Smooth journey to Cienfuegos. Our Casa, Friendship Home in Cienfuegos [Ave 56 #2927 e/29 y 31, Cienfuegos t: (53)(43) 516 143 e: email@example.com] was fab. Hosts Leonora and Armando were friendly, chatty and helpful and English wasnâ€™t a problem for them.
The house itself was beautiful and the roof terrace a great spot for sunset watching and star gazing. On our second night though we narrowly escaped having to spend the night up there. Armando hadnâ€™t realised we were still up there and locked the gateâ€¦ Fortunately we had mobile phone and their business card on us and a phone call eventually sorted it out. Armando released us, all sheepish-like, and very apologetic saying â€œI sorry, I sorryâ€ whilst tittering behind his hand. We all had a good laugh about it.
Cienfuegos itself is choc full of beautiful colonial buildings â€“ a bit like a giant wedding cake. The walk down Punto Gordo is great and thereâ€™s a nice little sculpture park to hang out in en route if the old legs need a rest.
On day two, an early start for a day trip out to El Nicho. Leonora organised one of here friends to pick up in his tiny, battered old Fiat, drop off and connect with the 4 wheel drive tour lorry and wait around to return us to base.
It was an interesting driveâ€¦ In what I can only assume was a bid to conserve fuel, we freewheeled with the engine off a good chunk of the way, and as and when required much violent pumping of brakes to bring the ancient vehicle to a graceful (ish) stop.
After a bit of hanging around waiting for the official tour to arrive at the pick up point, we were off on a bone shaking drive into the mountains. I got to sit up front with the driver which was great. En route, a brief stop in the town of Crucecitas. From the slogans on walls and buildings, the town obviously had some political significance. However, as I wasnâ€™t part of the official tour party I thought it would be a bit cheeky to hang about eavesdropping.
Forward, onward to the beautiful waterfalls at El Nicho via dramatic scenery and looming â€œweatherâ€ as the skies darkened over the mountains. At El Nicho had great fun wandering about independently through the forest and falls. The falls are on 3 levels and itâ€™s worth continuing along the path past the biggest falls for more spectacular views and back down to the bottom via a different path. For the brave (not me) there are natural pools for swimming, and life guards on site (whoâ€™ll probably try to make a bit of dosh on the side by trying to sell you something).
The uphill climb got me appetite whetted and very handily thereâ€™s a restaurant close to the entrance, with good, reasonably priced food (lunch included for official tours). Had a bit of time left after lunch so did some more wandering before it was time to leave.
In the evening after another lovely meal courtesy of our hosts, and another of Leonoraâ€™s â€œblack cat mohitosâ€ (best I had in Cuba bar none!), attempted to find some night life for our last night in Cuba but no joyâ€¦ Baseball play offs were on and most of the country seemed pre occupied with that.