Camper Road Trip Part1
Cuba on the Road
When you think of Cuba, the first thing that comes to mind usually isn’t a motorhome trip. You might not even think it is possible. But it is. Marco Barneveld and Frits Meyst try out the possibilities. Their conclusion? Discovering Cuba by motorhome is a great adventure.
The chicken that we’ve crucified could easily be called the chicken of all chickens, El Pollo de todos Pollos. The beast weighs over five kilos. We have placed it above the campfire with some sticks from the forest. Frits, photographer and master BBQ chef, uses all his skill to get the skin nice and crispy but not burning it, while keeping the meat juicy. No easy task. The fire must not be too high or too low. Meanwhile, I run along the beach and collect small sticks, dry coconut shells and dried seaweed to keep the fire going. Well, now and then I make a stop at the beach bar here on Playa Coco owned by the cheerful Rúben to grab some refreshment in the form of a rather refreshing mojito. Frying, roasting and gathering firewood is thirsty work it turns out. Meanwhile, the vermillion-tinted Cuban sun slowly goes down. Our camper is coloured pink and orange in the early twilight. Life can’t get much better than this.
Four days ago we picked up our motorhome in Havana. Campers in Cuba, are they allowed, I hear you ask? They are indeed. At least from now on, they are, as we have the honour of being some of the first people in the world to explore Cuba with our own little house on wheels. Before we left, we got all kinds of questions from people: a camper in Cuba? Are the roads good? Is it safe there? We certainly did know what we were getting into, as we want an adventure. I can also tell you the roads in Cuba are fine, provided you have to dodge the occasional pothole.
With a Motorhome through Cuba? Is that safe? Are there good roads? Do you know what you are getting yourself into?
Are they safe? 100%. We didn’t feel unsafe at all. The Motorhome is brand new: a Fiat Ducato 2300 Turbodiesel, with Tiptronic as standard and an Italian RIMOR design. It sleeps six people: two in the alcove, two on the fixed bed in the back and two on the bed that you make when you convert the table. As it’s just the two of us this won’t be necessary. Frits chooses for the back; I climb up into the alcove every night. After some instructions from the rental company, we set off and cruise out of Havana, destination Playa Jibacoa.
Playa Jibacoa: Turquoise sea
One of the great advantages of Cuba (and Havana in particular) is that there are very few cars. Traffic queues are an unknown concept here. In no time we have left the capital and drive along the coast with the sea on our left. Green palm trees sway against the sky-blue background. Apparently, there are patches of oil beneath the earth of in this socialist utopia. Pumpjacks slowly joyfully nod their heads in time with the music we’ve put on while a salty sea breeze coming from the open windows cools us. Halfway through the drive, about an hour’s drive to Playa Jibacoa from Havana, we stop at a roadside restaurant to devour some fresh lobster before we make our first stop in Villa Trópico.
Green palm trees sway against the turquoise background
Camping on Cuba means choosing from twenty resorts in West and Central Cuba, and they’re quickly spreading across the whole island. These resorts have electricity pylons so you can enjoy a cool night’s sleep using the motorhome’s air-conditioning. You are however free to do what you like of course. Villa Trópico has a beautiful beach, you can drink what you want all day for €10 (if that’s your thing) and the reef barely 100m from the coastline is perfect for snorkelling and diving.
Topos de Collantes:
The road from Cienfuegos to Trinidad is an impressive sight in itself. The road takes us along the jagged coast dotted with picturesque bays and inlets. Not far from Trinidad we turn off and drive through the hills. Although the road is steep our Fiat is performing wonderfully and we glide smoothly, albeit at a slightly slower speed, towards Topes de Collantes. The town has a spa, but that’s not the best reason to make this detour.
On the way back we pick wild coffee beans, which grow along the side of the path
That would be the Vegas Grande Waterfall. Skip this if you’re a little unsteady on your feet, as the route to the falls is a steep and somewhat slippery downwards path that you have to go up on the way back. This inconvenience is worth it when you reach the waterfall that comes thundering down through a long canyon, with a cave behind the crashing water: all that ánd an idyllic setting in a rainforest valley. On the way back we pick wild coffee beans, which grow along the side of the path.
For us, Trinidad is the real Pearl of the South, despite Cienfuegos already having this title. Time has stood still in Trinidad. Ignore the handful of cars, and you can imagine yourself in a colonial city a century ago: the cobbled streets, the colonial buildings, the Playa Mayor. Trinidad is like a still from a theatre set with its inhabitants in the lead role. Kids playing football, neighbours chatting, school girls singing. Everything in Trinidad takes place outdoors, and if it’s not outdoors, then the doors or windows are always open.
Trinidad is like a still from a theatre set with its inhabitants in the lead role
Here we also find one of the best restaurants in Cuba: Son y Sol. Blink, and you’d miss it, but behind the slightly damaged façade, we find a mansion with a courtyard furnished with antique colonial furniture. It serves Indian food, and I have never eaten such delicious Indian food, not even in India. The chef learned to cook from the chef at the Indian embassy, and the embassy makes sure the restaurant gets the right (fresh) ingredients and spices. Our camping spot for the night is on top of the hill in the car park at Hotel Las Cuevas. En the view is astounding.