Shit! He got my shoes.
“Trinidad” he says. “Trinidad? No no no we are going to Viñales”. His eyes become big “oh no”. I stare at him in disbelieve. Mum looks disappointed. “We’ve never even mentioned Trinidad” my aunt tells him incomprehensible.
It has rained. The sun reflects in the water. For a moment the streets were completely quiet. No people, no dogs, no cyclists, not even the sound of a car. The soon my flip-flops hit the cobbled stone street life is rushing back into the maze of Havana.
Women dressed in tiny colorful tops and tight shorts busy talking, pushing forward babies. Men sitting in the opening of a door, talking. Selling art and crafts. Buying coffee from a tiny window shop. Girls shaking their hips. Boys whistling towards them. Smiling. Everyone is smiling. The old lady slowly walking towards us, a stick holding her up right, her hair tight in a knot. Smiling. The little boys playing with marbles. Little girls giggling and clapping hands. Mothers paying attention while gossiping with the neighbors.
I jump to the right, a tuk tuk cyclist came out of nowhere. Right after him a beautiful old blue colored Chevrolet makes his way through the street. Music, a little further a small band is performing in the door opening of a small local café. On the opposite side is a man working hard behind the counter of his butchery. Whole pork heads, feet, insides. Nothing is thrown away. A shop further is where ladies are busy buying fruits and vegetables.
At another shop down the road is a small line. When I stick my head around the corner I see that it’s a pharmacy. The shelves are almost empty. I continue to walk along the shops and see that most shops are rather empty. The grocery store is nothing like the ones we have in Europe. The products in every store are behind the counter. In between the counter and the products are people working. In their own pace. No-one seems to be in a hurry. No-one is in a hurry.
I see some great leggings I want to have, when I step inside the shop I see ladies pointing at t-shirts which are hanging behind the counter. The lady touches the t-shirt, holds it up, turns it around and agrees on buying it. When I look around in the shop I see no fitting rooms, all the shirts, leggings, trousers are placed either behind the counter or in a showcase. I buy my leggings and leave the shop.
It’s time to get back. Ricardo is on the phone with his friend who we will spend the night at. “Are you ready for Trinidad?” he asks us. Immediately the three of us look up raising our eye-brows. Is he joking? “Trinidad? No no no we are going to Viñales”. His eyes become big “oh no”.
He calls his friend back and tells her he made a mistake. Another phone call later and a taxi arrives in front of the casa particulares. We get in and soon we arrive at the bus station. Ricardo walks over to the station, talks with some men and comes back. “I arranged a taxi for you guys to get to Viñales”. Without thinking we get into the taxi and are on the road. Without a smile he drives and drives.
The highway is surprisingly well maintained. Here and there are some bursts. The landscape alongside the road is full with palm trees, farms, mango trees. Green, it is green everywhere we look. Under the bridges we pass and along the road side are people hitchhiking. People returning to their villages, policemen returning from their posts and business men leaving Havana.
From Pinar del Rio we take a country road and finally the surroundings begin to change. It has rained here too. Green hills, trees, little villages, lakes. It’s beautiful over here. Soon we arrive in Viñales, a small colorful town. As soon as we arrive ladies are jumping on the street in front of the car holding a plate with photos of their casa particulares. We already have one so we continue.
Half way through our taxi driver tells me the casa we are going to is very far from the city center. “Quieres ver otra casa?” he asks. Without knowing what really is going on we agree and he turns the car. In the center a lady gets in and we drive to her casa. Well not her casa, the casa of her sister in law. We doubt whether we should stay here or check out the other casa. We decide on checking out the other casa. The soon we inform the lady about this she drops the price. So, it’s that easy! “Great, we’re staying!” I get out my suitcase and place my shoes on top of the suitcase of my mum. The taxi driver pushes me forward “Adelante. Aprovecho esta uno”. “Bueno, gracias” I answer and walk inside.
It’s time to pay. Our taxi driver demands 25 CUC more. The lady wants us to stay in two rooms, not in one. Everyone is talking, discussing. The heath rises and the volume as well. Just to get rid of the taxi driver we pay him the 25 CUC he demands. “Adiós” he shouts and both he and the lady are gone. With the 25 CUC and, which I find out a little while later, my beautiful all-stars.