One would think that taking a collectivo taxi (ie a taxi that follows a fixed route but takes more than one passenger) from Trinidad – Viñales would be faster than taking the bus. One could also be very, very wrong!
I was the last person to be collected from my Casa Particular in Trinidad and the first trick was to get the bags of 4 travellers into the back of the oldsmobile.
Then it was trying to get comfortable on the huge sofa-like back seat of car for the 5 hour trip to La Habana. Was quite soft and bouncy but – just like an an old couch – I could definitely feel the springs and it tended to sag in the middle. This meant that after about 3 hours I started to get a cramp in my butt because I was not evenly distributed — much wriggling ensued.
We stopped off about 2 hours into the trip to get more petrol, but rather than heading to the petrol station just ahead of us, we took a detour down a dirt road and pulled into someone’s house. Out came the funnel and the black-market petrol so that we could continue on our journey to the capital.
At La Habana it was meant to be quick and painless for me to swap from one collectivo to the next collectivo that would take me to Viñales. However, another of the passengers was catching a flight and was running very, very late to check in (seriously who cuts it this close?!) so we headed straight to the airport and not to my transfer place. There is no way he made his flight, and it meant that my transfer was screwed up as well.
We ended up heading to the ViAzul terminal where the driver tried to get me on a bus to Viñales. There were no seats – so that didn’t work. There were also no other collectivos going to Viñales so we dropped the other passengers off at their Casa Particular and returned to the ViAzul terminal to wait. Ended up waiting 3 hours (I love my Kindle) before being bundled into a clapped-out Peugeot.
But first we had to pick up 2 other passengers. They weren’t ready when we arrived so we had to wait while they took forever to get organised (turns out they weren’t expecting the collectivo for another hour and they weren’t told that I was waiting in the car). Finally, 4 hours after arriving in La Habana, we headed out on the road to Viñales. This scene is quite common in Cuba – huge multi-lane road with no traffic.
About an hour out of La Habana we hit a massive storm (Cuba does really, really good storms!). The problem was that the windscreen wipers of the car didn’t work, and given how torrential the rain was, we actually asked the driver to pull over to the side of the road so we didn’t end up dying.
We sat that out for about 1/2 hour and then took off with still marginal visibility that gradually became better. We’d already had a little car trouble, but 20 minutes up the road, we stopped for the 4th time while our driver fiddled around under the hood.
The eventual verdict was that he thought we’d probably run out of petrol, so to sit tight while he went to get some. Now, petrol stations in Cuba are not dime-a-dozen and we sat there for about 1.5 hours waiting for him to return. We had just reached the point of deciding to wave down the next bus or other form of public transport when he reappeared muttering “nothing is ever easy in Cuba”. Fortunately, the petrol did the trick and we didn’t have further drama to Viñales.
So what should have been a 7 hour trip, turned into a 12 hour trip for me (with ViAzul it would have been 9 hours) and I was pretty done once we arrived. The only saving grace was that all of these delays meant that I got to see one of the most spectacular sunsets I’ve seen in a while – huge columns of clouds lit up externally by the setting sun and also internally with lightning.