taking the coast road to Santiago de Cuba

I’m going to start putting together some of our travel stories for the blog. Here’s the first.

S E Cuba - ezilon.com map

It was April 2007. We had just picked up a rental car in Camaguey in Cuba. It was a Hyundai sedan, small, yet more than big enough for the two of us and our bags. Up until that point on this trip we had travelled from point to point with drivers or public transport.

Notwithstanding the traffic ticket we scored for driving down a street designated only for pedestrians and cyclists, we were soon on our way, enjoying the fact we could stop as and where we pleased. A few days on, we were in Marea del Portillo, near Pilon (circled on this map via ezilon.com).

There is no public transport on the road from Pilon to Santiago de Cuba. The local people are totally reliant on the kindness of truck drivers and car owners and, in our case, car renters, to get to their destination. Not far into this coastal drive, we came across this.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe road used to go through the tunnel. If you look closely (to the right of the tunnel entry) you will see a truck coming around the point. After this photo stop, we put the car in low gear and proceeded with caution.

Our first passengers were a family who were walking around those rocks on what was a very hot day. There was a mother and her infant, a couple of children, and the grandparents. Yes. I know. The grandfather saw that he could not fit. “Hop in” said Rob. So he did.

“Te amo, te amo” said the grandmother. I could hear her because we were all quite close by this stage.

And so began a routine of emptying the car of people and welcoming new passengers. At one beach, a man who’d apparently been ‘spear-fishing’ with his machete joined us. He gave us a mango as a thank you gift.

Let it be said that we were the winners here. There were many unsigned forks in the road. “Donde” became my word of the day. We would not have made it to Santiago without local knowledge and I’m not just talking about directions.

When we proceeded past this pile of rocks on the road, the man in the back seat screamed in horror. Fortunately, we understood terror when we saw it and correctly assumed he wanted us to stop. So we did and followed his hand signals back and down into the village to the right of the road.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This is what we saw as we looked left.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe finally made it into Santiago de Cuba with the help of our last passenger after which we made one last traffic faux pas. This time the police officer sent us on our way with a warning and directions to our destination.

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