When a small idea turns out to be a great experience: We just wanted to look at the train station…
It’s a warm day; the sun is beating down as we walk slowly to Trinidad station. Following the cobbled streets, peeking into the private homes and greeting people we pass.
The train station is not big, only a short platform and a small station building. A few people are waiting for the train.
We follow the track ahead. Alongside a huge brick building stand three old steam locomotives. The ’Men’s department’ wants to take a better look at them and out of nowhere a guy appears to show them around.
Meanwhile we ladies are snap happy with our cameras. When I sit down on a dressin (a small motorised platform that runs on the rails) to rest in the sun, a guy shows up to fix something on the dressin’s engine. “Shall I move?” I ask. He shakes his head and soon another man turns up. ‘Would we like a ride on the dressin?’
Before we can answer, the men’s department comes back. They’ve been asked the same question. A tour ten kilometres up the valley, would we like that? We nod yes. A Danish couple have appeared and join us.
We roll out of Trinidad and up the ‘Valle de los Ingenios’, where thousands of slaves once worked on sugarcane plantations. Sugar cane still grows here and the beautiful mountains around us could probably tell a story or two. Instead the murky history remains a faded memory on this fine day. We roll on. Horses grazing along the railway line move lazily when we approach. People we pass are smiling and waving. I’m sitting on the back of the dressin and think of Björk’s music video ‘Big Time Sensuality’, in which she danced around in New York on the back of a truck. I don’t dance (only in my head), but sit nice and quiet. Occasionally the guys running the dressin look back to make sure I’m fine. Meanwhile Joe sits next to them filming with his GoPro.
Finally we stop. The men unscrew something, pick up some planks and jacks and voila, they can turn the whole thing around. The platform I have been sitting on is now at the front and the dressin is behind. But we are not heading back yet. Right next to us is a house. ‘Come on’, the men wave, so we follow past the house and towards a field. Here one of them disappears in among the sugar canes. A little later he emerges with a huge length of cane. He cuts and picks and soon we all have our own piece to chew on, while we walk over to the house to say hello.
Here there are adults and children, there are chickens, piglets, kittens and a skinny little puppy. In the midst of it all is a cage with a Hutia, a kind of rodent that is very unique to Cuba. Its appearance reminds us of an Australian Quokka. It doesn’t seem to be stressed by all the people standing around it. Actually it seems quite comfortable with it all, chewing on some food while being scratched on the back. In fact, it looks like it gets better treatment than the poor skinny puppy running around.
Joe asks about the Russian tractor standing next to us. I wander away from the house and back towards the dressin, where the children are playing. “Where are you from?” one of the girls asks. A few decades ago the English language was a big no no. Now, increasing numbers of Cubans speak English as the tourist business grows and starts to spread through the island. We giggle a bit together and take pictures before the others come back. We have to say goodbye and return to Trinidad.
The dressin is started up again and the trip back to Trinidad seems to go fast. We pass the green fields; pass the horses and the occasional Cuban who works along the trackside. Returning to the station, where nobody is waiting for the train now.