The day started out foggy. Jorge was on time ready to take us to the cayos, specifically Cayo Las Brujas, the first of the cays to be developed for tourism.
Cubans are not allowed past the checkpoint on the causeway. We have to pay our driver the going rate of US$50 a day to get to the beach. His car is licensed to drive tourists to the cays. We learn later that he knows practically every guard at the checkpoint.
Cayo Las Brujas lets tourists like us not checked in one of their villas to enter the property for a fee of US$4 each, which includes a burger and a drink in the restaurant bar. We pay our dues, walk past the resort guests who are taking their time to eat breakfast, and pick a spot on the beach far away from the rest. . .
We eat our burgers and drink our mojitos at the bar before sunset while waiting for Jorge to pick us up. We play a second round of Scrabble and rub lotion on our fresh tans.
On our way back, Jorge stops the car in the middle of the empty causeway when he spots a small boat by the rocks. They were Cuban fisherman. This was an opportunity for our driver to buy langostinos (lobsters) at black market prices for his family. There was a diver in a wet suit. The boat stays near the rocks to avoid being spotted. If our car trunk is inspected at the exit, we agreed to tell them that the lobsters are for us to eat and we got them from the villa. Luckily, we didn't have to lie and our driver cheers as soon as we drive past the guards. "No es cocaino, no es marijuana, they're lobsters! It's okay, right?" We reassure him and don't mind too much being accomplices to his securing a rare treat for his family.
Back at Señora Virginia's, crab stew and freshly squeezed fruit juices were being prepared for our dinner. The crabs presumably are also bought illegally and directly from fishermen, just like the lobsters we enjoyed back in Santa Clara. We watch Fidel Castro deliver a speech live on TV. We admire the revolutionary fervor that still lingers even after 10 U.S. presidencies. Two hours pass and Fidel is still going even though there are quick shots of his staff swiveling in their seats.
The next day, Señora Virginia's sister-in-law and designated cook of the house packed us more crab stew for lunch. We convinced Jorge, this time for US$57, to try and ask the security guards to let us into Playa Ensenachos today. It is closed to the public because of a gigantic resort being built with the help of French developers. The resort is slated to open by 2005. We got there the right day because it was the construction workers' day off. We had the beach to ourselves. Armed with two big bottles of water and plastic containers of rice and crabs, Jorge left us in peace.
By sunset, Jorge returned and picked us up. Our drive was very pleasant: the mangroves, the blue water and the floating clouds were all in place. Our skins are as orange as the crabs we ate.
Tomorrow, we're joining a family in their car to drive to the next province in our itinerary: Sancti Spíritus, home of the colonial city of Trinidad.