Mourning for Fidel Castro has reached near-religious levels of adulation across Cuba since his death at the age of 90 on 25 November. Huge crowds have lined the roads to bid farewell and salute the funeral procession carrying his ashes from Havana to the eastern city of Santiago. The route retraces in reverse the path of the triumphant march of Castro and his rebels across the island to enter Havana on 1 January 1959.

Fidel Castro funeral cortege
A student holds images of Cuba's late President Fidel Castro and his brother Raul while awaiting the convoy carrying Fidel Castro's ashes in Sancti SpiritusEnrique De La Osa/Reuters

The scenes are reminiscent of the crowds who turned out to pay their respects to Robert Kennedy as his body was transported by train to from New York City Washington, DC in 1968.


Draped in the red, white and blue national flag, the box containing Castro's ashes set off from Havana's Revolution Square on Wednesday morning, wending its way along Havana's Malecon seaside boulevard and east into the countryside. Cubans along the route chanted "Fidel!" and waved small Cuban flags as the cortege passed through the towns of Matanzas, Cardenas, Jovellanos, Espana Republicana and Cienfuegos, before arriving in Santa Clara.

Fidel Castro funeral cortege
The urn with the ashes of Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro is driven through MatanzasRonaldo Schemidt/AFP
Fidel Castro funeral cortege
A man cries as the ashes of Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro pass by, in MatanzasRonaldo Schemidt/AFP
Fidel Castro funeral cortege
Soldiers take position along a highway in CardenasEdgard Garrido/Reuters
Fidel Castro funeral cortege
People release pigeons after the convoy of vehicles escorting the remains of former President of Cuba Fidel Castro passed through town of CardenasJoe Raedle/Getty Images
Fidel Castro funeral cortege
Schoolchildren hold a photograph of former Cuban President Fidel Castro as they wait for the convoy transporting his remains to pass through CardenasChip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Fidel Castro funeral cortege
Guillermo Enrique Cadiz, 82, who fought with Fidel Castro in the Sierra Maestra, watches as his ashes pass through JovellanosCarlos Barria/Reuters
Fidel Castro funeral cortege
Troops holding a Cuban flag wait for the remains of former Cuban President Fidel Castro to pass, in Espana RepublicanaChip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Fidel Castro funeral cortege
Ministry of Interior troops wait for the convoy transporting the remains of former Cuban President Fidel Castro to pass through Espana RepublicanaChip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Fidel Castro funeral cortege
Members of the Camilo Cienfuegos military school wait for the convoy carrying the remains of Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro to arrive in Cienfuegos, 240 km southeast of HavanaRodrigo Arangua/AFP
Fidel Castro funeral cortege
A Cuban cries while waiting for the arrival of the convoy carrying the remains of Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro in CienfuegosRodrigo Arangua/AFP
Fidel Castro funeral cortege
Members of the Camilo Cienfuegos military school wait for the arrival of the remains of Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro in CienfuegosRodrigo Arangua/AFP

People lined the streets of the Cuban city of Santa Clara as the convoy carrying the ashes of former leader Fidel Castro rolled in just after midnight. One of history's best known double acts was temporarily reunited in the city, when Castro's ashes rested overnight at a mausoleum housing the bones of his fellow revolutionary, Ernesto "Che" Guevara.

On Thursday morning, Castro's remains continued their journey east, through some of the island's oldest colonial cities that were founded in the early 1500s.

Fidel Castro funeral cortege
Soldiers after overcome with emotion after Castro's remains passed through the town of Santa ClaraRonaldo Schemidt/AFP
Fidel Castro funeral cortege
Soldiers cry after the urn with the ashes of Cuban leader Fidel Castro was driven through Santa ClaraRonaldo Schemidt/AFP
Fidel Castro funeral cortege
High school students wait for Fidel Castro's remains to pass through Santa ClaraRonaldo Schemidt/AFP
Fidel Castro funeral cortege
People sit on a rooftop to get a better view as the remains of former Cuban President Fidel Castro pass through Santa ClaraChip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Fidel Castro funeral cortege
A woman cries as the urn with the ashes of Cuban leader Fidel Castro is driven through Santa ClaraRonaldo Schemidt/AFP
Fidel Castro funeral cortege
People line the street to pay their respects to the former Cuban leader in Santa ClaraJoe Raedle/Getty Images
Fidel Castro funeral cortege
People line the street to watch the convoy of vehicles escorting the remains of the former President of Cuba through Santa ClaraJoe Raedle/Getty Images
Fidel Castro funeral cortege
A military jeep tows a trailer carrying the flag-draped chest containing the remains of Fidel Castro through Santa ClaraJoe Raedle/Getty Images

Cuba's outpouring of grief seems to become more intense the deeper Castro's remains travel into the rural heartland, heading towards eastern Cuba where his revolution started. It is here where his campaigns for literacy, social welfare and land redistribution had their deepest impact. But many towns are also in a prolonged economic collapse, the country's once-dominant sugar industry decimated, the sugar mills and plantations gone.

