We were up early to catch the 7am bus from Trinidad to Santa Clara. Forgetting the lesson we learnt in Morocco we sat at the back of the bus where the lack of suspension gave us a bumpy roller coaster ride most of the way there. To make things more comfortable the guy next to Tyro was determined to claim more than his share of space, but fortunately he got off at the halfway mark.

Arriving in Santa Clara we were immediately mobbed by the taxi drivers and casa touts. None of us had eaten breakfast at this point and we wanted to find out information about the buses the following day so it was pretty overwhelming. We wanted to stay near to the bus station and only one guy said he had something close by  - ‘only 5 blocks’…. 12 or 15 blocks later however and the casa was unavailable as it was full so after a horse and carriage ride we ended up in the centre of town anyway. We felt sorry for the poor house pulling all 5 of us, our bags, the casa tout and the two drivers!

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The famous bulldozer
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All sorts of different brands and sizes of cigars and rums

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Ty and I at the Che monument
Wandering around town we found a lady in the main square selling roast pork sandwiches, and we all loaded up on them for breakfast as she was selling them in the local peso.

The battle of Santa Clara in 1958 was where Che Guevara and his troops derailed an armoured troop train on its way to Santiago de Cuba, seizing the city, which was a decisive victory in their struggle against Batista. You can visit the spot where the train was derailed - the first part of the site is free to visit but if you want to go past the really unobvious sunken tiles in the ground you have to pay a couple of CUC or be yelled at by the matron of the site. It didn’t look very fascinating and the bit we could see was only in Spanish so Ty decided he would go in and have a look and if it was good then the rest of us would check it out. His verdict meant that we were soon moving on. Stopping to watch a local guy fishing from under the bridge we saw some pretty large catfish but the water quality made us all agree that we didn’t want fish for dinner that night. 

We had wanted to visit the tobacco factory for the tour but because it was Easter Saturday it was closed for visitors. We decided we would wander past just to check out the building and when we arrived we saw that the staff were working so we nosily peered through the windows, watching the ladies seated in rows with freshly rolled cigars piled next to them. Everyone except Janna and I wandered off to the shop across the road when one lady called out ‘hola’ and asked if we wanted to buy any. We asked her how much and she said 1CUC – Sure, why not! She told us to wait around the corner and the next minute her daughter followed us with a freshly rolled cigar smuggled under her shirt! Like giggly school-girls Janna and I went to meet the others at the shop, who were discussing cigar prices with the assistant. Casually enquiring which brand was made at the nearby factory and what the cost was it turns out we got ourselves a Cohiba, Fidel’s favourite brand - the retail price of which was 12CUC for one!! 
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Che Guevara monument
After some down time out of the sun at the casa we went for a walk to check out the monument to Che Guevara. Its funny, for a man who prioritised the needs of the people, he has been given a monolithic structure of a monument, which was built at a time when the country had very little cash flow. If he were still alive it would be interesting to see what he would make of it.

The casa we ended up in was a self contained unit, and the owner said we could use the kitchen for an extra 5CUC so we picked up some fruit and veges while we wandered around town to make a cheap but yummy pasta dinner. Sitting around the table we met the American guy who was staying in the 3rd room. He had returned to Cuba to repay a moral debt to a family who had taken him in and helped him out on his last trip, much at their risk as it was illegal then for Cubans to host foreigners and they faced jail time if found out. He was in the process of setting up a cultural exchange and not-for-profit organisation between San Francisco and Santa Clara and was having a cultural exchange video screening the following night. We gave him the last of our colouring in books and pens and he promised that he would make sure they were given to kids who would really appreciate them.

There was a big Easter weekend party in the town square that night so we wandered down to join the locals. Sitting on the steps of the plaza we smoked our smuggled cigar and enjoyed people watching. Tyro thought it was funny that all of the revolutionaries had really big beards and hair but all of the men especially the younger generations are clean shaven and in some cases hyper-metrosexual, with greased hair, plucked brows, and shaved chests.

A local group was performing in front of the cathedral and the singer had an amazing voice but once they finished we decided to head back to the casa as a dance party with really bad Cuban techno pop began. All of the teenagers were out in force dressed in their finest, the boys strutting around like peacocks, and we were all feeling about 10 years too old to be attending! We got sidetracked on the way by a group of old Cuban men singing traditional songs and Janna and I both ended up having a dance with some locals which was heaps of fun. I think they were a bit disappointed though at the end because they told us they were dance teachers and tried to sell us salsa classes but since we were leaving the next day it wasn’t going to happen.

Next stop: back to Havana for one last time

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Ty smoking our Cohiba
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The ladies at the cigar factory
 





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