Pirate Bay Baracoa

12.08 – 15.08

After an exciting ride in the colectivo with a small incident (flat tire) (20 CUC) I arrived in Baracoa and at the same moment I fell in love with it, no idea why but I did.

Some time of walking, I found a beautiful casa particulares for 15 CUC a night. Also the dinner that night, Camarones con leche de coco, was astonishing. You should definitely try it out.

But before I was enjoying my dinner I walked around the city. Enjoyed the view from the nearby Castillo (Hotel) and even I climbed on the roof of it, psssssst! With a glas of Santiago de Cuba 12 Years I enjoyed the beautiful view over Baracoa and the nearby Mountain El Yunque. Also I wanted to visit the museum the cuevas but it was closed, a lot of different people recommended it, maybe next time. Moreover I could arrange for the next day a tour to the Yumuri river (20 CUC), which included a small boat trip and a visit to a cacao farm.

On that tour I Have met Luca de Roma, we had plenty of fun. We visited the Yumuri river, which was unfortunately brown to heavy weather last days…. The boat trip was fun and also we could try to open fresh almonds, it is not that easy.
Do not forget to look for the colourful snail next to the mirador. Beautiful colours.
A highlight for me was the visit to a cacao farm, where I could touch and taste for the first time in my life a cacao fruit. I even ate one of the seeds. The farmer explained the different steps for producing Cuban style chocolate, let’s say Cuban farmer style chocolate. I as a Swiss am spoiled with the fine chocolate in Switzerland. The Cuban chocolate due to the lack of machinery was still rough but delicious! That day I got a sunburn, “white” skin after four weeks of sunbathing is still white skin. 😀
One hint: do not store chocolate in your bag pack -> big mess.

That night we went out and had great fun while learning how to dance salsa. With Francisco, a Cuban friend, we could organize a tour to El Yunque and the waterfall next morning at 8:00 am. Thank you very much. The place was called terrazza and it was 2 CUC entry! Also ask a Cuban to buy you a bottle of rum, he will get it for a cheaper price. Tourist price 9.5, Cuban price 7. Amigas gracias for the dance lessons!

We finished the night near the stadium next to a shelter, which was providing some music.

After 2 hours of sleep, we gathered again for our next tour to El Yunque. Luca, Francisco and I were in a zombie state. Marta and Gabriele were fit like sneakers due to their relaxing long night. After buying some beer and bananas we were off to our adventure on El Yunque. In total it was 10 km walking and 750 m altitude to the top. My water consumptions was way over 2 litres! My recommendation is to take 3 litres with you. For sure there is a possibility to buy water (40 min before the top) but 0.5 L is 1 CUC. The lady also offers a really awesome buffet of fruits do not miss it!!! For my hard working body and liver it was a nice refreshing break.
At the top we celebrated the climb and all had a sip of my delicious Havana Club 7 years. Luca we did it!!!!!! I still cannot believe it.

After the descending we enjoyed a long break in the refreshing river until we walked to the water fall, where we spent the rest of the day.

Total cost: 25 CUC taxi divided by 4, 13 CUC El Yunque and 8 CUC Waterfall. The 21 CUC you have to pay to the national park employees.

Thank you guy: Marta, Gabriele and Luca for the awesome time.

 

In Baracoa I had the best cuba libre and mojito in my life! Visit Yuri in la casa de Yamicel (Marti 145 A, Pelayo Cuervo y C. Frias). Flabbergasting drinks and the sizes are really fair!!!

For dinner we went to la colina (corner of ciro frias and calixto garcias) where we ate delicious comidas.

The same day Baracoa had its birthday with fireworks and big stage at the punto. Unfortunately, all were dead and exhausted and the day ended early.

We could arrange a taxi for next morning, we left around 12:30 to Santiago de Cuba for 15 CUC per person.

There was a friendly Cuban in Baracoa that sold hand-made dominos. They were really nicely made, I would have both one if I would not have travelled any longer. His name was Nicolas Suarez, address Reforma Urbana, Edificio 32, Apartment B in Baracoa. See the pictures!

