Monday, July 24, 2017

Day 6: Getting Lost

March 20: Amanda and I had no real plans for the day. Just do whatever.... Amanda slept in late and we didn't hit the streets of Viñales until about 11:00 in the morning. The first order of business was to exchange more money because after tallying up the expected costs of our lodging and the taxi ride back to Havana, we had no money for anything else. No food, no drinks, no taxis or buses around town. We needed more money!

I stand in line, waiting my turn to turn 50 euros into 52 CUCs.

The line to exchange money had a dozen or so people and took the better part of a half hour to get through, and I exchanged 50 more euros for Cuban dollars. It was probably more than we strictly needed, but I figured whatever leftover we had by the time we flew out at the airport could be used for lunch or souvenirs for friends and family while waiting for our flight out of the country. Better to have too much than not enough! =)

And at that point, Amanda and I parted ways. She planned for a leisurely afternoon swimming at a pool while I intended to hike around the south side of Viñales --an area we had yet to cover. Check out some new ground.

I saw Amanda off on a bus that would whisk her on an air-conditioned journey around the area--including a stop at the hotel with the pool--while I followed large roads out of town that petered out into smaller roads.

A couple of young German women, fresh off the bus, asked if I was familiar with the area hoping I could direct them the correct way. Alas, I could not, but they were maybe a minute's walk from their destination and found it without my help.

I had a very rough map of the area. Some would call it a terrible map, but that's being somewhat complimentary. It was much worse than terrible. I'm convinced it deliberately tried to mislead me at every turn. It didn't help that the intersections I arrived at were unlabeled and left me with nothing but my wits to guess directions.

I knew, roughly, that I needed to travel south and west, so I tried to pick roads leading in those directions, but they invariably petered out to dead ends which required me to backtrack and try the other direction which split again before leading to another dead end.

Amanda would be whisked away in an air-conditioned bus while I tromped through the heat of the day.

Each day we were in Cuba seemed to grow warmer and warmer and today was no exception. The sun was brutally hot and the narrow streets and roads I followed provided almost no shade. I wasn't having fun and was finding myself somewhat annoyed at the poor maps and lack of signage.

Finally, I reached a hotel listed on my map--I knew where I was!--but I should have veered off to the west before reaching it so I wasn't in the correct location. Unsure of where or how I missed a trail leading west (I thought I tried them all!), I finally threw in the towel and decided to call it quits. I was hot and sweaty and didn't have enough water anyhow. (I hoped to get a cold drink after reaching my destination so didn't fill up my water bottle.) I turned around and headed back into town retracing my steps. Well, I refrained from retracing them down the multitude of dead ends that I had tried and bee-lined back into town.

Not entirely willing to give up my walk, I started walking down the busy road to my original destination, but I didn't make it far before I gave that up as well. I didn't get lost this time, but the road was narrow and busy and had little or no shoulder to walk along and was just plain horrible for walking along. I did it for ten minutes before deciding it wasn't worth the effort and turned back.

I still wasn't ready to give up on my walking plans however, and decided to hike north of the town, making a small loop that would merge with the trail I had followed the previous two days. Even approaching previously traveled terrain, however, I managed to get lost again somehow crossing over the track I had followed twice before and winding up on the east side of town. To this day, I still can't figure out how the heck I got from the west end of town to the east end of town. I had to have crossed over the trail I took the previous two days, but I totally missed it.

And after that, I finally called it quits with my walking around. It was too hot for hiking. I was done.

View overlooking the town of Vinales.

I headed back to our room at the casa particular to trade out my hiking shoes with more airy and comfortable crocs then walked up to a bar and restaurant nearby where I agreed to meet with Amanda a couple of hours later. I tried to order a cola--I didn't really care if it was a Coke or the local TuKola, the but waitress shook her head and said no, they didn't have that. (Which made me wonder, what do they use for someone ordering a Cuba libre?) I wound up ordering a glass of mango juice instead which was probably healthier, but it would cost three times more.

I was also a little peckish not having eaten lunch yet. I didn't want a big meal, however, waiting until Amanda returned when we could order dinner. Looking through their menu, however, the only appetizer type of thing I could find were "papas fritas"--French fries. I was a little disappointed about that. That was it? Well, so be it. I got the waitress's attention and tried to order that, but she shook her head no again. They didn't have it available either.

Well, shoot. The only things left to eat on the menu were about half a dozen entrees, and I had a sneaky suspicion that half of them probably weren't even available. I decided to pass on food. I had some snacks in my pack I could subsist on until dinner.

So I drank my mango juice and read my Kindle for the next couple of hours until Amanda arrived all bright-eyed and cheery from her time at the pool.

I told her about the disappointing menu and that we ought to go somewhere else for dinner, so I paid my bill and we headed off. Amanda wanted to stop at our room to change clothes first, so we did that, then wandered back into town and found a new place to eat.

I ordered the ham and cheese pizza. Amanda ordered the grilled lobster. (Amanda wants everyone to know that she got a huge portion of the grilled lobster for just $8. It's an expensive meal--my pizza cost a mere $3.) Life was good.

And that was it for the day. We lounged around on the outdoor patio of the restaurant for an hour or two reading books and watching the traffic go by before eventually paying our bill and heading back to our room for the night.

Tobacco farm
Horse drinking from a water trough made from a large tire
Tobacco leaves that had been set out to dry in the sun.
While I tromped around the countryside hot, miserable and getting lost, Amanda enjoyed her time at the pool eating a ham and cheese sandwich, drinking a beer and reading a book. =)
Dinner at the end of the day! =)

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