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Again, we rose in good time, after another restrained round of cocktails – only six each this time as they had run out of crème de menthe.

And so we headed north, to cross the island once again, heading to Matanzas.

I should have mentioned that our previous two nights were at the south side of the island, in the Zapata Peninsula Swamp area, at another historic site: El Bahia de Cochinos, a.k.a. The Bay of Pigs, where mercenaries, believed to have been backed by the CIA, staged an ill-fated invasion in April 1961. 156 Cuban combatants and five civilians died and were elevated to martyr status in Cuba’s battle against imperialist forces.

Right outside our lodgings was the Museo Girón, with a British Sea Fury that took part in the battle on the Cuban side, as its main attraction, alongside two replica Russian built tanks.

As we drove along the Bay of Pigs towards La Boca, we kept passing monuments, marking a spot where one of the martyrs had died.

At La Boca, the mood changed as this was a park / zoo dedicated to the endangered Cuban Crocodile, a nice change from the lizards that I normally encounter during cactus trips and that find their way into talks. The purpose of the project is to raise crocodiles to be released back into the wild to compensate for their fall in numbers due to hunting and loss of natural habitat. According to my guide book, 80-90% of the animals raised here fall prey to ….. human consumption, starting in their own restaurant: ‘Make me a Crocodile Sandwich and make it snappy!’

We all dully posed with one of these creatures; a small one, with it’s jaws tightly wound by a rope, much thicker than it needed to be. I had mixed feelings about the appropriateness of the exercise, but it is easy to get carried away by the event. We declined the offer of the Crocodile Lunch.

Our drive across the island was uneventful, again. Sugarcane dominated the scenery.

At Matanzas, we got lost, as expected, in the town, lacking in sign posts as usual, but at least we had learned the lesson to look over our shoulders, as the most useful sign posts are the ones that benefit drivers going in the opposite direction. It seemed that the neighbouring town of Varadero is where the hotels were to be found. Most were in the $$$$$ price class, way outside of our budget. Things were getting a bit tense financially. More and more hotels and petrol stations were claiming that their credit card lines were not working and so we had eaten into our cash reserves more than we had wanted to. We all had some Euros and Pound Sterling left in reserve, but did not want to change more than was strictly needed as any unspent CUCs would be useless outside of Cuba.

We stopped at the first hotel outside of Varadero.  Did not look too bad and the price was roughly what we had been paying throughout our trip, but this time it was ALL INCLUSIVE! So while that meant that the buffet meals were unimaginative food to fill the stomach, the drinks, again, were for free! Excellent!! Cheers!!!

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