…da Cuba is yet another UNESCO listed city – I swear, Cuba has more heritage sites per capita than any other nation.20160509-IMG_3785-00

I think Wim Wenders did some of his photography here, and there are a profusion of brightly coloured houses, cobbled streets and mansions. In our LP guide, there’s a photogenic tour of the town mapped out, so of course that’s one of the main things I want to do. Best done in the evening, when the heat has gone out of the sun. More about this later….

We arrive without a plan for a home-stay; the only one I am really interested in is the house of Julio Munoz, a well-known photographer and more recently horse whisperer. He provides refuge to horses that have been mistreated – and there are many in Cuba. Most of the campesinos rely on horse-drawn carts for transport; the horses often look skinny and poor, though I notice many of them don’t have bits in their mouths – maybe only because steel bits are expensive here. That’s small comfort to the horses which trot or stand around in the heat without any water in sight. 20160510-IMG_3344-37

Alas, Senor Munoz is booked out, so after sitting in a patisserie with coffee, feeling a little overwhelmed, we send intrepid Edgar finds us lodgings. He manages to do so a few hundred meters from the cafe, and we enter a colonial house with two rooms, one with new and blessedly silent A/C, the other slightly smaller with the grunt machine. They are both clean and comfortable, and we share the space with Jose, his wife Daisy, his son Jose, wife and child, and another son and his wife.

Oh, and two dachshunds, who soon discover that I am a sucker for los animales, and soon come and sit by my feet whenever I take one of the rocking chairs in the patio.

The main Plaza is only a stone’s throw away, but we decide it’s so hot we need a short time to recoup before decamping to the beaches in this part of the world.

Playa Ancon is where the tourists congregate. The route there is advertised as a great bike ride, but all I can think about is my immense gratitude to be able to be driven in air conditioned luxury. The last time I ventured out on this kind of suicide mission was in 32 degree heat in Exmouth WA, expecting a cold drink and meal and swim at the other end of the ride. No such luck, everything closed. By the time I had completed the round trip, an ant colony looked like a mountain and I wanted to throw myself off the bike and have to be helicoptered the rest of the way.

Ancon is a large resort which rises out above the surrounding mangroves like a large, long pyramid in bright hues. The beach is not that clean, and the water is Queensland temperature again, so happy wading for S, and a bit more of a swim for us two to get to slightly cooler water.

The entire beach is dotted with umbrellas constructed out of palm fronds, but we opt for a position in the shade of the huge trees that grow slightly in. I discover a crab, and manage to terrify it into hiding as I try to take photos of it with my most non-predatorial stance. I see it’s eye stalks regarding me from under the roots of the tree, and while I’m not watching, it makes its escape.

Vultures hover in the air above us, and land to suss out the garbage bags that are collected further back. A cat scavenges as well, and I wonder if there is to be a Cuban stand-off between them, but the cat decides discretion is better and keeps its distance. The vultures lumber across the ground, and occasionally take to the air when people get too close. I must say they are far more attractive soaring; at close range they are by far the ugliest of birds – only their mothers could love them.

Even at 4pm the sun has a bite, and at 6.00 so do the mosquitoes. As usual they head for S, and she has several bites before we manage to safety in the car.

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