And for me it was in Matanzas
Following our last night in Havana, we said goodbye to Holly near the Capitol and made our way to the ferry. We were off to Casablanca! We had met a fellow tourist in Vinales who told us of the Hershey Electric Railway that would take us to Matanzas. You can be let off and explore the old sugar cane factory. It’s also the slowest train ever and it takes you through tiny villages on its way to Matanzas. It is the only remaining electric train in Cuba, the only one that allowed us to go on it, and was built to transport sugar cane back to Havana. I had seen this town on the way to Havana from Varadero and had been dying to visit it. It seemed a little lost, forgotten.
So, we took the ferry. They inspected our bags (didn’t look very hard, I was carrying a bottle of rum which is an apparent no-no) and board the ferry for 1 peso. 1 peso. Which is about 4 cents. Drifting away from the shore, we could see Old Havana from the water and drove past an incredibly gigantic cruise ship.
We were let off and turned to find the train station. We bought our tickets and decided to walk up the hill to find the castle that we had seen from the ferry. And Jesus of course.
We didn’t really find the castle. Or we couldn’t find its entrance. We did find the entrance to the Che museum but it was a bit pricey. So, we decided to spend a few minutes taking pictures of the old cars, of the view of Havana from the top and selfies with Jesus. Yes, you can probably tell in the picture below that Jack was no longer happy about taking photos.
We got on the train and it was so incredibly slow. There were very few tourists, except for us and the British guy (which was not Jack) who kept giving rum to everyone. Thankfully, the conductor said no, but trust me: he wouldn’t have been the first driver we had to take a drink while driving.
When we stopped in Hershey, we had a decision to make. Do we get off here, take pictures of the factory, wait four hours to take the train back or do we simply head to Matanzas? By this time, it had been cold and rainy. So we chose to keep going. Jack stopped on his way back and shared his photos.
Also, something incredible happened. After our stop in Hershey, (where we bought a variety of items being sold, including, of course, pizza), the conductor asked us if we wanted to drive the train! We were brought into conductor area. It was so fun. The second-conductor told us that the train had arrived from Spain, which is why it wasn’t labelled in Spanish but in Catalonian. A quick Wikipedia search confirms that they came from Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat de Catalunya. We took some pictures and returned to our seats.
We got to Matanzas and tried to find a casa. There were some mishaps along the way, but we finally settled on a casa near the main square, dropped our bags and headed out to try and find wifi cards, food and drinks. I wanted to check in for my flight and Jack to check the football scores. Guys, you cannot check into your flight online for Air Transat. After freaking out that I couldn’t find the airport, I checked the main page and that’s when I discovered that. So, crisis averted. The real crisis was our lack in finding food. We finally found one and had….pizza. And pina coladas in case you were worried about our fruit intake. Then, we found some Cuban wine, went back to the casa and got a little drunk. It was our last night before we were to separate. Jack to Panama. Me to Canada.
The next day, I had my very last experience with Viazul, which as per usual, was terrible. They wouldn’t sell me tickets until 8:00 a.m. The bus was at 8:30. At 8:00 a.m., the bus showed up, they ushered me onto the bus with my bag and I handed over ten CUC. They told me they didn’t have any change. We had a bit of a stand-off but in the end, they found change. I got to the airport in record time (thank goodness) and finally found a spoon! It was time to go home.
A two hour wait to get through the check-in desk, security and immigration. A delayed flight. A return back to Montreal that had finally been hit with winter. And a drive home with my mom (or as Jack says, mum). Thanks for the memories Cuba. I hope you look the same when I go back in a few years.