We had an uneventful motor sail from Santiago to Morea de Portillo. We anchored in a very protected lagoon, with mangroves around part of us and a small town a short dingy ride away. About 20 minutes after we got our anchor down, the Guarda came out to us in a small boat that was rowed by a woman named Joshpene. He just looked at our paperwork, asked us when we were leaving and took our cruising permit and told us he would bring it back with a despachio (a clearance) when we left. The whole thing took less than 10 minutes.
|Niko meets a pig for the first time|
We took a nap and then decided to dingy ashore to check it out. The “dock” was a concrete slab with some rebar bent so you could tie your line to it. There were about 10 people sitting in the shade under a tree and greeted us. As soon as we got there, the kids took Niko (our dog) from us and played with her – running and throwing coconut shells into the water so she would go swimming. One very quiet and nice woman with a young child invited us to take a walk and see her house. We walked about 2 minutes down a dirt road to where she lived, sat inside and “talked” a little with my bad Spanish and hand gestures. She gave us a few coconuts and I gave her a bar of soap. We decided to keep walking around the little town. Every house we passed had a pseudo fenced area that housed pigs, chickens and turkeys. The fences didn’t really keep anything in and there were little pigs and chicks running in front of us, big pigs laying in the shade on the street – it was great! A few houses down from the first girl we met, was Victor’s house. Victor is an older gentlemen who spoke a little English. He took us to his house and we sat down and chatted for a while. He asked if we would trade a few t-shirts with his family for some things and we said we would – we would just have to go out to the boat to get them. He got a big smile on his face and his nephew handed us a big bottle of freshly-pressed tomato juice. Victor then took us to his sister’s house and we again sat down and chatted a bit and she gave us a huge bottle of natural honey (in a rum bottle!)
|Chatting with the locals|
On our way back to the boat, we passed Josephine’s house and she too invited us in (they all love to show off their houses) and asked if we wanted any tomatoes or fish. I said sure and she gave us at least a dozen tomatoes and a whole fish. I asked how much she wanted for it all and she said she didn’t want anything, but maybe if we had a shirt or some shoes that would be nice. We told her we would bring her back something.
We boogied back to the boat and quickly went through our old clothes and put a few bags of old t-shirts, tank tops and shorts together and went back to town with Kevin and Deena. We first stopped at Josphene’s and gave her a t-shirt and a pair of old sneakers. Then we found Victor and he invited us back to his house. We gave his family and the family next door (the young woman with the small child) a few t-shirts, tank tops and shorts as well. They were so grateful. They made us the best cup of coffee – we asked how they made it and what they do is boil water and sugar cane together, but some coffee in a cloth filter and pour the water/sugar mixture in the filter and out comes the best tasting coffee. We told them how good it was and Victor ran off on his bicycle to get us two packages of coffee! We asked to see the backyard of their house, which is where they cook, and was amazed to see a literal small farm! There were numerous pigs, chickens, egg laying hens and turkeys – all in pens but also wandering around. They had a huge amount of land where they were growing onions, tomatoes, sugar cane, bananas, corn and sweet potatoes. They kept shoving all of their freshly grown goods in our bags until we were overflowing with potatoes, onions and tomatoes.
|Victor getting us some veggies|
We said our goodbyes to Victor’s family and he and his friend Jr took us on a small tour of the town where we saw the local schools (primary and secondary) and the small store (looked more like a food vendor’s trailer at a fair with the pop-out window) that had just a few things in it. Victor said there was a local peso store about 14 km away. They took us to the local bakery where we got some sweet pastries for ourselves and their families. They didn’t want to take them from us, but I told them it was a gift. Jr took us to his mom’s house, where he gave her his share of the pastries. She then gave us a bunch of onions, which we tried to say we didn’t need, but she insisted. Unlike in Santiago, where people would just come up to us to ask for soap or clothes or money, these people just wanted to trade and were so generous that they gave much more than they received.
|The main drag|
We walked back to where our boat was and Victor wanted us to stay another day so they could roast a pig for us and have a big dinner, but we told him we had to keep moving. Junior, who had walked Niko all day and who really liked her, half joking asked if we could keep her! We said unfortunately no, but Kevin gave him his old watch instead – Jr was psyched!
We all decided to drop off our loot and then dingy over across the bay to one of two resorts that were on the other side of the bay. We tried to get a drink at the bar by the pool, but the resorts are all inclusive. They pointed us to the front desk and we were told that for 10 CUC, we could have unlimited food and drink. Awesome – we don’t have to cook! So, we had dinner, which was a buffet and that night was Italian night, but they also had some of their local food. Well, as we all know, stick to the local food as they definitely don’t know how to cook lasagna, but their grilled pork with green peppers and onions were awesome with tons of fresh fruit, veggies and a big salad bar to go with it. Josh and Connor went back at least 4 times! We all had ice cream and a variety of other desserts at the end and basically rolled out of there and back to the boat to get ready for our 7 am departure the following morning.
|The bakery - note the pigs in the background!|
A Quick Note:
Everyone wants to trade – you can get all your veggies, fruits, fish and lobster here by trading. So far, the things we have been asked for is bars of soap, shirts, shorts, shoes and rum. If I would have been a little smarter, I would have gone to Good Will and stocked up on clothes. The women and men both range from petite to big, so a variety of sizes is best. They also need kid’s clothes. $1.00 flip flops from Wal-Mart or a similar store wouldn’t be a bad idea either. We didn’t bring enough soap, and are now cutting our bars into two, but nobody seems to mind. We also have a few small bottles of rum (Mickey sizes) and are saving those to trade with the fisherman for lobster.