Yesterday after downing some coffee and fruit from my hosts, I waited for my gal Lindsey, who was set to arrive in Havana at 11, then take the hour and a half journey by taxi to Matanzas.
Except by 4:30 p.m., she still hadn’t arrived.
By this point, being completely out of money – my last two pesos went to water, and I’d had no lunch – I was getting a little panicky. GOOD NEWS: I found out that while you can’t get money wired to you in Cuba as a U.S. citizen, Americans CAN send funds to a Cuban who can then think about giving it to you. I walked down to a nearby Western Union, where this was communicated, and then one of my hosts was preparing to walk back with me to receive some funds that my dear worried mother was going to send when Lindsey called.
Turns out, her taxi driver had misread the directions and taken her two hours out of the way. So, cool. She got swindled too.
Since neither of us had eaten that day, we immediately went to get food and mojitos and then more food.
Then today, after breakfast, we had planned to go on a boat owned by one of my host’s friends. A pair of tourists also staying at our hostel – a mother and son from Sweden – came along, too. When she dropped us off at the dock, there was, for reasons that were never clear, a tribal performance featuring mostly naked Cubans in body paint ensued. Then, they threw us the keys to the boat – without any concern for our mastery of boat driving, reliability or, frankly, safety. There were no life jackets. We buzzed along the river, which was pretty awesome, and then had fresh langoustine (massive and so cheap) and more mojitos at the dock hut.
Afterward, we caught the middle innings of the morning baseball game – featuring the No. 2 Matanzas Crocadillos. Also pretty fantastic. The crowd was small (it started at 10 a.m. on a Wednesday after all), but those in attendance ruthlessly heckled the opposing players. One man picked up a trash can and threatened to dump it on the guy in the on deck circle. And the opposing players yelled right back and occasionally walked over to shake someone’s hand over the fence to show it was all in good fun.
Matanzas feels like a pretty big city with a lot of different dynamics. It also has a lot more texture than anywhere I’ve been here so far. As we zipped down the river, the hills grew higher and steep rock cliffs lined the shores.
Now, as we’re en route to Havana, it’s very lush and mountainous just on the city’s outer edges, with the ocean laying just beyond. We just passed a rum factory – the air smelled sweet and syrupy as we rolled past, windows down – and before that a mountaintop restaurant that sat on an overhang, jutting out above the deep green valleys. It seemed to be calling our names for another mojito situation, but Lindsey is hyperventilating about getting to Havana.