Replies: 8 - Last Post: Oct 30, 2012 8:26 PM Last Post By: ttjpdo
Oct 24, 2012 4:17 PM
Where's Emagicmtman?Anyone who has enjoyed the all-too-infrequent posts of one Emagicmtman will delight in a lengthy interview with him that appeared in the July 18 HAVANA TIMES. You can read it here: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CubaNews/message/125161
Oct 24, 2012 5:09 PM
Oct 24, 2012 6:59 PM
Oct 30, 2012 1:13 AM
Oct 30, 2012 11:45 AM
4Greetings to all!
Have just returned from a month-and-a-half (yeah!) in Cuba, and will be writing my observations as soon as I regain my strength from a persistent bout with a rather pernicious gastrointestinal bug. Have over 200 8x11" pp. of journal entries, and have to boil these down, too (something I should have done with all the H2O I drank, though it may have been some of the street food I began consuming in greater frequency as my remaining funds dwindled towards the end of my stay. Still, I wanted to support the plethora of "cafeterias" and the million-and-one new opportunities for consuming a "personal" pizza, croquets, batidos, etc. etc.
From Varadero, I headed out for three days each in: Santa Clara, Sancti Spiritus (one of my favorite places--sorry we didn't manage to meet, John Abbottsford, had to leave SS as you were arriving), Ciego de Avila, then on to Santiago, Baracoa (another new favorite, where I extended my stay several more days), then back to Santiago, then via the tren frances (UNaire-aconditionado cheap seats) back to Habana for my final two weeks with my friends franco franco, his wife Siria, and father Juan, on Avenida 51 in San Agostin/La Lisa/Arroyo Arena, where the tummy trouble first manifested itself. Even this latter experience was good, as I've lost about 30 lbs. (!), and am now actually afraid to eat--or at least have changed my philosophy from "Living to Eat" to "Eating to Live"!
Anyway, expect many more reports, starting in a few days (weeks?) when I regain my strength.
By the way, there is one bit of confusion in the article Rosa posted. The shot-gun in the Che museum was NOT my son's former gun (he didn't exist when I have it to the the M 26 de Julio at their Restauran Paula in Miami, circa the summer of 1957 or 1958). Through a bobbling of translation, it was a Stephen's single-shot shot gun I donated, not a Stephenson's shotgun. My son, Noel, wasn't even born 'til 1977. Culpa mea. I should have proof-read the article before Erasmo published it last year.
Oct 30, 2012 3:41 PM
5We will all very much look forward to your report(s)!
Speaking of which - you are the first to have reported travelling on Tren France in several years!
It wasn't even clear whether it was still running so as well as everything else could I put in a particular plea for more details - booking/shedule and the actual journey.
Hope you are feeling much better soon!
Oct 30, 2012 5:22 PM
6Booking schedule for the +tren frances+? LOL! After at least two previous attempts, this time I was determined to take it back to Habana. Finally succeeded in purchasing a ticket, and was advised to show up at the station between 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. for the 9:00 p.m. tren. When I arrived, the departure time was revised 'til 11:00 p.m., then 2:30 a.m. I checked my bags into the station's storage room, and was considering taking a cab back to Calle Saco where the new economy action is, but to economize decided against this. The new Santiago train station, although a high-ceilinged European design, was still, in mid-October, as hot as an oven, so I sat down on a bench outside to read a few more chapters of Moby Dick. Alas! My bench seemed to be ground zero for those little biting hormigas, or biting ants, so I quickly adjourned to the station, which was still too hot. Then I remembered that when I purchased my ticket at the special divisa purchasing office in the little white building next to the station, there was a small waiting room there. Unfortunately, the air conditioning was set at 48 deg. F., and as I soon was shivering, I soon had to flee there, too. Back to the station, where I first tried to sleep on the uncomfortable benches, then adjourned to the uncomfortable floor, where I managed a fitful sleep for several hours. As soon as I noticed movement, I quickly made my way over to the baggage storage room, where I reclaimed my bags, then zoomed out to the