We tossed a coin at the next unmarked junction before continuing our aimless afternoon hike. The searing sun made it no more appetising than our first night’s stroll in a monsoon. I was now more aware of Angelica’s meteorological indifference.
Nirvana from this cycle of suffering came in the unusual angelic chariot of a battered Russian minivan. The celestial beings within wore not flowing white robes but huge smiles and the dusty green overalls of workers from a local power station. It was, after all, an atheistic Communist state. They cheerily urged us to climb on-board despite us not knowing where we wanted to go or any given sign that we were even looking to hitch a lift.
Many Cubans had approached us on the streets and their garrulous nature usually lost its charm when the conversation turned to money. Away from the tour groups, few tourists perhaps wander amongst the locals. We were stepping into the safari park without the protection of a guide to warn off the more unpredictable of the exotic species.
The men and women of the power station were the first Cuban workers we’d met whose work didn’t involve serving us. Given the choice, they held back nothing. We were besieged from all sides with enthusiastic questions. They weren’t deeply curious about our origins, but happy to chat and share the joy of the moment. A bottle of firewater was passed around liberally and our presence inspired two or three celebratory toasts. After much noisy well-wishing, they dropped us off near a 5-Star hotel on a secluded beach hooting a good-bye salute before heading off to party amongst the power cables for the afternoon shift.
They were – by some distance – the happiest and most loveable public sector workers I’ve ever met.