|The Morro Fort Is On Starboard As We Approach The Entry|
Crystal Blues arrived on the south coast of Cuba at Santiago de Cuba, last Friday afternoon. Sailing under the ramparts of the Morro Fort, dating back to the 15th century, was an incredible arrival experience. The government run marina is about 1/4 mile inside the harbor, where we received a friendly welcome. Many visiting boats were anchored out, however the marina offered us a berth and we accepted gladly - the first time we'd berthed the boat since last November.
|Ley's Favourite Vegetable Stall|
Of course the Cuba of today is very different, with a population that are embracing change as Cuba relaxes the old rules. Economic prosperity is still some way off, however the people do have some of the highest literacy and health care standards in the world.
Starting last Saturday we've traveled a little in the city and out into the mountains to the north west. This included an overnight trip to Bayamo, one of the oldest Spanish cities in the world, where we stayed in a "Casa Particulare", basically a homestay with meals available if we wanted. This cost around $25.00 per night. Ley figures the Cuban people invented the AirBnB concept, without the internet....
|Overflight On Our Arrival|
Over the years the Cuban people have learned to live with less, and the place is famous for keeping old cars running well beyond there regular use-by date.
|Noel & Neil At The Morro Fort|
Cuba has been in our cruising sights for many years, and whilst we had a little taste of the land last year, we had high hopes for our visit this year, keen to experience more of the people, food and music. We haven't been disappointed!
The annual music festival in Santiago de Cuba was in full swing when we arrived, a festival that is produced for the locals, not just for tourists. The national history includes waves of immigration from Spain, Britain, France and Africa. These influences have been distilled into a national musical palet that includes strong African segments, more traditional Cuban works plus Spanish influenced classical styles. Here in Santiago the African tribal roots are celebrated with community performances in a local coffee shop twice a week, where we were able to dance to a beat from 8 drums and a variety of percussion instruments accompanied by many voices.
|Santiago Concert Hall|
At the local concert hall, we were fortnate to view a performance by the orchestra from the local conservatory, with guest vocalists from around Cuba and a guitar trio from Mexico. That same evening we danced in the streets to more classic Cuban sounds when the festival stage went live for the evening.
|Learning To Busk, Latin Style|
Music is everywhere in this country. In the towns we often see people carrying guitars, brass instruments and drums, all a common sight. Culture is different here - some how more inter-personal, rich and educated than we expected. In Bayamo we came across a fencing school right on the street, while in Santiago we've visited two different chess clubs that occupy beautiful historic buildings.
We plan to sail onwards across the south coast of Cuba for the next few weeks.