"" Writer's Wanderings: Port of Call: Cienfuegos, Cuba

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Port of Call: Cienfuegos, Cuba

Cienfuegos is most likely named for the captain general of Cuba from 1516-1519, Jose Cienfuegos and not for a hundred fires which is how it translates. Its population is only about 170,000 but its deep water harbor makes it an excellent port for imports and exports. It was described to us as an industrial city with colonial charm. I wasn't sure what to expect but what we found was truly charming.

The doctor is behind the guy in white. I missed the shot.
Our Enrichment Lecturer, Sandy Cares, had told us what to expect at this port for immigration. Something new was that a doctor and nurse might be stationed outside the entrance to immigration and may use an infrared thermometer to make sure no one who is ill is coming ashore. We've seen this done before in Japan, for one. As the day was already heating up as we approached immigration and we were in the sun, I wondered if they could get an accurate reading. The doctor and nurse were there but it didn't appear that they were taking temps.

While the immigration building was quite small, the process moved quickly. Bob needed to get some of the larger CUC bills changed to smaller denominations so he went to the exchange window and they were happy to do that for him.

We boarded our designated bus for our tour. I wondered if they were the same buses we'd used in Santiago. (The buses we'd used for our Christmas Markets cruise last year followed our boat up and down the river.) Our guide this morning didn't speak quite as clearly as the previous day's guide but she was still quite understandable. We would have about a half hour drive to the outskirts of Cienfuegos to a dolphin show. When we booked our excursions, this one was an alternative to spending a whole day on an excursion to Trinidad. We're not fond of all day excursions and this one would get us out in the country a bit.

Audience participation.
The roads we took were a bit bumpy but in somewhat good condition--better than some of the roads we'd experienced in Costa Rica. This area has a French influence as the founder of the city, Louis de Clouet was a Frenchman from New Orleans and there was a French migration from Haiti and many French coffee plantations were established. We didn't see any coffee plantations but there were a lot of mango orchards along the way.

One of the other interesting facts we learned about this area is that it supplies artisanal charcoal. It is made from an invasive plant that was introduced to Cuba from South America. In clearing fields for agriculture, the Marabu plant can be taken and carbonized and used as a good quality charcoal. It was the first export in 50 years to make it to the US.

The dolphin complex was very much like those we've visited in the states. Not exactly Sea World style but very nicely built for the dolphins as well as the viewing audience. It was an educational facility as well explaining the life and habitat of the bottle nosed dolphin.

One of the trainers explained their mission and answered questions about the dolphins. Considering the language barriers he did an excellent job. The show was amazing. Dolphins are just amazing in their own right. One of the things we remarked about however was that they used a lot of people from the audience. I don't believe they were plants in the audience but one girl did have a bathing suit under her shorts. I was just amazed that there was apparently no signing of wavers and the interaction with the dolphins was without a trainer in the water.

Once aboard the buses again, we were on our way to the city for our walking part of the tour.

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