We land at the new and very modern Holguin airport in the late afternoon and emerge from the plane into warm weather and a lovely tropical breeze. Susan runs afoul of authority by trying to smuggle some fresh fruit into the country. Bob is lucky enough to be chosen for a luggage search. We suspect Immigration is curious that we travel with only small carry-on bags and are not joining all the other tourists at one of the all-inclusive resorts. He is turned over to a very polite and somewhat nervous customs official-in-training who proceeds to search every nook and cranny of his meagre possessions. Bob asks the customs official if he thinks he might be un terroristo. He replies with a serious expression: "¡Es possible, Señor!" At the end of the search, he politely apologizes and says: "It's my job, you know".
Next we pick up our rental car and head for downtown Holguin. Forgetting how few road signs there are in Cuba, we promptly get lost. Eventually, we find our casa particular and meet our hosts: Rueben, a retired lawyer and Marta, a professor of English at the local University. We settle into their attractive little house and have a quick nap while Marta cooks dinner for us. Our meals are served on a back patio surrounded by trees and flowers, filled with birds and other wildlife.
In the morning, Marta gives Susan a Spanish lesson. Rueben tries to do the same for Bob by talking to him in Spanish, on a variety of subjects, very rapidly and without pausing for a breath. Bob makes a valiant effort to concentrate on what Ruben is saying until it feels like his eyes are crossing. They are warm and genuine people and we like them very much.
Holguin is a typical Spanish colonial city built around a lovely parque central, which is always filled with people and is the focus of social life. This plaza is filled with trees and has a large ornate fountain in the centre. Like most Cuban cities, the old colonial buildings are beautiful but crumbling from neglect and lack of money for maintenance. Our favourite pastime is to sit on a bench and watch the people. An older gent successfully tries to sell Bob a belt that he claims is homemade. A chatter of adolescents entertains us with their antics and allows us to take their pictures. One of the young ladies has a rose and Susan asks her to pose.
Next day we set out in the direction of the Guardalavaca resort area -- partly to have a look at an all-inclusive resort and partly just to see some countryside. Just outside of Holguin we pick up our first hitchhiker. Raphael, to Bob's astonishment, speaks nearly fluent German. It seems he spent five years studying in East Germany during the Soviet era. Raphael takes us to his house and introduces us to his family.
Because it is high tourist season, Rueben and Marta express some concern that we haven't booked our accommodations in advance . Rueben calls friends in each of the cities on our itinerary and arranges places for us to stay. It means we don't have to search out a suitable place when we arrive in each city and also we receive a warm welcome at each stop because we are already practically friends of the family! After poring over our maps and getting directions, we finally make our way out of Holguin and head towards Bayamo.