Our next destination is the Bay of Pigs. famous for the 1950’s conflict which nearly precipitated US and Russian nuclear missile launches. The US decided to finish the communist experiment started by Che and Fidel, but Kennedy didn’t want to risk US troops. Instead, the CIA suggested they enlist and equip 12,000 Cuban Expats, and sent them off to this bay for an assault landing, supported by two supply ships. The CIA massively underestimated the strategic and espionage capability of the regime in Cuba, and Fidel learned of the plan beforehand. He mobilised the air forces so that when the US sent in their attack planes to destroy them, there were no planes to bomb.
Fidel and Che bombed the supply ships when the expats had landed, cutting them off. By the end of the ill-fated invasion, most of the Cuban expats were captive. Fidel used the threat of Russian collaboration to negotiate – the invaders in return for fifty million dollars’ worth of medicine, food and supplies. And a big thumb’s up for the communists.
Everywhere you look there are road-side monuments to the Cuban forces that lost their lives. The wreck of one of the US ships is now a popular diving attraction.
We arrive in Playa Larga around 3pm, our Estimando (esteemed) driver, Edgar, has hit the jackpot with our latest stop at Playa Larga (large beach). He promised us three paces to the beach, and that’s what we got. Our casa is unprepossessing on the outside, and as we follow the young woman down the dark corridor to look at the rooms, we arrive at a small covered terrace with the beach just a skip away. Beauuudy (as we say in Australia). Our rooms are air conditioned and clean for 25 CUC per room. Edgar is told we won’t need him tonight so he decamps back to Havana for a bit of nookie with his gorgeous wife.
We are offered dinner; our choice of crocodilo, fish, prawns, lobster, chicken or pork. It’s so lovely to sit on the terrace, and our journey from Vinales via Havana took four hours, so we decide to eat in.
We take a dip before we settle in for dinner, recommended time is before eight because of the mosquitoes.
The sea here is a brown colour due to the estuary nearby – the river runs through peaty country, acquiring the deep brown colour that infuses the sea here. Sea grasses grow in the deeper water, and the silty sand churned up by the waves gives a glimmering tint to the water. It’s my kind of temperature – Queensland, as W says. The beach slopes very gradually, so it’s also perfect for S, who likes to walk in the water up to her waist, her fluoro orange top gleaming in the sun. Two men from the casa next door venture into the water, one with his bottle of cerveza – I don’t see him coming back out with it, so I fear he’s left it in the water. He hollers “Hola wapa” at S, to which she is oblivious, so he dives under the water – maybe he’s drowning from a broken heart? Oh no, he surfaces again.
S decides on crocodilo, W on lobster, and me, pork, having in my mind succulent slow cooked spiced meat. Unfortunately, mine is the worst choice. Because it’s too hot to hang meat for any time, my pork fillet arrives with a consistency just short of old boot. S’s crocodilo is pieces of succulent meat sauteed in spices, and W’s lobster consists of not one, but two ginormous lobster tails, cooked to perfection. Accompaniments are bread and butter, three cups of rice, tomato, cucumber and beans, fried plantain. With the exception of my pork, everything is simple and excellent. The chosen wine is a rose, rather ordinary and warm to start with, but hey, as they say all the time – this is Cuba.
By eight in the evening we are suddenly surrounded by a veritable swarm of mosquitoes, who disdainfully ignore the anti-mosquito lotions we have applied, and latch onto S in a bloodthirsty frenzy. We storm indoors and call it a night, but not before she has suffered 20 bites all over.