My trip to Ciego de Ávila (II)
By Osmel Almaguer
I spent almost a month and half there. We had intended to stay for only 15 days, but we couldn’t get the wood needed for the carpenter’s workshop, or better said (since it only had to be cut), what was more difficult was the “legalization” of the transaction. This was because Ubiel had to bribe a member of the local sawmill for rights to the wood, which in fact belonged to the State.
Although Ubiel says the simplest part of the task had always been cutting the lumber, on that occasion, and though everything began according to plan, things turned exceedingly complicated.
We left for the hills early in the morning with a chainsaw, a backhoe and a cart to load the wood into. The place where the wood was located was very remote, almost a forest, with tall trees, animals – among which was an enormous spider, which frankly scared the hell out of me – small ponds and a lot of thorny marabú undergrowth.
The province had been invaded by this prickly plague for many years. It reached the point that the growing of pineapples – once the main crop in the area, and the one that identified the region – had almost disappeared entirely.
We begin cutting the wood and it suddenly began to rain. Since it had rained for several previous days, the ground was saturated, and soon we were almost up to our knees in water. The afternoon was going by and it would soon be dark.
Suddenly the backhoe, which we had also used for transportation, began to miss. The engine was flooded, so we had to give it air through a small mechanism that, after a while of working with it, left terrible pain in our fingers.
The hours continued to go by until we finally finished cutting. One time the motor cut off and Ubiel had to walk over several kilometers in search of help.
The night had closed in by then but the backhoe threatened to conk out. The mosquitoes began their aerial assault, the dampness was accumulating in our skin and bones, and hunger was knotting our stomachs up, since we had not eaten anything since the morning.
The uncertainty of being able to get home – because if the motor died, we would have to sleep in that water-flooded field with the mosquitoes – put us both in bad moods. We were thoroughly exhausted.
Luckily, and thanks to the deft work of our ailing fingers, we were able to get the backhoe to work and to take us home, though we had to leave the wood behind.
On the following day went back and picked up the lumber. Notwithstanding, obtaining the legal documents took so much time that I had to return to Havana without the carpenter. Riding in a truck, between farm animals and sacks of food, the trip took around eight hours.