Where the streets have no name (and no tarmac too)
I got a lot of taxi in my life.
Most of them after dinner, but this is another story (ask my girlfriend about it).
Anyway, I also got a lot of crazy taxi driver (craxy driver).
I managed to escape an irregular taxi in Mexico City, I was driven around Dublin on Christmas night by a half blind driver, I was lost in Seven Sisters in London with a irregular driver without a clue where we were and where we were going (just to be saved by a caped Mesha in the middle of the night – and when I says caped, I mean it, he arrived with a night gown over a pajama).
Here in Cuba, I did it again.
Prologue: we spent a couple of night in Rancho Luna, a beautiful and unspoiled beach south of Cienfuegos, and we had to reach Cayo Coco beach, further north east, in time to check in to another hotel in a less unspoiled beach (I confess, we did book in a resort, but we were ignorant). It is Saturday, Cayo Coco, and so the nearest town Moron, has no bus station. We have to get a ride either by bus or by collectivo all the way to Ciego de Avila, then try to get to Cayo Coco with other means. So we leave Rancho Luna very early in the morning, back to Cienfuegos.
Bingo! Within 5 minutes from our arrival in Cienfuegos, we already had secured a taxi to Cayo Coco. A guy get us to a guy that get us to a guy that get us to a guy that has a car with a taxi sticker on the dashboard and can get us there. Wow, we could not believe our luck.
What can go possibly wrong?
We saw the car, we started to doubt we could ever get outside of town.
Of course not the newest model on the market, only the passenger door could be open, the passenger seat was kept up by a rusty metal rod, and, as usual the passenger, window was cut from a piece of Plexiglas.
As soon as we entered, the driver open the window and told us to keep it like that. We understand the reason after a few kilometers: the exhaust had found a way into the main cabin.
Nothing really worked inside too. No speedometer, no fuel indicator, all the various switch and levers were replaced by, well, holes that look a lot like extracted teeth. Just the radio was pristine new and discarded plenty of reggeaton with no sign of tiredness.
So we go.
After the first 10 km we stopped in the middle of a crossroads, and it cannot go anymore.
The starter has gone, so we had to push in order to get going.
We think, this is it. Let’s find another taxi, if we can.
But not, our driver is determined to get us to destination. Who need the starter? just do not switch it off.
After another 10 km the clutch has gone too, the cable cannot disengage it. No way to move the car from standpoint.
We were not yet in Santa Clara, less than a third of the way to our goal, and the card had lost already two third of its moving parts.
And here it comes an act of heroism, the same that makes Cuban people the real heroes of Cuban revolution.
The guy, with some help from passerbys, was able to get us to Cayo Coco in a single ride, stopping for nothing. And I mean literally. Stopping the car would have meant no to be able to start it again. So whatever it was on the way, crossroads, passing cars, people or horses, just a bit of clackson, and we have to go, no brakes or we are done.
It was not an easy task, given the fact that a) he had never been in Cayo Coco and did not know which way, b) he commit the insane gesture to ask me for direction.
So I got Bea’s mobile, who, as a good German as she is, has already downloaded Cuba’s maps, try to workout the shortest way from A to B and feed direction to our driver.
Result: we drove a car without clutch and starter in the middle of the sierra, where streets have no name and actually not even tarmac. The shortest route that Bea’s navigator found for us was also the slowest one. And no even other cars to help us.
Just cart with horses, and campesinos, and old men sitting on the sunny side of the street, watching silently an old battered bordeaux car with a sun burned red German in the back, a sweating foreigner in a electric blue straw hat in the front giving instructions to a bewildered Cuban trying to keep it going, while reciting “ahi que coincidencia, ahi que coincidencia”.
But we did it. We got to Cayo Coco, we got to the hotel, we said goodbye and good luck (and he needed a lot of it to get back) to our driver, we sent a kiss to his new born Fabio, we give him another push to get the gear on, and we get in our new hell.
If you are wondering, the car was not one of the 50s beauties from so many travel magazines, like the one that brought us from Habana to Cienfuegos, and neither it was one of the latest Lada from the Soviet period, the Fiat 131 copies.
It was an old 80s hatchback, with that bordeaux so fashionable then, one I have seen before, but I could not track, until the last moment.
It was an Alfa Romeo Nissan Auto, that from some strange reason, had end up its days on a caribbean coast city to give me the best car ride and likely the best memento of this Cuban holiday.