We came to Bayamo as we had heard about its huge Saturday night fiesta, unique in Cuba, featuring street bands, street food, organ grinders and streets full of horses. It isn’t quite as advertised; there are no horses or organ grinders, the street food was two stands that sold churros and one that sold popcorn, plus three restaurants with tables in the street, the ‘bands’ were two areas with speakers and lights and the party was a rather subdued affair. J and I tried hard to find the party. The highlight was a goat cart; i.e a cart, pulled by a goat that children could ride on. We went to a lively corner bar that had a faint whiff of sewage about it for a couple of beers, walked up and down the high street trying to find a restaurant that was open, had veggie options and no queue, and, when we failed, hit a soulless hotel bar for a supper of rum and Cornettos, returned to the bar with the faint whiff of sewage, acknowledging it was the place to be, then had one last wander (interestingly, we watched a group of 4 tourists come into the the sniffy bar, sit at the only available table, decide they didn’t like something (the faint whiff of sewage, the indifferent service or the flies on the dirty table) leave, only to return 10 mins later with a look of disappointment, which got deeper when they realised that the only table available was no longer so). Our last foray out to find the party was when it it got better … we found about 30 locals dancing on a street corner near one of the speaker set ups. It really was the first time we had seen such a large collection of locals having fun. When that wound up, we thought we would push our luck and head to the Casa Trova and see if this was also kicking off, and it was. About 100 locals dancing and singing, to reggaeton, disco classics (Michael Jackson, the Bee Gees) and to odd things like the Jungle Book “King of the Swingers”. We fell in with a local family and, after closing time, sat with them in the town square drinking more rum. I think we were the last people ’standing’ as we wandered home at 2.30am, having had a really enjoyable night.
The next day was less enjoyable with J and I wandering around a largely closed, very humid, town with rum flavoured sweat seeping out of us.
Besides the fiesta, there is little to recommend in Bayamo. The Lonely Planet has a number of entries under sights and activities and at first glance it appears interesting, but on closer inspection the sights can be summarised as follows:
• A town square
• A house where someone famous lived until they were 12
• A pedestrianised ‘shopping’ street.
• A small square where Fidel did his last speech before becoming ill.
• A museum with some shells, bones and stones in it.
• 3 churches (closed on Sundays……really)
• A plaque to mark where the national anthem before the current one was first sung
• A house that belonged to a previous president but within which ‘You’ll find little about the famous former occupant”
So we ended up:
• Going to a restaurant that served an omelet so swimming in fat it was inedible
• Having ice cream in a place that ripped us off by saying the prices were in CUC not CUP (so x 24)
• Getting some Wifi cards from a shop assistant that did the whole transaction with using only one word – ‘passport’ – and avoiding eye contact.
• Walking the pedestrianised shopping street, twice
• Visiting some closed churches
• Going into a ‘supermarket’ to marvel at the lack of stuff
• Wishing that our bus was earlier.
And it remains the best town we have been to.