Just came back from a 6 day trip to Santiago de Cuba and Baracoa all the way on the other end of the island. The weather wasn’t great but the food, the people and the increased Cubanidad really made up for it. I didn’t realize how when living in Havana you can almost sometimes forget that you’re in the culturally rich country because most things in Havana seem geared toward accommodating foreigners. In Santiago its different. The people who greet you on the street in Santiago aren’t trying to pitch you one of the three C’s (“Comida? Cohiba? Chica?”) like they are in Havana. People just say hi to say hi, to greet one another and ask total strangers how their day is going. On the first night in Santiago, there was this huge dance festival in the main plaza near where I was staying. We had dinner before at this one little restaurant called St. Pauli’s on the big pedestrian street. Food in the Oriente I noticed has been far more flavorful than anything I have been able to find in Havana. This might’ve been the first time I’ve seen “carne” actually mean beef too.
The following day we took a trip up to Baracoa, the very eastern tip of Cuba where Christopher Columbus first landed when he discovered the new world. The car ride over there was very rough as we had to drive through the Sierra Maestra, which was full of bumps and winding roads. It took about five hours of sitting in a somewhat cramped Jeep in various uncomfortable positions, holding onto whatever we could in order to avoid flying into one another before we reached Baracoa. Once we arrived it was pretty clear that Baracoa had been pretty badly devastated by this past winter’s Hurricane Mathew. The first two nights we all stayed in one big casa particular together and it was really swanky. The food in Baracoa was fantastic as well, there was even a splendid little karaoke bar.
The view of the horizon from our place in Baracoa was so great that I was able to get this nice shot of a flat top mountain in the Sierra Maestra that the locals refer to El Yunque” (The Anchor). All in all Baracoa and Santiago de Cuba were some of the most amazing places I’ve ever been in my life and will be dearly missed. That is, at least until I return.