platform area to get a first line space in the rush to the train. More waiting...and waiting...and waiting, while dozens and dozens of train crew first entered the forbidden zones, accompanied by all sorts of supplies. Finally, around 2:15 a.m. the word was given, and there was a rush every bit as dramatic as was the rush to claim the last of the stolen American Indian lands, in Oklahoma, back in the latter part of the 19th Century. (or, as I e-mailed my family: "Remember the scene in Dr. Zhivago where Yuri Zhivago, his wife and her father all leave Moscow by train, in the depths of 1918, for Borikino, his former estate in the Urals? Picture a tropical version of the scene at the Moscow train station." Of course I exagerate a bit.) Despite the dozens, scores, perhaps even hundreds of train crew which earlier reported, there were none on the platform to assist passengers in climbing up to the coaches, 4 to 5' above the platform. Thanks to some kindly Cuban passengers, who assisted me in lifting my rolling suitcase (I was already wearing a ruck-sack on my back, a day-pack on my front) I was able to climb up to the carriage without toppling over. Once in the car, there was again a significant absence of train crew to assist folks in finding their seats, and I had to switch seats a couple of times before everything settled down. By then, I was drenched with sweat. Soon thereafter the train started rolling and, with the windows open (these being the "cheap seat," second-class, un aire acconditionado cars) not only was I quickly cooled off, but in no time at all I was cold and shivering again! It took me to Bayamo to pull down my ruck-sack, dig around, and find my jacket. Once going, however, the train was great! As in the States, it was like going through the back yards of the land, seeing stuff you'd never see on ViAzul. And at times the train was really booking it, going maybe 140 or 160 km/hr. through some of the rural zones. The train crew made an early appearance, selling cheese sandwiches (dry and wretched) and orange soda pop. There were better options later, when vendors came aboard in Camaguey, Florida, and Santa Clara, selling everything from cafecitos (in their cups, which you had to return), to better sandwiches, farmer's cheeses, the ever-present croquets, better soda-pops, etc. etc. Alas! The other passengers in my carriage were not especially conscious when it came to ecology and recycling. Empty soda cans, half-eaten sandwiches and their paper wrappers, old issues of Granma (which really should have been saved, for the toilet,as there was no paper available in the bathrooms, which, by the way, were in, err, utterly wretched shape...luckily I did not have to do #2, otherwise I might have gagged. Make special arrangements to "purge" before taking any tren in Cuba. (Again, what do the staff do? Oh, yes. They brow-beat any passenger who by mistake bought the wrong sort of ticket for another, lesser, type of train, then "accidentally" boarded the tren frances. In any event, once aboard the tren the trip was rather pleasant. We bypassed Ciego de Avila and Guayos (the stop for Sancti Spiritus). I don't remember stopping in Bayamo or Las Tunas, though I think I was asleep then. Besides Camaguey, we actually stopped in Florida (the Cuban one, not the state), and Santa Clara, but bypassed Matanzas. All in all a great experience--but not one I'd repeat, even though I'm a train afficionado, and have taken many long-distance Amtrak runs (SW Chief, Sunset Limited, Broadway Limited, Empire Builder, California Zepher, Silver Meteors, etc.) back here in the States. Still, persistance paid--or rather I paid--and I finally got to ride the +tren frances+!
Oct 30, 2012 7:26 PM
7Wow - great report - what a saga. And this was the good train!
You have thoroughly convinced me to only do this journey vicariously!
Nevertheless will bookmark your post emagicmtman for the next time someone posts here for advice/information.
Dervla Murphy in The Island That Dared reported on 2 (I think) train journeys where first she badly lacerated her head by leaning back in her seat not noticing that the headrest was missing with just the metal prongs remaining and then later went to enter a toilet - the door was unlocked but there was no floor - she could have fallen beneath the moving train!
Oct 30, 2012 8:26 PM
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