Recommendations:

  • El Yunque and Waterfall (13 CUC and 8 CUC plus taxi)
  • Yumuri river, ask about the status of the river
  • Visit a cacao farm
  • Enjoy the view from the Castillo
  • Playa Maguana y Blanca
  • Try the coco de leche with camarones
  • Enjoy a night out in La Terrazza near to the plaza / cathedral
  • Visit the museum (La Cueva del Paraiso)
  • Spend some nights in casa perticulares de Carina (Cespedes 32 cornor Ruber Lopez)
  • Drink a mojito and a cuba libre with Yuri (casa Yamicel address: Marti 145 A, Pelayo Cuervo y C. Frias)

 

*** Natural Viñales***

Unexpected Matanzas & Varadero

04.08 – 06.08

Friday I left Santa Clara unexpected by a colectivo. Our plan was to ride with the Cuban bus. In the end we ended up in a taxi not due to little time or less comfort in the bus. It was due to the prohibition of tourists in Cuban buses. Tourists are just allowed in Viazul buses and/or colectivos etc. but not in national omnibuses. After hard bargaining we get on a taxi and our wallet was in total 25 CUC lesser. In any way I would have paid alone 25 CUC due to my status of a tourist. In the end Gustavo handled the situation very well and showed his talking and bargaining skills.

After a ride of 3 hours we arrived at our destination in Matanzas. A lovely beautiful house but more important a more lovable family lived there and welcomed us warmly. Expect Rogelio 🙂 he was still in standbye modus due to his hard working liver. Let's call them family of Matanzas. When time is well spent or enjoyed, time flews by and exactly this was the case. Conversation, refreshing beer, playing domino and last but not least delicous dinner filled our time. It was bad that I could not enjoy the delicous food to the fullest due to my ongoing challenge with my stomach, I did my best. Two other friends of Rogelio and Gustavo arrived late at night, let's get the party started! Johnny and Maykel completed the party.

The night we spent in the Athens of Cuba a great club (2 CUC) to hang out on a friday night. In combination with a bottle of whiskey even better. Also I found out that whiskey and red bull is not my type of drink, I prefer the whiskey pure on the rocks.

Yeni and Gustavo challenged others in a dance battled. I enjoyed the show of them nevertheless the audience selected another dance couple as the winner and they got an amount of beer cans. At this time I have to add a huge BUT, in my opinion my friends should have gotten all the beer, not just because of the fact that I love beer, more important was that they danced more natural and better. Their smooth transition between dance style was on point and I enjoyed it!!! Big applaus for them, I would have needed 6 months of dance lesson and preperation :). Yes I know….. I am European this means equal roboter.


After a couple of hours sleep we prepared for a beach day in Varadero. Towel check, swimsuit check, sun screen check (later I found out it was the after sun, f*** :D), and boom boxes check. Let’s get it started.

With my still young and unexperienced age I imagined a normal day a the beach but it came different. More and more friends gathered. Beer flowed and the atmosphere was relaxed and comfortable. We enjoyed some 3 liters beer dispensers and some buenos croquetes nearby the beach. The day ended at the beach when the sun set. The final was the delicous empicado dinner. You could feel the happiness and also the exhaustion. All fell asleep while watching the new king arthur!

Dear amigos and gente thank you very much for the awesome time. My memories got even richer. I wished that I could have changed my skills in speaking English to speaking Spanish. For the sake of sharing more conversations. The next time my Spanish will be more advanced.

This sunday is marked as a “bad” one. It reminded me again about an important rule while travelling. Prices rise and a lot of people want to go from A to B. On the 6th August we travelled back to Santa Clara. A normal taxi due to sunday was priced at 100 CUC loco. But god bless that I had Gustavo at my side. He could arrange a transportation for 20 in total. Thanks Gustavo for your bargain skills. Some hours of writing I was back in Santa Clara.

Additional intel: the transportation from peñas altas (Matanzas) to Varadero cost 10 CUP, retourn 20 CUP in the camión.

