Thursday, March 31, 2016

A funny thing happened on the way to Holguin

Bus breakdown
Smoking tour bus
We signed up for a day trip to Holguin City. Holguin is a large city in the Holguin province of Cuba. Holguin is said to be the birthplace of Cuban music. The city was founded in 1545 by a Spanish conquistador and it is the fourth largest city in Cuba. The brewery Cerveceria Bucanero is located in this city and what I did not know is that Bucanero is a joint venture with LaBatt breweries a one-time Canadian company.
No clue to the problem

A full day tour of Holguin involved the requisite cigar factory tour, a drive up to a cross which overlooks the city and was blessed by Pope Francis when he came to Cuba in the fall of 2015 and a delicious meal at a hilltop restaurant as well as free time walking through the downtown core of the city.
The bus emptied on the side of the road
The drama occurred before we even got to the city. Just about 10 minutes outside Holguin, the bus broke down. I have been to Cuba 6 times and have traveled by bus on a number of occasions and this is the first time I have ever experienced a tour bus break down. The Cubans use Chinese tour buses exclusively and they are said to be very reliable. For bus 9127 its day had obviously come and with some amount of drama. The only thing missing was flames because it produced a prodigious amount of black smoke. The driver must have seen a warning light on his dash because he stopped virtually on a dime..

Everybody got off the bus while we waited for some resolution to the problem which meant calling the depot and determining how to deal with the breakdown.


Tour guide mulling his next move
Our tour guide, Marcelo, mulled his next move. How do I save the day he must have thought and how do I preserve my tip at the end of the day. We were on a busy road and it did not make sense for us to stand by the side of the road and wait while vehicles of all types zoomed past us on what is the busiest road in Holguin province. And it was a hot day with temperatures in the low 30s.
Farm visit
There was a small farm on the side of the road and Marcelo paid the farmer a visit, must have explained his desperate situation and managed to bring all the passengers on a tour of this small farm. It was an opportunity to see an actual Cuban farm that had not been staged beforehand.

Marcelo saved the day. A replacement bus arrived and we continued on our most interesting tour of Holguin City.
Marcelo,our tour guide
The remainder of the day went without a hitch and it was clear that Marcelo did not let this incident mar his day. My guess is that there were good tips at the end of the tour.