We had real tribulations getting here.Went we arrived in Camaguey we had tried to purchase bus tickets but were told this was impossible we would have to turn up on the day an hour before the bus and then we would be able to get tickets.We arrived at the appointed hour to be told we could not buy tickets until the bus had arrived and they knew how many seats were available.You may be wondering at this moment how wonderful my Spanish must be getting for me to understand all this - admit it I am right.Well actually as this woman was babbling at us and I was wondering if maybe my phrase book might be of use, Max walked in.It was one of those amazing moments were a drum roll and stage smoke would not have gone amiss.He was Italian but was fluent in Spanish.He translated and then took us under his wing.I told him he was my hero and wondered where his white stallion and shining armour was.As it turned out the bus was virtually full and in the scramble to get the few seats we lost out.We ended up getting a taxi as negotiated by yes you guessed it my hero - Max.Men are funny though.They all stood there - Max and taxi drivers - not looking at each other negotiating a price as if they weren't really talking to each other!We eventually got an air-conditioned taxi - the windows rolled down beautifully.Firstly he had no petrol so we chugged to the petrol station where we had to pay for the petrol, then 10 mins later, his water light came on, 15 mins later another warning light.Eventually he stopped the car, flagged down an official cab and got rid of us.Personally I think it was all rubbish.He shouldn't have been carrying non Cubans and it was a real coincidence that he off loaded us just before a control station.He got his 20 and I guess we were lucky he didn't leave us stranded in the country and obviously we were safe as we had our hero.
We finally got to Santa Clara.We pitched up at the Casa as recommended by the Lonely Planet.I had actually booked this over the phone speaking only Spanish - so I am improving.Well folks this Casa was amazing.Cool, clean, beautiful and a lovely leafy courtyard - where's the catch?Why does there have to be a catch ...... OK they were full they had given our rooms away.I was fuming.No way could someone let me see this and snatch it away.I think my face said it all or maybe it was my hands around his neck - I am not sure - anyway he had got us rooms with his friend.I was dubious but I released my grip and agreed to have a look.It was lovely.Another leafy courtyard, lovely old couple with a cute dog called Tulie.Yes that is right the dog fearing Jackie actually found a dog she liked.He became my friend and followed me everywhere.I was truly happy here.
Santa Clara was OK but to be honest I could have just staying the Casa.It's a really busy city.We did a city walk, took in the cobbled roads, high kerbs, bustling main square, a massive statue of Che (his ashes are here), a monument marking the site where Che and 18 kids derailed a an armoured train with homemade explosives and a bull dozer.We also visited a cigar factory.It was really interesting.238 people work here (conditions are ok) and each person produces at least 100 cigars a day.It takes 9 months to train to be able to make a good cigar and they take this very seriously and each cigar is tested for firmness.We put our finger in the pressure testing machine - very strange. This rubber thing just seems to be sucking your finger.
We went to our first Cuban nightclub - Max had recommended it saying high class people went there.Well I thought I will fit in straight in.He also said there was an hour long dance show - we thought this would be salsa (well who wouldn't).We put our glad rags on and off we went.To be honest I am speechless.We had walked into Gangstas Paradise.This were seriously heavy dudes.They would smack knuckles and pay respect.Especially to the one I named Jabba the Hut for his similarities to the character in Star Wars of the same name.He was definitely someone very important that everyone came and gave their dues before they could find there place in the Club to intimidate and glare.The women were dolled up to the nines and one girl I thought had forgotten her trousers (I didn't think it was the right time to point this out to her).
The music was pretty cool - combination of dance music and Cuban rap.Then the show began..... A woman came on in pink satin and started singing cabaret style - I thought I was in the British Rail Workings Men's Club.Would they be turning on the lights next for a round of bingo?This was followed by a Cuban Rapper coming on with 2 stick thin women in gold lycra.They were so thin they had to keep pulling up their gold legging - very attractive.They them climbed onto podiums and wiggled.Why oh why do these things happen to me??Then the rapper decided he wanted to dance with Ann - she wasn't having any of it ...... so you guessed it I ended up on stage with the rapper doing some sort of salsa I think with the friendliest crowd ever - not.This was not the last straw though.Yes I really do have the patience of a saint (my family may not agree at this point).The final straw was when one of Jabba's honchos started to look me up and down as if he was interested.This did not look like a man who understood the meaning of no.So made a stage exit right!!!