***unforgetful lovely Santa Clara***
***famous Santiago de Cuba***

Recommendations:
– Enjoy the beach (do not forget sun screen)
– share a beer dispenser for 7.5 CUC 3 liters
– spend a night in the athens of cuba club (2 CUC)
– Play some rounds of dominos

 

 

Unknown Remedios and flabbergasting Cayo Santa Maria

25.07 – 27.07

It was time for an awesome beach. We took a colectivo to Remedios (nearest and cheapest place to Cayo Santa Maria). 20 CUC was the price. During the ride we were creating our plan. Topics were how we get to Santa Maria the next day and calculated the expenses of accommodation and taxi fare. Created plans are there for changing them. So did we. We spent 5 CUC per person more and travelled directly to Cayo Santa Maria. We had many challenges to complete. Some were: getting money, where do we sleep, water, drinks and how we get back to Remedios or Santa Clara (Alex had a ticket for the day after tomorrow leaving Santa Clara to Habana at 15:00).

We completed the different challenges slowly one by one, in the end too slowly. It was already 18:00 and we still had no solution for our situation found. We were stranded…

While checking this part of the blog for grammar mistakes, something else sprang in to my mind. Once when we were discussing our plan and enjoying some drinks our bag packs were unattended stored near the reception. Later on we had to speak with the security guys for getting them back because they took them and stored them safe. I know really naive from us but it is Cuba really safe and “all” people are honest here. 😀

There were three possible variants:

Order cheapest to most expensive

  1. Sleep at the beach, dinner and breakfast none
  2. Taxi to Remedios (60 CUC) plus 20 CUC casa perticulares
  3. One night at Cayo Sol Santa Maria (150 CUC)

First we tried to bargaining at the front desks. The people were always shocked or surprised when we asked for a room due to the lack of reservation. One thing which I still do not understand until today was that some hotels were fully booked but there were nearly no people… I do not get it….

Prices were high ~180 CUC or the hotel was fully booked. Also the calls to nearby hotels were a rip off…. In the end one lovely reception woman told us that we should book over the internet. Bingo all hotels had available rooms even the fully booked ones….. Emergency credit card (150 CUC) was ready and some minutes later we enjoyed the faces of the reception personnel when we showed up with a valid reservation due to the dismissive behaviour before. Strange things in Cuba.

We enjoyed all inclusive services and later the awesome beach in combination with a cigar and music created the final. Due to our fascination with the beach and the sea, we missed the breakfast next morning. We had to improvise and found a place where they prepared some sandwiches. We checked out and had another swim in the sea. Clear sky with clear water. No comment.

 

One thing was special: when we asked for a room, one receptionist told us that the hotel was fully booked and he added there were free rooms available but not for guests. The reason was that some things were not working correctly. Like AC was broken or malfunctioned locks etc.

Maybe booking over the internet made it possible to unlock this limitation. In the end we got a room with a broken balcony door lock. Anybody could have entered our room in the night/day. In the end, I was happy about it I used the unofficial entrance once because my door card was not working properly.

The clock showed 16:00. We started to get worried about our transportation. So we discussed our further approach. A taxi was too expensive. The normal tourist buses were not bookable due to closed office. There were no colectivos…. Bargaining with bus chauffeurs was hard and “senseless” due to the risk of losing their jobs. But there is still one question in my head: Did we bargain to hard (ratio to their risk) or were the people just too honest. Nobody knows.

We were stranded again. The impossible got real.

We found a shelter next to the beach. The night was far away from comfortable. Noises from trucks, cars and shuttles kept us awake. Also the bag pack was kinda unattended.

Exhausted and tired we tried to book a seat in the bus. Yes you have read carefully, baaaaam surprise surprise. Tickets are bookable just one day prior to departure and it is not possible at the same day….

For Alex the time was running out. It was 9:30 and the bus was leaving from Santa Clara in about 5 h and 30 minutes. Money or time…

It was so painfully when we gave the taxi driver 80 CUC for the ride… still hurting…

I was happy about exiting the tourist zone. I did not feel really comfortable and in addition the food and the drinks challenged my stomach way too much. It lasted many days.

 

Recommendations:
– Enjoy the beach 🙂
– Enjoy the beach and the start during night with a boom box some glasses of rum and a cigar!

