Friday, April 1, 2016

Unplanned visit to a Cuban farm

Front of farmhouse
 As I mentioned in a previous post our tour bus broke down on the way to Holguin City. Our perplexed tour guide came up with an impromptu plan. Why not visit a typical Cuban farm? Marcelo made a discrete inquiry with a local farm and within minutes took everybody off the bus to see what a typical small Cuban farm really looked like.

What made this so fascinating was the fact that it was a completely unplanned and un-staged.. All of us got to experience, however briefly, a genuine Cuban farm.

The first photo shows the modest farmhouse which had a small living area, one bedroom and a galley kitchen. This was likely the original farmhouse and it was surprisingly compact. We were informed later that this was not the main farmhouse and that a larger, more modern and better equipped home was located about 100 meters away on the same property
Crop of some kind of spice
This was a very small farm of about two hectares. I cannot remember the crop but it was some form of root spice. Farmers in Cuban are now able to sell part of their crops on the open market following a new entrepreneurial initiative by the Cuban government about two to three years ago.

The farmhouse is very modest. The only power we saw went to a TV / VCR, an electric pressure cooker and a couple of lights.
Modest cooking facilities
Laundry day

Laundry the old fashioned way

The day we visited was laundry day and of course it was done the old fashioned way, by hand. The clothes were either hung on a line or draped on a thorny hedge. Simple but effective.
An old sow

Sergeant Cluck 

There were a couple of old sows which which were bred, I presume, to supply pork to the family. This "guard" turkey followed us where-ever we went on the farm and we all suspected that it probably had secret police training.
The lady of the house

Our tour passengers
The lady of the farm was doing her daily chores and seemed unfazed by the unplanned visit. Finally this was our group as we trundled through this very quaint Cuban farm. This impromptu tour certainly added value to our day at Holguin City.

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.