South to the infamous Bay of Pigs
13.12.2016 - 14.12.2016 27 °C
We’re now in Playa Larga (long beach) at the northern tip of the Bay of Pigs, the site of the unsuccessful CIA-supported attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro in 1961. A small number of Cuban exiles landed on this beach in the ill-fated expedition.
That’s about the most exciting thing that you can say about the beach. It’s reasonably long and not very crowded but it’s narrow, and the water is an unappetising yellowy-green. The town itself is drab, and stiflingly hot during the day.
One of the many propaganda signs on the way to Playa Larga
We passed through 'Australia' on the way!
I’ll go back a bit first, to build up to the most interesting/amusing story of the first day. Our driver at Las Terrazas told us it would be five hours to Playa Larga, in his fairly cramped and airless van. Less than three-and-a-half hours later, we pulled up at our hostel. Mum was fast asleep still, because she’d taken a sleeping pill to get through the trip.
Fast forward an hour and we’re on the beach. Mum promptly lays down a towel next to Dad and falls asleep. Meanwhile, a bikini-clad woman behaving strangely comes up to us four kids, and asks us for money for clothes. (This is not very common in Cuba. People certainly aren’t rich, but their needs are generally taken care of.) We say ‘no, sorry’, and keep going.
When we get back to the parents, the same woman is sitting down next to them, talking at Dad – he hardly speaks a word of Spanish, she doesn’t speak a word of English – while stroking Mum’s hair as she sleeps. Dad’s not telling her to go away, though. He’s OK with continuing the ‘conversation’, as it were. And Mum’s evidently quite happy with the attention (or too unconscious to complain). So there’s a woman, possibly drunk or on drugs, patting Mum’s head, while asking Dad for things as he shrugs his shoulders. We didn’t get a picture, but the scene will be forever burnt into the album of our memories.
Later in the afternoon we went for a longer walk around the bay, followed for the entire journey by a very cute stray dog that was keen for us to throw things for her. We had mojitos and limonadas in a beachside bar, and wandered home.
After dinner – a whole snapper, freshly caught – two friends of the hostel owner turned up and played some music on a guitar and bongos, and got us to play traditional percussion instruments. Evidently we weren’t very good, because they took them off us reasonably quickly. But it was an amusing and entertaining evening anyway.
We found out the next day why this is a popular destination, when we went to the reef, just off the side of the road ten minutes from town. Our hostel owner turned into a snorkelling guide and took five of us out, feeding hundreds of fish, looking at a ‘shipwreck’ (a deliberately-sunk fishing boat), and picking up starfish. It mightn’t have been as good as the Great Barrier Reef, but it was a lot cheaper (AU$13 each), and there wasn’t a long boat trip to get there.
Ro, Mat and Mum took the more adventurous option and went diving. They only got to a depth of 4m, since the younger girls don’t have licences, but said it was excellent anyway. (The water was so clear that I think we would have seen much the same things, but don’t tell them that.)
The snorkelers also went for a quick dip in a natural pool, formed by a long fault in the rock that runs through the national park.
In the late afternoon, we went on another outing along the Bay of Pigs. Our taxi driver dropped the three divers off at another beach. The rest of us – minus Al, who’s a bit unwell – made it to the town of Playa Girón. This was where most of the ‘mercenaries’ landed in 1961, and today it houses the Girón Museum, which tells the story of the Bay of Pigs invasion.
It’s hardly neutral, with pretty damning language towards the ‘unscrupulous’, ‘imperialistic’ enemies. It denounced the invaders as being part of the bourgeoisie, or being criminals, and paid tribute to the brave soldiers who were defending their homeland. It was an enlightening exhibition, even though we had to translate everything from Spanish (good practice).
Back in Playa Larga, the electricity was cut off to the whole town, supposedly because of a car accident involving a power line. We’re still waiting for it to come back on before we eat Caroline’s last dinner with us
This is the end of the bulk upload. We’ve done it now because Caroline has just arrived home, after a gruelling series of flights. So this is the last one for the time being - there’ll be a few more to come around the Christmas period when Sam arrives home. ¡Hasta pronto!
So, I may not have managed to write a blog during this trip (Sam's far too efficient), but I have managed to upload all these blogs despite my jetlag-addled brain. My trip home went remarkably smoothly given it involved four flights, five countries and three different immigration/customs. I'll need a bit of time to recover before the next adventure!