 

***lovely Santa Clara***

Touristic colourful Trinidad

25.07 – 27. 07

Arrived in Trinidad we had a walk around in the vintage colourful village. In addition with the fruits (5 MN) the Cubans sell on the street it was a nice day. Also we had a visit at the different tourist markets, where I bought my Cuban hat and shirt.

That day we did not expect that we will end up on a horse ride to a small awesome waterfall. The cost for two persons (entry included) was 22 CUC. As far as I remember the place was called Gruta Nengoa. It included also different possible jumps in the natural swimming pool. From 4 meters up to 15 meters.

We went out for dinner in a restaurant called Paladra. I do not recommend it due to not so good food. I mention it because in there happened something funny. We got a menu where the prices where following:

Cerdo / pork 6 CUC
Langosta / lobster 12 CUC
Pescado / fish 8 CUC

We had also a look on the menus of the other tourists. In our surprises they had other menus or better said higher prices. Pork 10 CUC, lobster 15 CUC, fish 15 CUC. Strange Trinidad.

Anyway next morning we had organized a taxi for following tour: It is called the valle de inginios. First destination is a mirador over the valley. If you have some money left you can also do a zip line there! Next stop was at an old sugar cane factory. After we paid the entry fee of 1 CUC we joined a guide and he told the story about the place. For me it was really interesting. Last stop was in Maznaca Iznaga a 44 meter high tower, which you can of course climb (1 CUC). After the amazing view we enjoyed a coco for 1 CUC. The whole taxi cost 25 CUC for four people which was a really fair price. Keep in mind that this tour takes just 3 hours.

After the hot day we went to the beach to get a refreshing bath. The beach day was quickly over due to heavy rain and even in the hurry to get a taxi we forgot our delicious rum at the beach that was the saddest part of it. Taxi cost around 6 CUC from the centre. Back the driver charged us 10 CUC due to the weather condition…

Next morning our taxi picked us up. The agent and the driver wanted the money beforehand. Unfortunately some people found out that they had to pay more than others, so you can guess the mess. From Trinidad to Santa Clara 15 CUC, to Remedios 20 CUC and to Santa Maria 25 CUC. After 1h 50 minutes we finally saw the street sign that we left Trinidad.

Maybe you noticed while reading this part about Trinidad that it was not written with ambitions, maybe due to lack of interest in to Trinidad. Trinidad is colourful and nice but really too touristic for my liking. Of course the horse ride was fun and a big adventure in the end I think I had to high expectations from that famous popular town. Maybe next time it is better. Nobody knows.

Recommendations:
– Have a walk in the colourful village
– Enjoy the diversity of tourist souvenirs
– Attend a horse ride to the nearby little waterfall
– Do a tour to the bigger more famous waterfall
– Enjoy the view from the 44 m high tower in Managa Iznaga

 

***Unknown Remedios and flabbergasting Cayo Santa Maria***

Cienfuegos 23.07 – 25.07

A city that was influenced by the French.

Taxi ride was comfortable and was “just” 10 CUC from Playa Larga to Cienfuegos. We arrived at our destination, Casa perticulares which was recommended by our last host (25 CUC a night). At the same day we stroll through Cienfuegos. The pier, the malecon and important the punta (south point) was on our list. Also keep in mind the boulevard and the plaza. We had a great time at the beach. We met a lovely big family, with whom we also had some dance battles and lesson, good laughs and awesome memories. We showed them how you crawl and swim right. At the end we did some rocket launches in the water some were really hurtful, do you remember Alex?
But how we got to the south point? We took a bici taxi and in the end I was the one who rode the bici taxi as an exercise anyway after 20 minute of workout we had to pay 3 CUC, it was worth it. During the day, Alex bought a box of cigars for 25 CUC, the taste and the shape was professional but still up to today we have no idea if they are fakes or originals. In the end we enjoyed them and it was totally worth it. The climax of that day was the lobster for dinner!!!! Unfortunately the last days of AC killed me and I had to go early to bed.

El Nicho a great spot for swimming and with a big waterfall.

