My Cienfuegos courtyard
Travelling through Cuba, my iPhone was one of my most useful tools. It was my camera, note-taker, clock, music player, map and when I could find government-issued wifi, it was my only connection to the outside world. In fact, it was used as everything except a phone!
The town of Cienfuegos, on the southern side of the island, was my favourite stop. I stayed there for 5 days and slept in a casa room off a fragrant courtyard that was dotted with rocking chairs and potted palms. One thing this house was missing though, was a power outlet that was compatible with my iPhone charger. Even with an adaptor, my iPhone just wouldn’t charge.
On day 2, with under 10% battery life remaining, I navigated my way to a tourist-friendly hotel in the hope of finding somewhere to juice up my phone. I approached the bar a little breathless from the heat, eyeing off a suitable power outlet on the wall. Perching myself nearby on a barstool, I asked via charades if it was okay to plug my charger in. ‘Si! Of course!’, answered my bartender, Alfredo. He whipped me up a mojito bursting with fresh mint, zesty lime and plenty of ice, and I people-watched and made small talk while waiting for my phone to charge. After about an hour I thanked him sincerely, tipped him generously and went on my way.
After that, I stopped by for some power, some mojitos and some conversation every afternoon. Eventually I found out all about Alfredo’s family. He’d worked at the hotel for over 20 years and told me that working in a job with tourists was the best way to earn money as he had the ability to make tips. This also encouraged him to learn different languages, which he would then teach to his children. He shared photos of his daughter dancing and his kitchen (both of which he was very proud of).
On my last day in town he offered to help me find accommodation at my next stop and made some calls to set everything up. It was a particularly hot day and as I was quenching my thirst with another zesty mojito, he leaned in and whispered, ‘Just for today, if you would like to take a swim in the hotel pool, that is okay.’ It was the best thing I’d heard all day.
A bunch of young Russian hotel guests soon arrived and tried to take selfies by the poolside. I asked if I could help out and took some photos for them, struggling to navigate their smartphones because of the language barrier.
Dried and dressed, I sidled back down at the bar, only to be offered a giant blended drink. ‘A special drink for the bad photographer,’ he laughed as I excitedly sipped my daiquiri. After a bottle of water, a swim and far too many beverages later, my phone was well and truly charged up and it was time for me to enjoy my last evening in town.
‘Oh Alfredo, thank you so much for your help, you are a very kind person. Can I please get my bill?’
‘My beautiful friend, it was so good to meet you. You don’t need to pay for any rum today, just the bottle of water.’
At the time I was sure I’d never heard a more beautiful sentence. I hugged Alfredo goodbye and floated out of the building, a fully-charged phone in pocket.
As a solo traveller, I was surprised how my phone lead to opportunities to find amazing places, make new friends and even resulted in a dip in a private pool. Charging a phone is as good an excuse as any to find an adventure.
Just waiting for my phone battery to charge