Saturday, July 23, 2005

Holguin Daytrip

If you are spending your whole vacation at the resort without a visit to Havana, then you really should take at least one day out of the resort and see the real Cuban life. Most of the tour companies offer various day trips for around $40-100 including a day trip to Holguin, a catamaran trip, swimming with dolphins, day trip to Santiago de Cuba and a few others.

We decided on a day trip to Holguin, which is the nearest city to Playa Pesquero (Guardelavaca).

View of Holguin

You’ll immediately notice the stark contrast between the luxury of your resort and the “outside world”. It’s like stepping back 40 years in time. The roads are very quiet, as having a car in Cuba is a luxury. Most of the cars on the road are 1950s American Classic cars, or Ladas. There are also plenty of horses and carts, bicycles and motorcycles with side cabs! There is a serious lack of public transport in Cuba and the most common way of getting about is by hitchhiking. Our tour guide told us that she would hitchhike home each day after the tour was finished. Both she and the driver lived in Holguin, but after dropping everyone off at the end of each day, they weren’t allowed to take the tour bus back to Holguin, they had to hitchhike. If that day’s trip had been to Santiago to Cuba, this meant that she would be hitchhiking home at 10pm. She assured us that it was very safe to hitchhike in Cuba, but it just doesn’t seem right to me.

Our first stop on the trip was to a Cigar factory. We had to leave our cameras in the bus as no photos were allowed inside the factory. We were given a tour of the factory, which was very interesting, but I felt very conspicuous walking around while all these people were working so hard rolling cigars for the average wage of $10 per month. We met one guy in his 60s or 70s who had worked at the factory for 40 years! I just couldn't imagine going to this place day in, day out for this length of time. This guy was the only person allowed to roll the most expensive cigars. Each cigar he made was sold for around $300 more than his yearly salary. The workers are allowed to listen to music, smoke cigars, eat and drink while they work as long as they meet there quota of 100 cigars per day. At this point I felt that I would never complain about my own job again.

Our next stop was in the city of Holguin. Having only seen photos of Havana, I imagined that Holguin would be like a smaller version of Havana, with its Colonial style buildings. It was actually nothing like this. It seemed more like a small town than a city and was full of crumbling old buildings. Our bus took us up to the top of a hill (which I now can’t remember the name of) and we had some amazing views of the city – see the photo below:

View of Holguin

After 15 minutes or so of wandering round the top of the hill and taking lots of photos we drove down into the city itself. We wandered around and took a few photos of the main square then went to see some African Cuban people dancing. At the end of the show I was dragged up on to the “stage” area to dance with the most fearsome looking African guy. Stuart and a couple of the other people on the tour were also dragged up by some of the others. I just decided “what the hell” and let the dancer swing me around and tried to copy what he was doing. Unfortunely my cut off jeans weren’t up to the strain of this energetic dancing and I was mortified when my jeans ripped right along the seam on the crotch area! Aaaaahhh!!!! Luckily I don’t think that many people noticed this, but I felt pretty self conscious for the rest of the tour.

Holguin Street Scene

After the African dancing we went up into the nearby hills and had a creole lunch at a farm restaurant with an amazing view over the countryside below. The meal consisted of a chicken/pork meaty thing which was nice enough, but a bit fatty and some really nice rice and black beans. We enjoyed our lunch over a beer and had a really interesting chat with the tour guide and learned a lot from her about Socialism and Cuban life. She went to university in Holguin and speaks fluent English and German

After lunch we went back to Holguin for an hour and wandered round a bit taking a few photos, then had a beer in a nearby bar before our 1 hour journey back to the resort.

View of countryside near Holgiuin

Overall it was an interesting tour and the tourguide was fantastic and had lots of interesting stories about Cuba and Cuban people to tell us.


Blogger Mike Overall said...

You're cute!
How do you post pics without that "o comments" line underneath? an DYING to know how!

5:34 PM  
Blogger Alex Falco said...

Dear Suzanne, Holguín is my hometown.
The hill you visited in Holguin city is named the cross hill

10:36 PM  
Blogger Peter said...

My family & I went to Cuba summer 2008. We went from Havana to Holguin & back in a French/ Italian jet. Everything worked food & service all very good. A lot has changed in the 10 yrs Cuba has opened its door to the outside. Life would get a lot better for everyone if Ameriac lifted its embargo. Cuba fantastic country - don't loose your charm.

8:46 AM  
Blogger Henry Root said...

Hi Suzanne

Refreshing tale especially of your jeans.

No just joking. See our Cuba photos at


10:08 PM  

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