Cuba part 15: A break from Cienfuegos 


I am getting tired of being landlocked. There’s no quick sight for leaving anytime soon as a cold front is hanging around and it’s blowing hard. It is so hot here that I can’t always go out and make my own adventures during the day. The other day I spent the whole day in air conditioning. I finished one book, read a whole book and started another. I didn’t want to do the same. 

Another captain and I have been spending a lot of time together and he’s getting restless too. We organised to go across the bay to check out the nuclear city that the Russians started but never finished. I was excited as he’s a seasoned backpacker and seems to like to travel the way I like to.

It was an early start. We left at 7.15 a.m. and walked to the ferry port. It was fun to watch all the locals go about their day. There was a man selling peanut baked goods so we bought some to start us off on our journey. They costed pretty much nothing and were so tasty!! We chatted all along the ferry and observed the locals as they did their daily commute. 

I find people in this part of the world so helpful. We were debating which ferry stop was ours and someone could tell, so he told us the castle was the next stop. We thanked him and carried on chatting. We got off at the port and started walking. We asked some locals what was the way to the nuclear city. They happily directed us and went on their way. 

The path took us through a little community. It was mainly apartment high rises. There was a playing field and a little square with a few vendors. We saw an abandoned apartment high rise and decided to make the climb. There was graffiti all along the outside and as we climbed up, we viewed some interesting artwork of all kinds. There were socialist mottos, drawings of people and quite a few humorous sexual drawings. The building was about 30 stories high and as we kept climbing, the graffiti became less and less and the stairs less and less worn. 

As we explored the various floors, we guessed the theories of why the buildings work stopped. Balconies had been constructed and each floor had four concrete boxes with tiles and unmade showers in them. We had fun guessing what the lay out of the building would have been. The captain said how he could live there happily just as it was. I wouldn’t live anywhere happily unless there’s water underneath me. 

The views were amazing. We climbed up almost to the top so we could see where the nuclear power plant was. We saw there was a road and we made our route. But the most incredible view was observing the community from up high. In one of the balconies in the apartment block next to us, there were three men standing and talking. I took a photo and they waved. They had a conversation with someone on the street below. Of course there was lots of laughing. There were one or two cars driving by and other than that, there was no noise pollution from machines. There were horse and buggies carrying people and food to various destinations. The clip clop of the horses hooves made me feel as if I was in another time. We could see people buying fresh juice and snacks from the street vendors and then escaping the hot baking sun by taking a seat on a bench in the shade. 

The most amazing observation was when I closed my eyes. We must have been about 20 stories up, but there was no silence. The layout of the high rises made the sounds of the village echo. There was a beautiful buzzing of human activity. There was a school close to the building and I smiled as I thought how hard the teachers must have to work because there was a chorus of beautiful tiny voices. I could hear lots of laughter and a mix of intonations as the locals went about their daily routine. I took a deep breath and enjoyed this feeling of ecstasy. A feeling of being at peace, at being a part of a community, at hearing human activity without the interruption of manufactured noise. It was such an incredibly beautiful orchestra to my ears that I didn’t want to leave. I didn’t want to break the trance. 

Eventually we carried on walking to the nuclear village. The sun was burning and the concrete road only offered us extra heat. We had minimal water so I was looking around at nature during the hour journey to distract me from the uncomfortable heat and silence I experienced. We saw beautifully coloured land crabs, various flowers and plants. We waved at the locals as they drove by in tractors or dump trucks loaded with people in the back. Instead of waving, they cupped their elbow in their palm. I later found out it means that we are people with money, but to cheap to spend it. The truth is we were dying for a ride, but no one stopped!!

We were getting closer and closer to the big domed nuclear plant. I saw a fence which said “No pase.” I said, “This must be it!” We did exactly the opposite and passed through the barb wired gate. There was a beautifully coloured dirt road. Almost like clay, but the consistency of dirt. We followed the path waiting at any moment to be stopped by someone. As we got closer to the power plant, we saw a bunch of cows and some horses. I didn’t see any people, so we kept walking to the next gate. 

As we got closer, I could see a man, but our plan was to be innocent tourists and keep walking. All of the sudden, two dogs ran out at us and started barking like mad. My heart skipped a beat, but I could see the man walking faster and shouting “esta buena,” it’s good, to the dogs. They calmed down and were sent inside to what I thought was a guard’s hut. 

The man was a farmer. He looked to be in his 40’s, beautifully tanned, wearing green overalls, green wellies and a straw hat. He was very good looking with a warm and welcoming smile. The captain speaks no Spanish, so it was all up to me. I asked him if this was the entrance to the power plant, he said we couldn’t enter and the main entrance was on the other side, but it’s guarded so we probably wouldn’t be let through. The captain then asked me to translate a barrage of questions about the power plant. The farmer knew a lot about the history, but not all of the questions the captain wanted to know. Some of the questions were quite embarrassing to ask, so I apologised to the farmer and said my friend was just very curious. He asked why so many foreigners were interested in that power plant as people from all over the world have tried to walk through. I explained there is a theory that there is nuclear waste and/or weapons still buried and he laughed saying that was not true. 

Luckily the captain started becoming interested in his life as a farmer and we got to know a little about his life. His wife came along after she rounded up the goats. She was equally as tranquil, beautiful and as welcoming as the farmer. It is obvious they have treated life well and it has rewarded them. She explained how Robin was a very good man. He didn’t drink or smoke or go out with friends. He worked hard on the farm. The captain asked what his vice was, as well all have one. He noticed there was a tv inside and asked if this was it. His wife rolled her eyes and nodded her head yes. The farmer laughed and admitted he stays up until three or four in the morning watching tv series from all around the world. We all laughed and said there could be much worse unhealthy habits!

They invited us to sit down and enjoy a coffee, which we did. They asked about our lives and told us of some of the people they have met as they trespassed on their land. I couldn’t believe how they welcomed us and no doubt all the others before us. So many parts of the world would have attack dogs and/or shotguns to prevent trespassers. This beautiful couple only had sweet dogs that barked ferociously and open arms. It made me love Cuba even more. 

We looked at the time and realised we had to make a move to make the last ferry. The farmer thanked us for our time and we thanked him for his hospitality. As we talked about whether or not we were going to try the main entrance, Robin grabbed a gunny sack and threw it over the back of his horse. He climbed on the horse like a true cowboy and rode off down the dirt road. I looked after him thinking he’s exactly the kind of person I want to model my life after. Cuba has given me a beautiful set of gemstones to illuminate this incredible journey of life!

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