My arrival in Cienfuegos

Occasionally, I catch myself wondering if I trust people too easily and I’m well aware that I do have a tendency to get carried away with things. Perhaps I should have considered the above when a chance meeting with another female solo traveller in Trinidad resulted in “hey your itinerary matches mine, fancy meeting up in two days time in Cienfuegos and travelling together?”.

The following morning I left for Santa Clara and in my head, Cienfuegos was sorted. A done deal. I knew I’d be arriving in Cienfuegos earlier than she would but I figured that was cool – I’d go to a coffee shop, kick back and write my travel diary then go and meet her at the bus station later that day.

Plans are great aren’t they – that is until they go wrong. I rocked up in Cienfuegos and set off in search of the coffee shop recommended in the Lonely Planet (please don’t judge me, I was tired, extremely hangry and craving coffee – and I don’t even drink coffee!). Anyway, I don’t know what happened but I just could not find this coffee shop and rather what doing what any sane normal person would do i.e. just go to another coffee shop, I insisted on continuing to search. I walked for hours, I kid you not, with my rucksack in the Cuban heat looking for this coffee shop.

Eventually common sense finally kicked in and I gave up – I ended up in this living room-cum-coffee shop run out of some Cuban guy’s house. With a coca-cola and a cheese and vegetable sandwich in me, the world returned to normal. The cheese sandwich wasn’t quite what I was expecting but I was in no shape to be fussy. I’d been sat there for a good hour in the most uncomfortable chair people watching out the window and writing my diary when a guy walked past the window – he caught my eye and wandered in introducing himself as another lost traveller called Kristoffer. He pulled up a chair, grabbed a coke and that was it.

See? We're best buds really!-15

We struck up an easy friendship and the hours started to fly. Soon enough it was time to head back to the bus station to find this girl that I was meant to be rooming with that night. I’d been a little stuck since she had all the room reservation information – I didn’t even know where she’d booked. I know, smart right? This was all part of my attempt to learn to be a more relaxed traveller – hindsight has shown me that I took it a tad far.

Anyway, Kristoffer openly admitted he had nothing better to do so came along with me for the walk. We went back to the bus station and waited. The bus came, the passengers all got off – and she wasn’t there. Panic. Frustration. Annoyance. Where was she? Had she changed her plans? She could’ve at least messaged…except no one has signal in Cuba.

Wi-fi. I needed wi-fi. Email was the only way she’d be able to contact me.

I asked the friendly man working in the Viazul station if there’d be another bus from Trinidad that evening. There would but not for a few more hours he’d said. I looked at Kristoffer and Kristoffer looked at me. “Right, let’s go find some wi-fi” he said. In Cuba, wi-fi connection isn’t widely available. It’s limited to the government-run internet cafés or public spaces. So if you are in search of wi-fi in Cuba, the best thing to do is ask (obviously). Failing that, look for the town squares and the public parks and then, for the hordes of local teenagers squeezed eight to a bench. Congratulations – you’ve found the local wi-fi spot.

After checking my wi-fi and finding nothing from her, I started to feel a bit jittery. We returned to the bus station to wait… there wasn’t much else to do. Thankfully, we had a lot to talk about. We swapped the typical background stories then made the natural transition to Cuban horror stories although Kristoffer was the clear winner having had his phone stolen just days into his trip on a bus to Santiago de Cuba. We also had quite a giggle eyeing up the uniforms of the women working in the bus station….they were quite a creation!

See? We're best buds really!-16

The final bus of the day from Trinidad came and went and she wasn’t on it. Now I really started to worry. It was gone 8pm and not only had I wasted a day waiting around the bus station but I had nowhere to stay. Cue Kristoffer to the rescue with “you can stay with me if you want”. BINGO, I was saved.

After one hell of a day, we figured we’d deserved a treat. We went back to Kristoffer’s casa, dropped my bags and went off in search of one of the most-highly recommended restaurants in Cienfuegos, Finca del Mar.

After a cracking paella and piña coladas so creamy they’d be better classified as alcoholic ice cream sundaes, we headed home and went straight to bed. Day one in Cienfuegos may have been a bit of a fail at least I had two more days, right?

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