So my final stop in the Caribbean is Cuba. After missing my flight and scrambling to catch the next one (only one daily direct flight from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic to Havana, Cuba) I maxed out my debit cards daily limit to pay for the flight and hold all the cash I needed for Cuba.
As a proud and distinguished American that enjoys all of life’s entitlements I found my banks useless in Cuba. Allegedly there is a bank in Havana that will
take US based debits cards. I could not find it though. So before my flight I had to take out all the money I would use in Cuba. Luckily I was able to scrape by with the amount I brought. I should have brought about double what I did bring tho.
Flying in on March 6th I arrived only two hours delayed. I met Amanda, a proper English girl with a keen grasp on Spanish, a couple hours later. Her flight was only delayed three hours. We hopped in a taxi ($25 CUC) to the AirBnB. After a long drive around blocks and blocks we were able to locate the building. Settling into the apartment we ventured to the streets of Havana. Observing the architecture and cars driving I assumed that is what it felt like to be in a major city in the 50’s. The buildings looked like they hadn’t been built or even updated in about a half century. The cars were predominantly early to mid 50’s American classics (early Bel Airs, Customliners, Mercury’s…) with some 70’s Peugeots and BMW 2002s sprinkled in. Walking to the wee hours of the morning we didn’t run into any trouble. We encountered more drunken singers, rowdy teenagers, and small shops open to service the stumbling foot traffic. Being white we got our fair share of interest overall as well.
The next day we took a four hour collectivo to Trinidad ($25 CUC per person). Arriving at 13:00 Trinidad is even more untouched than Havana. Most of the northern streets are cobblestone. Taxis range from covered bicycles to “tuk-tuks” to more of the common Classic Americana type. A sking around for simple things like Wi-Fi spots or finding soap or a toothbrush was more than a simple stroll to the corner store. Most places have extremely limited selections of basic items. There isn’t the 7-11 you can walk to
. There are no foreign franchises. Even at a store you would expect to find water, soap, a toothbrush, and other toiletries you would be lucky to find one or two of them there IF you can find that store. There may only be one in town.
WIFI EXPERIENCE: So in Cuba like so many other things WIFI is limited and somewhat restricted. You are limited to locating a certain park or square or driveway were WIFI is offered. There are
usually swarms of people on their smart phones stuffed in their faces. You must buy a card from someone selling the cards there. There are certain hotels that sell them as well but the price difference is 1-2 CUC and you usually spend a couple hours of searching for the right hotel. You buy the card (2-3 CUC per hour). Log in and hope it doesn’t crap out on you.
Trinidad was great.
We took a two hour hike to a water fall. On the
way a nice gentleman made some fresh squeezed sugar canewater for us, “…want some sugar water? Pay whatever you want.” That was really nice. What was strange was when he took an interest
in my tattoos. I had a fresh tiger on my should that caught his attention. He proceeded to show me his collection of photos of his girlfriend’s fresh leg piece. I usually enjoy t
he camaraderie. What I didn’t expect or really enjoy was his swiping thru his collection of photos and randomly passing some where she wasn’t wearing any clothes. Anyway.
Making our way to El Pilón waterfall it was a site to see. The humidity and exercise gave us much motivation to take a plunge. The waterfall was a long slide down some rock where you could swim around and behind it. As well as jump off a few rocks. Photos give more prudence than words on a page:
Trinidad overall was a treat. The small and charming city was more popular than we realized but was well worth the trip. On our return taxi to Havana we were spoiled with a taxi all to ourselves. It even came with A/C!! It needed it as the floorboard didn’t provide much separation from the very hot drivetrain right below us. The rest of the Havana visit was met with expensive restaurants, mojitos along the Malecón, and Cuban music as far as the ear can travel.
The culture in Cuba is one of the people. Cubans leave their front doors open exposing festivities in each home. We did not see any fights or petty crime. Cubans sing their hearts out in the street, dance to the pumping music, and look to have a great time. I guess a communist dictatorship could make one appreciate what little freedoms you have in life and not dwell on the ones you lack. As an American I am proud to experience this. Until recently a visit to Cuba was not appreciated. But now? Americans are now catching up with the rest of the world in enjoying what
Cuba has to offer. And it has a lot to offer as long as you’re OK with leaving some comfort at home because most of them are not here. Yet.
Mexico City is next on the agenda. It will be a drastic change. But a good one?