Jodes and Nick’s Travel Diary

Monday, 09 Oct 2006

Location: Havana, Cuba

MapDue to the lack of internet access in Cuba we have had to do everything on the blog at the end of our trip here - so here goes with one big Cuba summary...

We have spent nearly 3 weeks here, but it is not nearly enough to understand this place, its people, its government, or even scratch the surface of the sites and places to visit.

What we have seen tells us that the place is definitely beautiful, but is a challenge to get around. You can get on a organised tour, but that would be easy (and crowded), or try and do it yourself, but that costs - Cuba is expensive. Luckily we met Basqe and Spanish couple, Ianko and Jezabel, at immigartion at Havana airport, and effectively decided to hire a car together on the spot. You need to speak some Spanish (road signs have largely yet to be discovered here), be patient (some ´roads´ had us driving at 18km an hour, dodging cenote size pot holes, and spending more time on the dirt alongside the ´pavement´!), and have an adventurous spirit.

Cubans are a resourceful lot, and although the socialist system provides the basic medical, food, schooling and housing, most need to find other means to improve the quality of life. So that means you get regularly hassled by jineteros (touts) trying to flog you cigars, accomodation, care hire, guide services (ie they join you in your car on the trip!), or a place to buy good / cheap food, and always for a commision! Accomodation, other than in expensive hotels, is via Casa Particulares, which are actually rooms in peoples houses, and that is a little weird at first, but after a while quiet enjoyable in that they cook for you and you get to talk about what is happening in their lives and Cuba. The biggest complaint from many Cubans is the lack of freedom/flexibility, either due to government controls or just lack of money. Cars, buildings, infrastructure, everything is old and just holding together, so although the current regime has improved the lot of many Cubans since the corrupt Batista government of the 50´s, it now looks to be struggling somewhat. Who knows what is going to happen when Fidel passes, although cant see it becoming the next state of the US - the people are prepared to stand up for themselves.

So what else have we done...
- swam and snorkled in/on the most amazingly clear waters
- did an introductory scuba dive (Jodes)
- ate too much fried chicken (Nick) and good greasy street pizza
- ate lots of good seafood (Jodes)
- driven 1,300km and bused another 1,500km
- practiced/improved our Spanish on/with Ianko and Jezabel
- stayed in a lots of peoples houses (Casa Paticulares)
- listened to some good live music
- had (in Jodes case) free Salsa lessons from exhuberant locals
- saw (maybe the best collection) of colonial places in Old Havana
- smoked good Cuban cigars
- drank good amounts of beer, rum and mojitos
- seen and read lots about the revolution, Fidel, Che and co..

Unfortunately we haven´t seen much of that famed Cuban street music, but last night had the fortune to eat out with a live band and have a little old guy from the street dance salsa - he had the legendary Cuban hand and hip movements!

Best that you just check out the pictures on the blog and get here yourself before it all goes and changes.

PS Ianko and Jezabel, thanks for sharing the car with us, helping to improve our Spanish and interpreting where necessary with the locals and for Nick´s birthday present.