We took a taxi for 50 CUC plus 10 CUC for entry it was totally worth it. Let’s see the pictures. Also there is a cool jump you can do!

 

On the 24th in the evening we went to a billard center, unfortunately all tables were busy so we enjoyed the time with air hockey and a walk to the malecon. Near the malecon at Calle 37 there was a big villa as far as I remember Casa de Cienfuegos. We heard that there is great music and good view over the bay of Cienfuegos but it was closed.

On the 25th we booked a taxi from Cienfuegos to Trinidad (8 CUC was the deal, in the end we paid 6 CUC).

 

Recommendations:

  • Malecon
  • Pier
  • Boulevard
  • Punto
  • El Nicho
  • Play a round of billard (1 CUC 1 h)
  • Casa de **** at Calle 37 /e 14 y 16 (25 CUC a night)

 

***Touristic Colourful Trinidad***

Big Island Day 1

After another flight from Honolulu to Kona my adventure on Hawaii could finally start. I headed to Alamo car rental and I received my Jeep Crawler Sport. With my Jeep I went to my hostel in Kailua-Kona and checked there in. I was really happy to put my luggage down. It was already 18:00 and my stomach was noises therefore I headed to the centre of Kailua-Kona and bought some sandwiches and snacks in a nearby supermarket. At that evening I had some conversation with other backpackers and the conversation was really helpful. They gave some tips and hints about the big island and also some recommendations what I should see on the island. Thanks for that. With these tips I planned the next day and went early to bed. I woke up early in the morning as far as I remember around 7:00. I took my belongings and packed the Jeep. The day was beautiful and I was full with energy and ready for another adventure. With my jeep I headed to the south of big island and my first stop was at the Pu’uhonua O Honaunau Park on the west coast. The entry price was 7.50 $ and the buildings and the scenery was nice to look at but in total it was not worth, because I just had few hours on big island, especially because the turtles were not there at the beach. Anyway next stop was at the green sand beach.

Before I brag about my driving skills let me explain what is special about the green sand beach. Of course the sand is green but something else is also special. The “street” to the green sand beach is not really a street let’s say it is a pathway with gravel and middle-sized rocks. Therefore you need to have a 4 by 4 car with enough chassis ground clearance. But also keep in mind that there are around three to four warning sings which tell you that rental cars are not allowed.

I had two choices: I use my jeep’s 4 by 4 features

Or

I pay the locals 15 $ for the ride from a “near” parking lot to the green sand beach.

I choose the first one, because I wanted to achieve, feel and experience something. Of course I had respect and many thoughts about making an accident but no risk no fun ;).
The ride was awesome and breath-taking, because there were around three to seven different gravel pathways to the destination. The challenge was to take the right pathway and decrease the possibility of making an accident to the lowest. After a flabbergasting drive I finally reached the Green Sand Beach. To be honest I was a little bit disappointed maybe because the ride was so intense. The sand was green and the beach was nice but due to my tight schedule I only spent around five minutes there and that was it. Back in the Jeep I headed back to South Point Cliff Dive, where you can find a really nice cliff, I really recommend you this place.

Next destination was the Black Sand Beach where I had lunch and enjoyed view on to the living turtles on the beach.

Next on my list was the Hawai’I Volcanoes National Park, I paid 20$ for entering it but it was totally worth it. I drove from the entry all the way down to the coast, Holei Sea Arch. It was so mesmerising, the view, the lava, the scenery, just WOW. And also you could stop every one to 2 km for enjoying the view. Also at the beginning of the trip you could enter some old lava tubes and some nice fissures and joints, simply amazing. 20 bucks well spent!!!

***For more detail please look into the gallery***

It was already 16:00 and I drove to my next destination, my hostel in Hilo, where I booked two nights (30$ a night). On that evening I met other travellers, who wanted to go to the mountain Mauna Kea, but they did not have a car. We came into discussion and decided that we will drive to the top of Mauna Kea next afternoon with my lovely Jeep.
After that I read some articles about drive to the top, at this point I was not really sure if I should do it or not. A lot of people wrote in different forums that it can be really dangerous and also really expensive when something happens. Similar to the gravel trail to the green sand beach. Anyway no risk no fun.

