Four articles ago I was writing from the balcony of my hotel in Cayo Las Brujas, relaying the events of the previous two days and I never did get around to mentioning how I got there.
Car. Rental car. Licence to drive.
‘A1’ is a six lane highway connecting Havana to Santa Clara (and beyond). You could say I was passing everything in sight, but that would be a misleading statement. Most of the things I passed were trees, signs, and/or cheese salesmen. Cars were a seldom seen thing. A1 is perhaps the only six lane highway in the world that seems deserted most of the time.
The road from Santa Clara to Cayo Santa Maria was something different altogether. The maximum safe speed on this ‘highway’ was about 60 km/h. This drive was a twisting, winding, turning, strange alchemy of old cars, horse carts, bicyclists, pedestrians, trucks, motorbikes, vespas, goats, towns and villages. I’d round the top of a hill at highway speed, only to slam the breaks to avoid smoking a bicyclist — in most cases, just peddling away down the centre of the road, without a care in the world. Over and over again this happened. Sandra didn’t seem to understand my aggravation because this is how life works in Cuba.
Still, the drive was breathtaking (not a reference to any potential bipedal road kill). I found Cuba’s country side to be beautiful, and the life of the towns and villages, vibrant. The narrow winding road skirting a couple feet above the Caribbean Sea and into the Keys was like nothing I’d ever experienced before.
‘The Witches’ is actually more a string of self contained cabins than a hotel. Each cabin features a balcony with a view to the Sea. I could just sit there all day long, drink beer, and watch the horizon. Sandra and I seemed to have the place to ourselves. We only saw a handful of other guests. At one point, while I wrote on the balcony, Sandra disappeared and took the opportunity to walk naked alone along the 2 km stretch of white sand beach, not another soul in sight. Later, we drove 10km to the storied and historic town of Cayo Santa Maria. It’s beginnings go all the way back to… December, when it first opened. Once again, we literally had the place to ourselves. We walked into the centre square and a band began playing upon seeing us. We walked into a piano bar and the pianist started up, breaking the silence, happy for an audience. The bar tender seemed desperate, almost grateful that we ordered drinks.
This whole tiny island might literally be one of Cuba’s best kept secrets.