By Osmel Alamguer
My girlfriend suggested that we make plans to visit the city of Cienfuegos, Cuba, in August. We’re still not sure, but we both loved the idea: she, to have a chance to return to her favorite city, and me, to do some things that I had left unaccomplished on my previous trip, five years ago.
I remember that I first went with Yusimi, a woman in whom I normally didn’t have a lot of confidence, but who in matters of trips was very adventuresome and resolved.
We left on the “milk train” (called that for its slow speed and many stops) on a trip that it would take more than eleven hours. This I didn’t know at the time, though even if I had there wouldn’t have been any alternative but to choose between the train and staying in Havana.
Transportation was worse back then in 2004, and to get tickets on a swift and comfortable express train was almost an odyssey.
However, back pains, thirst, hunger and fatigue were not obstacles to enjoying the beauty of the fields of the Cuban west, until we finally took a little siesta. We took pictures that we would never see, because the camera broke and the film was exposed.
When it was almost dark we arrived at our destination. We began to look for lodging but didn’t find any rooms available. That night we were surprised when we found ourselves in the middle of a blackout. When we had almost resigned ourselves to sleeping in the station, we were able to get a room in the rail workers’ inn, next to machinists and train stewardesses.
We had a big air-conditioned room, with lunch plus quite acceptable food, and for an equally acceptable price.
The only negative was the lack of water in the province. There almost was none to drink, and when we went to the bathroom we had to carry the buckets from the cistern and wash in a dirty, dark shower.
The return trip lasted about the same amount of time; we got to Havana sometime around seven.
All-in-all we had a good time, of which I hold pleasant memories of that city. I saw the Boulevard; the Terry Theater, built in colonial times; the expansive bay; the architecture in general, the cleanliness of the streets, and the simple and friendly people.
Yet when Milaisy suggested that we return there, the only thing that came to my mind was the two days I had spent riding on that train.