But of course I paid attention to the recommendations and also I kept in mind to stay around 1 hour at the ranger camp for adapt my body to the higher attitude.

Recommendations:

  • Your car must have real 4 by 4 better said a good engine break for going downhill without overheating your breaks.
  • Stay at the ranger station some hours until you feel comfortable.
  • Take enough water and food with you
  • Enough fuel
  • Enough clothes, it is really cold on the top
  • Also listen to the ranger about the condition and weather

After the discussion and some thoughts about the Manu Kea I went to bed with nice memories from big island.

Second day is ***Coming soon***

Moscow / New York City

Ready to rumble

I just checked in at Zurich airport for my long trip to Las Vegas over Moscow (6h) and New York (20h). In New York I will leave the airport for a little walk in NYC.

But during check-in Kai, my check-in personnel could not say if the bag will be transferred automatically at JFK. So just in case I have to wait at the baggage claim at JFK for my language. You never know what they do.

The 6 hours at the Moscow airport was the hell. The Moscow airport does not have a proper “sleeping” or relaxing area and all chairs at the gates have arm rests… Never mind after 6 hours I was happy to board the flight to JFK and seat down in the 777.

My seat was next to the aisle and was on the right side. As we were all seated I could rest a little bit until the friend of my seat neighbour came and asked me kindly if I could change seat with her. As a gentleman I said why not and she showed me her seat. For my surprise it was in the business class. Look, how lucky I am ;). Let’s say after a hard night at Moscow I finally got my well needed rest. Also there was no person seating next to me. Summarized: great food, comfortable sleep and no crying babies and more over hot wet towels to clean yourself.

Some hours later I landed at JFK.
My next challenge was to come through the immigration point and to find out whether my baggage will be transferred or not. Anyway after some long time I finally went through the immigration. The long waiting was in the end useful because when I went to the baggage claim my bag was straight there waiting for me. I call that perfect timing. For sure I hoped that the airline will transfer my bag automatically but it was how it was. Therefore I headed to Terminal 4 to domestic claim. 24 hours for 8$. After the paperwork I went to the airtrain again but this time to Jamaica station where I took the train to Penn Station. Airtrain fare plus Penn Station transfer cost 15$. 5 for the air train and 10 for the LLRR (railway).

I enjoyed the ride on the train and after a refreshing ride I arrived at the Penn Station where I set for the first time my foot on New York City terrain. Uuuuu exciting. For my first time I breathe New York City air. It took me some minutes until I realized that I am in Manhattan.

My next stop was the Brooklyn Bridge therefore I took the metro to High Street (A,C) where I went on the Brooklyn bridge for a small walk over the bridge. The view on Manhattan was amazing. I totally recommend every NY tourist to have a small walk over the bridge.

 

After the Brooklyn Bridge I went to the Wall Street and the charging bull. Of course I also had a look on the trinity church. Then I headed to the WTC memorial. Wow was this impressing. Holy moly. Two big “fountains” and nice sculptures around. It was really a visit worth. For the museum i did not have enough time and also the price was really proud. It was time for a small snack. During my meal I enjoyed the NYC atmosphere and realized that I was some 1’000 km away from my home.

Later that night I visited the time square and got flashed by the big billboards. Also I could not leave NYC without a view from above. Therefore I went to the View in the Marriott Hotel. On the floor 48 you had a nice view over New York and also the restaurant rotated 360° in a hour. So a big recommendation for the View at the time square. Slowly I could feel the lack of energy so that’s why I headed back to the airport by train and airtrain, where I slept for some hours.

It was my first time I flew with JetBlue it was a strange experience. You had snacks and beverages for free also WiFi was included. But good meals, like the ones you need when you are real hungry cost extra.

***Back to overview Around the World 2016***

Recommendations:

Brooklyn Bridge (from High Street to Manhattan)

Wall Street and Charging Bull

WTC Memorial

Time Square

The View in the Marriott Hotel

 

Facts:

Air train plus train to Penn station 10+5$
Cheaper way: air train + metro circa 8$ but takes longer