Day 12: Buses in Cuba

Sat. 25th August 2012

An important lesson was learnt today. You might wait a while for a bus in the UK and then 2 will arrive together. In Cuba, you can wait an hour for a bus then for it to go somewhere you weren’t expecting it to and promptly break down – and for all this to be treated as normal!

View of the mogotes at Hotel JazminesWe decided that today was a good day to go sightseeing around Viñales  and that the hop-on, hop-off Viñales Tour Bus was a good way to do this – especially as this was only 5CUC each for the day. The bus goes a few miles out of Viñales in each direction and stops at some of the bigger hotels and tourist spots. We first went up the hills to the South to Hotel Jazmines where there is a great lookout over the valley and you get a really good panorama of the mogotes. We then walked a little way back down the road to the Park Visitor’s Centre which had a (bilingual) display on the history, geology and wildlife of the valley as well as advertising various walks to see highlights.

Monstrous graffiti - The prehistoric mural at Viñales Then it was back on the bus which then headed west out of town (well village, really) to the Mural de la Prehistoria which was impressive for its size if nothing else. It was painted in the ‘60s and early ‘70s as a recognition of some of the local fossil finds and cave paintings. The 3CUC entrance fee included a free drink and so we were forced to have a beer whilst we were waiting for the return of the bus. We got talking to the serving staff behind the bar – their English was a little better than my Spanish, so we used a mix of both. We certainly need to keep practising.

The wheels on this bus are not going round and roundWhilst there is a timetable for the bus, it started about 10mins late (for the first run of the day) got blocked on a country lane as a breakdown lorry picked a car out of a ditch before the first stop and then gradually ran later and later. However, it was after lunch (back in town) that the fun really started. We got to our bus stop in good time for the first bus of the afternoon but were a little dismayed half an hour later when we saw it going in the other direction. We knew that this meant we had at least a 30 minute wait for it to go out west and come back. As it turned out, it was so late that it became the next bus on the timetable (1hr 10min later). Even more disconcerting, it immediately turned round, headed out west drove a couple of miles and stopped and a breakdown truck drew up. The driver switched the engine off and explained to us and the only other passenger that there would be a short break whilst the batteries were replaced.

Eventually all was well and the first bus of the afternoon became the only bus of the afternoon. We got to see the Cueva del Indio (Indian Cave) from the bus. Fortunately we have the time to do it later – possibly we will hire bikes and cycle out in the next day or two.

Random people spoiling a perfectly good view!As I am writing this the heavens have opened and it is absolutely torrential rain. Fortunately we are sat under the porch at our casa and protected from all but the splashes bouncing up from the floor. We are very glad that we (well, Janet) spotted the clouds building up and that we scuttled back from town. We just got back in time to avoid a drenching. This is the first real rain that we have seen in Cuba – though we have seen rain in the distance a few times whilst cycling. Otherwise, the weather has been hot, sunny and humid.

Today’s achievement was getting our bus transfer to Maria la Gorda booked for Wednesday – the good news is that is only 25CUC each, the bad news is that it is a 7am start!

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