'Where are you going after Trinidad?' asked Daisy.
'We're off to Camagüey,' I said.
'I know a good casa in Camagüey,' she said, and so began our hop from casa to casa, which would last for the rest of our trip. Once you're on the casa treadmill, it's easy to stay on it; the only downside of being passed from casa to casa is a subtle commission charge that the owners will add to the price, and which will be sent back to the casa owner who made the recommendations in the first place. In a sense this is a bit of a scam, and if I was travelling on a budget I'd politely refuse the recommendations and find my own lodgings, but when you've only got a couple of weeks in Cuba and you're looking for an easy life, it's the most relaxing way to find a place to stay.
It didn't sound so simple when Manuel sat down with a hand-drawn map and explained where we should go. His map was little more than a straight line from left to right, with six marks denoting something we'd come across on the way into Camagüey.
'Here is the main road into Camagüey,' said Manuel. 'You will come into the city here, and go past the punto de control amarillo. Here will be men in yellow trousers; you should take no notice of them. Then you will come to a puente – what is puente in English?'
I looked it up. 'Bridge,' I said, and Manuel continued.
'OK, so you go over the bridge, and past the Hospital Materno. Then you will come to the Hospital Aneologico and there will be a man outside with a red hat and white trousers. You should talk to him about finding your casa. After him is a rotunda and another puente, but you need to find the man in the red hat.'
'Oh,' we said, wondering how on earth this was going to work. 'Thanks very much.' And off we went.
As we came into Camagüey, this is what happened.
'Look, we're in Camagüey, there's the sign.'
'Right, where's that map?'
'In the glove compartment.'
'OK, so what's the first thing we're looking for?
'The punto de control.'
'And what did he say about that?'
'I don't know. Something about trousers?'
'Oh. Did he mean those guys over there in yellow suits?'
'No, that's a bus stop, isn't it?'
'Looks like it. OK, punto, punto...'
'Then there's a bridge.'
'Hang on, we're still looking for the punto. Perhaps we have to get through the outer suburbs first?'
'Sounds likely. Oh look, there's a hospital! Hospital... Gynaecologico. We're looking for the Hospital Materno, then the Hospital Aneologico. No mention of the Gynaecologico anywhere.'
'Probably on a bit.'
'Hang on, the road's forking. Did he say anything about the road forking?'
'Ah shit. We're lost already. And someone's blaring their bloody horn at me.'
'Can you pull over?'
'I'll just get through this roundabout system. Hang on.'
'How about here, by that man in the white trousers?'
'What the one waving the red hat?'
'Bloody hell, it's the man in the red hat. Slow down!'
And Peta wound down her window, waved at the man in the red hat, and that's how we met Ricardo from our casa. We couldn't quite believe it; Manuel's directions had, against all the odds, worked.
Who would have thought it?