On arrival in Bayamo, we are greeted by our next hosts, waiting for us on their doorstep with big smiles. Anita and Diego are a charming and delightful couple in their mid-twenties. As well as operating a casa particular, they are also professional musicians. They perform as "Duo Esmeralda" either on their own or with a band. We quickly settle in to their small apartment. Anita cooks a delicious meal, various friends and relatives drop in to meet the visitors and Bob makes several runs to the nearest hotel for beer and wine. The Duo Esmeralda puts on a private performance for us and a fine time is had by all.
The small city of Bayamo is a jewel! It was here in 1868, that the struggle for independence from Spain first began under the leadership of Carlos Manuel Cespedes, called the Father of Cuba. The beautiful central square is named Parque Cespedes in his honour. Probably because of the historical significance of the city to the Cuban people, government money has been spent to restore and refurbish the old buildings and it is one of the most appealing places we have visited. The main shopping street is a pedestrian-only mall and there are many stores and restaurants.
The next day, we set out for Manzanillo on the coast. The countryside is dry due to the continuing drought and the roads are in disrepair. Manzanillo is a pretty seaside town with wide streets and lots of flowers blooming everywhere. We walk along the malecon, looking at the fishing boats and watching the horse-drawn taxis.
Leaving Manzanillo, we head south into the Sierra Maestra mountains and then back towards Bayamo by a different route. We pick up hitch-hikers at each leg of the journey. Some are chatty and talkative and some, particularly women, say nothing at all. We stop in the town of Yara for a snack. A roadside booth offers roast pork sandwiches. The booth is built of scrap lumber and has neither refrigeration nor running water but the sandwiches are delicious and afterwards we suffer no ill effects.
Anita cooks us another fabulous meal but seems disinclined to let Diego drink so much beer tonight, so our evening is quieter. The next morning we say goodbye to our hosts with regret and head east towards our next destination, Santiago de Cuba