I met this elderly gentleman with his donkey on the street. He spoke little but I figured that for a small fee, he will give you a guided ride on his donkey around the old town. He had his official licence card attached to his pocket. With a lighted cigar in his mouth and a few more stashed in his shirt pocket, he was quite a character. I liked him because he did not have the tenacity of some of the street touts but instead a humble ‘welcome’. I have a soft spot for old people. What must his life be about? He is certainly older than the revolution, perhaps have participated in it. Perhaps a sugar plantation worker? I slipped a few CUCs into his hands before I left. Although no conversations materialised, I liked him.
Towards lunch time, Cubano and Latin music filled some parts of the old town eateries. The atmosphere was great. Most of the ‘fancy’ restaurants were filled with ‘antique’ furniture and fittings. ‘Antique’ as this is the normal furniture in Cuba’s time-wrapped setting. It fits perfectly with the surroundings and everyday living. After a tasty and filling lunch at one of the restaurant’s dotted around the plaza, I followed the sound of music to Casa de la Musica. Someone waved to me and yelled Malaysia, Amigo! It was Moises. He was in action not with his shinny trumpet but a double bass guitar. With my Cuba Libre, rum and coke in hand, it was a great way to digest my lunch, listening to soothing music. The lyrics took a surprising turn as a song was dedicated to me. Slightly embarrassed and partly a feeling of being ‘local’. Moises and a few guys joined me on their break.
Near Plaza Mayor, I met Senor Jose Luis sunning himself on a chair with a cigar in his hand. The only man in town with a suit and tie. It fitted him persona perfectly. I noticed a cane on his side. He had a mellowed aura appearance. I had a short chat with him before continuing my walk. I felt a sense of ‘loss of a friend’ when I left. Senor Jose had this effect on me. I was saddened that I could not communicate to find out about his stories behind those intriguing jaded eyes. I would see Senor Jose a few more times before leaving Trinidad. Always, at the same spot.
I decided to walk away from the town centre towards the fringes of the old town. I met a man selling fresh coconuts near Convento de la Asis plaza. A few coconuts were piled up on a wooden wheel barrow. I quenched my thirst with a cold drink of coconut water. Unlike some people, I scrapped out the white flesh meat. Delicious in the hot and humid weather.
On this stretch of the street, there were accommodations but no restaurants. The bright pastel colours of the houses reflected strongly from the tilting sun. A man offered horse ride up to the mountains. I was slightly under the weather and opted out. Would have been great to wander around the old plantations. Horses and horse carts were kept in this part of the old town. The stench is unmistakable. There were no tourist here. The views however, extended towards the refreshing green mountains. Kids returned from school as families relaxed and chatted on the shaded side walk.
In the golden hour, I wandered around Plaza Mayor. An elderly man strutted some songs on his guitar. The colours on the buildings with its pastel colours glowed in the setting sun. A few people had already gathered on the steps of Casa de Musica and musicians were already warming-up. I wondered if there were any younger musicians around. All the musicians I had seen or spoken to seem aged. For now, I savoured the mellow pace of life here.
For dinner, I headed to one of the local “paladar”. Yes, live music in the restaurant as well in few other establishments. I heard my name called from the street. It was Enrique. This time he was playing the trumpet in a restaurant across the street. It was a good feeling, a simple gesture of acknowledgment from a friend. I admired the likes of Moises and Enrique for their hard work and multi-talent with various instruments. To make a living, they had to be come ‘mercenaries’ of music. Actually independent musicians. It would have been nice to have had some company tonight, I thought. Well, that’s part of independent travel I guess. Later, I returned to Casa de la Musica and had my customary drink, “cuba libre”, rum with coke and lime. The crowd swelled after 10pm as the soul searching tourists’ become bitten by the soothing music of the balmy Cuban night. Perhaps, the drinks contributed towards this effect as well.