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April 30, 2011

Fidel Castro Casa

by swebackpacker
One of the main buildings Fidel Castro Casa

I had left Holguin and travelled to Gibara on the north coast of Cuba. This is a tranquil sleepy small fishing village which spreads from a calm sparkling bay into the rugged surrounding hills.  A nice area to calm down for a few days. The spot there Christopher Columbus first disembark in Cuba on October 28, 1492 is twenty km to the east of Gibara in Play Don Lino. I strolled around in Gibara then I come across a car rental company Cuba-Car. It was next to impossible to rent a car in Holguin so I didn´t have much hope in renting a car in Gibara. The man responsable for the office Raymond said, this office is for Cubans living abroad coming back home on vacation. If they need a car they can rent one. I said what about tourists can they rent a car?

Well it depends on the owner I have to ask him first, there are you staying in Gibara? I replied Villa Boquerón near the seafront. Raymond said, you are actually staying at the house of the owner of this company! There were a lot of questions at the dinner tables in the evening. Why do you need a car? Where about going? I explained that I would like to see Fidel Castro Casa in Birán and go back up to Circuito Norte coast road and follow the north coast all the way down to Baracoa and finish in Santiago de CubaOne very sensitive question come up! I said I would stay over night in Moa  a city on Circuito Norte coast road on the way to Baracoa. The owner said, do not on any circumstances stay over night in Moa! Drive past, it there isn´t anything of interest in this city. I had met the same reactions in Holguin when asking questions about Moa. People said don´t go there. Taxi drivers said I refuses to drive to Moa and continue to Baracoa but the road to Santiago de Cuba and Baracoa is ok. What was Moa hiding?

The owner liked my travel plans, after all I had promised not to stay in Moa! I could rent a car for a week. Raymond showed me a small Hyundai Atos. He said this is a nice car and showed me a list of fourteen severe remarks! Well the car was in bad shape, so were the Cuban roads. You won’t travel faster than 30 to 50 km an hour so the bad shape of the car was hidden until one reached 80 km/h. Such a high-speed was only possible around Santiago de Cuba.  The next problem driving in eastern Cuba was no road signs! Raymond said, well you know, Cubans know the way, they don´t need road signs. I have to describe the way for you through Holguin. Drive into Holguin until you see a petrol station on the left side, continue three blocks and turn left, continue  another six blocks and turn left again and you are on the road to Santiago de Cuba and Circuito Norte coast road! Raymond description was spot on everything as described.

Here is a short description of the road to Fidel Castro Casa from Hoguin. Follow the Santiago de Cuba / Circuito Norte road until a fork in the road a couple of km west of Cueto, turn right for Santiago de Cuba, Circuito Norte coast road continue into Cueto and out towards the northern Coast. Following the Santiago De Cuba road a railway line is crossing the road at the small village Loynaz Hechevarria, continue on the Santiago de Cuba road  past this village and turn left at the next dirt road (no road signs). One follows this dirt road until coming to a couple of houses and a post box. Now you are in Birán! Turn left and drive about two km until a sharp ninety degree bend in the road. Just after the bend there is a tiny dirt road going into the woods turn left and follow it until a parking lot appear and a bar is closing the road. Find the guard and ask if it´s possible to see Fidel Castro Casa!

I found the guard and asked him if it’s possible to see Fidel Castro Casa? The surprised guard said, wait here, I have check if it’s possible. It turned out that I needed a guide and an armed military guard. I paid an entrance fee 10 CUC and 5 CUC for photography. Ángel Castro was a very rich farmer and Fidel, Raul and Ramon Castro’s father. Fidel Castro Casa Finca Manacas was a small village of houses three yellow two-story main buildings in a group, schoolhouse, slaughter-house, repair shop, store, bakery, post-office and a telegraph station. Ramon Castro the youngest brother is living in one of the yellow main buildings surrounded by electrical fence, that area is not open to tourists. About 100 meter away there is another two-story yellow building used as a hotel for foreign dignitaries such as Hugo Chavez then they were visiting Fidel or Raul Castro.

The guide showed the school there Fidel Castro got his early education. There was a small bell on Fidel’s desk in the front row in the middle of the room the techer´s desk was in the left corner. One could see Fidel Castro’s room with his bed and a wardrobe with sporting cloths, a basketball and a baseball glove. Ángel Castro had bought one of the first TV-sets in Cuba. The TV  was in one of the living rooms. Their old car was standing in a garage. Of particular interest was a cockfighting arena. Raul Castro built it to earn some pocket-money as a teen-aged boy. Raul filled the arena with people, charged an entrance fee and arranged a cock-fight. Nowadays cockfighting is forbidden in Cuba.

The easiest way is to go back to Holguin and stay over night but I continued towards the north coast. I turned left from Fidel Castro Casa and drew all the way up to Circuito Notre coast road and followed it into Mayarí a medium-sized town. I found a Casa particular for the night. This was the lowest standard I had during my travelling around Cuba! Next day I continued on Ciruito Norte coast road to Moa the road was well maintained and not as bad as Cubans had said in Holguin. Now it was time to discover the hidden secrete of Moa!

I did see the secrete by mistake, in a roundabout I misunderstood a road sign and took the wrong road towards Baracoa. Instead of driving out of Moa on the main road to Baracoa a followed a parallel road that suddenly turned left up on a small hill. I ended up at an industrial area with a fantastic view over the landscape. It was complete destruction of the landscape as far as the eyes could see. It was like a moon landscape everything was dead. To my surprise the red dust-colored landscape looked very beautiful but it was an environment disaster of enormous proportions, a shame for Cubans. Moa is the centre of Cuba´s metal ore industry their chimneys is pouring out red dust over the landscape. I was looking for the camera and trying to figuring out there to take a photo then a guard was knocking on the car door. What are you doing here? Well I am on my way to Baracoa, but I took the wrong way. The guard instructed me how to find the road to Baracoa. I drew downhill and found the road to Baracoa. On the way out of Moa there were signs everywhere photography strictly forbidden!

© SWEBackpacker, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material including pictures without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to SWEBackpacker with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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