For many westerners, landing in Havana feels like travelling back in time to an era of 1950s cars and Art Deco homes unpainted for decades. Heading into the countryside is another step back — to a region where farmers plough with oxen and people travel by horse-cart. But, thanks to Castro's programmes, there are also neighbourhood health clinics, small-town libraries and specialised high schools with dance and arts instructors.

Fidel Castro funeral cortege
People wait for the urn with the ashes of Cuban leader Fidel Castro to be driven through Sancti SpiritusJuan Barreto/AFP
Fidel Castro funeral cortege
A man holds a portrait of late Cuban leader Fidel Castro at his house in Sancti SpiritusJuan Barreto/AFP
Fidel Castro funeral cortege
Yrela Perez holds images of Fidel Castro as she waits for the late Cuban President's ashes to pass through El MajaAlexandre Meneghini/Reuters
Fidel Castro funeral cortege
A person rests on the side of a road while awaiting the arrival of the convoy carrying Fidel Castro's ashes in El MajaEdgard Garrido/Reuters
Fidel Castro funeral cortege
Yoani Gomes holds images of Fidel Castro as she awaits the arrival of the convoy carrying the late Cuban President's ashes in El MajaAlexandre Meneghini/Reuters
Fidel Castro funeral cortege
Sisters await the arrival of the convoy carrying the late Cuban President Fidel Castro's ashes in El MajaEdgard Garrido/Reuters
Fidel Castro funeral cortege
People standing in a truck wave flags after watching the remains of former Cuban President Fidel Castro pass through El MajaChip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Fidel Castro funeral cortege
A woman pauses after watching the convoy of vehicles escorting the remains of former President of Cuba Fidel Castro pass by in El MajaJoe Raedle/Getty Images
Fidel Castro funeral cortege
People display a Cuban flag atop a car as they await the arrival of the caravan carrying the late Cuban President's ashes in El MajaAlexandre Meneghini/Reuters
Fidel Castro funeral cortege
A schoolboy waits next to a field of sugar cane in El MajaCarlos Barria/Reuters
Fidel Castro funeral cortege
People on trucks head towards the convoy carrying the ashes of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, in JatibonicoRonaldo Schemidt/AFP
Fidel Castro funeral cortege
People wave Cuban flags as they head towards the convoy carrying the ashes of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, in JatibonicoRonaldo Schemidt/AFP
Fidel Castro funeral cortege
Cubans smile as they are driven to see the military convoy carrying Castro's remains, in JatibonicoRonaldo Schemidt/AFP
Fidel Castro funeral cortege
A tractor trailer transports Cubans eager to bid farewell to their former president, as his remains pass through JatibonicoRonaldo Schemidt/AFP
Fidel Castro funeral cortege
People hold images of Fidel Castro as they wait for the convoy carrying the late Cuban President's ashes in JatibonicoEdgard Garrido/Reuters
Fidel Castro funeral cortege
Esteban Leiva, 84, who fought with Raul Castro in Sierra Maestra, awaits the arrival of the convoy carrying the late Cuban leader's ashes in GasparAlexandre Meneghini/Reuters
Fidel Castro funeral cortege
Former Revolutionary Pedro Sanchez, 81, holds a picture of himself as he waits for the caravan carrying Cuba's late President Fidel Castro's ashes in GasparCarlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters
Fidel Castro funeral cortege
A teenager looks from behind an umbrella while awaiting the arrival of the caravan carrying Cuba's late President Fidel Castro's ashes in GasparAlexandre Meneghini/Reuters

On Thursday evening, the cortege carrying the ashes of Fidel Castro arrived in the city of Camaguey, located 336 miles (542km) east of Havana.

Fidel Castro funeral cortege
Daniel Hernandez, 4, salutes while awaiting the convoy carrying the late Cuban President Fidel Castro's ashes in CamagueyCarlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters
Fidel Castro funeral cortege
A woman weeps as she holds an image of Cuba's late President Fidel Castro while awaiting the caravan carrying Castro's ashes in CamagueyCarlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters
Fidel Castro funeral cortege
Cubans wait for the remains of Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro to pass through CamagueyRodrigo Arangua/AFP
Fidel Castro funeral cortege
Cubans wait for the passage of the convoy carrying the remains of Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro to pass through CamagueyRodrigo Arangua/AFP
Fidel Castro funeral cortege
People line a road to watch as the convoy carrying Cuba's late President Fidel Castro's ashes enters CamagueyCarlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters
Fidel Castro funeral cortege
A soldier and local residents wait for the urn with the ashes of late Cuban leader Fidel Castro as it is driven through CamagueyJuan Barreto/AFP
Fidel Castro funeral cortege
People pay homage as the urn with the ashes of late Cuban leader Fidel Castro is driven through CamagueyJuan Barreto/AFP

Castro's remains will continue their journey to the eastern city of Santiago, where they will be interred on Sunday, ending a nine-day period of mourning.