead. We realized that it was Saturday, and that banks might be closed the next day. After our previous experience with running out of money, we decided that we should get some extra just in case. We were told that only one bank were still open, and we walked down the main street to find it. And then we suddenly saw a familiar face on the sidewalk; José! We stopped, he looked at us a bit confused, and we all ended up in a big hug. He introduced us to his friend Pedro, and tried to explain who we were, but he was too exited and pretty much ended up saying “Incredible!” over and over again. José and Pedro followed us to the bank and José went in to try to get us in front of the very long line. Gunnhild went into the bank with José, while Fredrik stayed outside talking to Pedro (who spoke very good English). Only one of the cashiers were allowed to handle tourists, so we still had to wait a while. We got a receipt that was about 40 cm long, had to sign 4-5 places and a second cashier was called over to check and sign the transaction. Crazy!
We stopped by the casa to change our clothes, because José and Pedro wanted to take us to a classy place where no shorts were allowed. We also picked up some presents that we had brought for them. We went to an appartment building a few blocks away. At the top they had recently opened a restaurant and a bar, and we went to take the elevator up to the 12th floor. José pressed the button and then knocked on the elevator door. After a while the elevator came, and there were a guy handling the buttons, because it seemed that they were not all working as they should. Knocking was probably a good idea. 🙂 At the top we went through a dark bar and out to a large roof terrace with a view of the entire city. Beautiful! We ordered some beer and rum and told Pedro a bit about our last visit in Pinar del Rio, how we got to know José and what we did and where we went. José suggested that we should buy a bottle of rum instead of glasses of rum, since one glass costed 1 CUC, while a bottle of Havana Añejo costed only 6 CUC. Good plan! Fredrik had brought a couple of left-over cell phones from home, two HTC Wildfire which we gave to José and Pedro. We had put all the photos from our last visit on there along with some pictures from Norway. We also added our contact information and helped them set up time zones, date formats etc. Neither of them had a cell phone, so they were really, really exited. The funniest part might have been when we showed them the game Teeter (the classic labyrinth game where you control a steel ball), and they both got completely hooked. It was probably the first time any of them played a “computer game”. José kept polishing the screen and showed his new cell phone to everyone he met. He was so proud! Pedro was more interested in all the possibilities and Fredrik showed him all the settings, applications etc.
Later in the evening we had a look into the restaurant that was on the same floor. That’s where all the tourists were sitting, eating boring food in air-condition with a view in the wrong direction. So happy we were sitting on the terrace with all the locals instead. We ordered food that was prepared on the outdoor barbeque. José and Pedro ordered pork, while the two of us ordred chicken. We thought that would be quite boring, but it might actually be the best chicken we ever had. We also got to taste the pork, and it was really juicy and good. When the bottle of rum was empty we went down to our casa instead, and emptied the rest of our Santiago de Cuba rum on the terrace. We got our small travel speakers and played European music from our cell phones. We had such a great night with old and new friends, that we decided to go to a local beach about 20 km out of town together the day after. Before that Pedro would take us to the tobacco plantation to buy some sigars.