When my Lisa told me she booked the holiday and it was to Cuba there was a thousand and one things going through my head (what cameras to take, the photos I could capture, and the 10 hour flight) but most of all how excited I was, “Lisa you’re the best”
On the day of departure we were up at 3am (our flight was at 10am and it only takes 1hour 20min to gatwick) I can honestly say it was due to the excitement as neither of us could sleep, like little kids on Christmas Eve.
We got to the airport nice and early so weatherspoons it was for a full english to fill us up before the amazing airplane food. The time flew by at the airport (get it flew lol) to the point that our flight had already started boarding and we were still in costa coffee enjoying a caramel latte “ups”
After our mad dash and getting on the plane it was delayed by almost 2 hours due to the paperwork not being signed off by the ground crew (not us being late I might add) finally we were up in the air and on our way. At the time of writing this part of the blog we are just across from Cape Breton with an altitude of 11582m and ground speed of 885km/h (for all you beer lovers thats 5 cans in to the flight)
The Cuban Airport
On arrival at Cuba Holguin airport what stood out most was how small it was, but on the plus side I was thinking we would zoom through check’s and baggage clams “how wrong could I be” there were more paperwork to fill in than the whole holiday!!
When you get in to the airport its a matter of queuing up at passport control to have your visa and photo taken before they open the door letting you in to what I can only explain as shear chaos!! Just imagine 300 people with 1 door to get through with no queuing and everyone for them selves.
When you’re finally through and have your bags there is still one more form to fill out declaring you’re not importing goods, how much money you’re bringing into the country, and listing any electrical items you have brought (why I don’t know) before finally stepping outside and onto your coach.
From the airport to your destination is well worth staying awake for to see the spectacular views of the countryside and cuban life passing you buy. It can be a culture shock if its your first time to the island with house and cart being the main form of transport (very much like going back in time to the old wild west). The mountings are amazing with a name for every peak you see (Christopher Columbus named a few)
Cuban life is so laid back with all the locals always happy for a chat as you walk past their homes (most the time being invited in for a look around) this came very apparent very quickly.
On our second week we decided to take one of their horse and carts out for an hour or two (there local transport) and for only 25 passo’s no matter how many people you could fit on. It was an amazing bargain. The ride took us through the country and into the local village where the cart rider lived (and knew everyone as we stopped on the way for a chat). He took us to what I could only describe as a shack where a woman lived. She very happily showed us around the back yard.
Don’t be fooled when I say back yard, as this was no normal yard! she had birds of all breeds, from American Vultures to massive Iguanas and not to mention Crocodiles. When I asked why she had all the animals ? “I breed and sell them for food” we said are goodbyes but not before giving her 5 passo’s and very happy she was.
Holguin City, With a trip to one of Cuba’s city’s to discover the other side of poverty was a real eye opener for me. We managed to get an old diesel train from the now closed down sugar mill but was once busting with life and the main source of income for all the locals (still living around the old abandoned mill). After the train we headed on to the cigar factory to see how the world famous Havana was made (with Winston Churchill being one of the first to appreciate one) there was no photography allowed in the rolling lines or even the factory so your limited to just a photo outside and a picture of the cigars I purchased.
The churchill was the pick of the choice for me, with its massive size and thickness, famous from the man himself rolling the end in his brandy. I’m not a smoker but how could you not try a hand made cigar from the birth place.
City Life, is hard in Cuba with beggars approaching you round every corner you walk (but with a polite “no thanks”) they wish you well and carry on to the next brit!. I’d love to give them something but if you tip one its like he puts out the word to all of his friends and then your in-undated with hands to be fed. There are shops but not much for the traveler as you will need both there currencies as most shops don’t accept CUC that the tourist use.
Most earn their money from being a taxi with pushbikes and the more well off cubans with their vintage american cars (that are very well maintained) with most cubans dreaming of owning there own car!
Gibira, was once a busting fishing town full of life with shops and trading on every street but now the port has stopped taking in trade due to the low water line for the boats. Make no mistake, this is a photographers paradise with all the colours and real cuban life as you walk down the streets.
Must see is the newly restored hotel located in the centre of the town near the old church and cigar factory (that is free to go in). The once owned hotel was the home of the richest man in Cuba but is now a tourist attraction with views that will only amaze you from the top of the roof.
One other point I should mention, if you do decide to come to Cuba bring some old unwanted clothes as most baggers will ask for them instead of money due to the poor clothes and quality they have.
We got together with a lovely couple we came to know for what would only be described as an amazing adventure with the local taxi man!. “Taxi you may say” but no normal taxi, this was a v6 Chevrolet that was 56 years old and still running the original engine (petrol gussler) the windows wound down and we agreed on a price for the day to take us to all the places on our list (from the list above).
This has to be one of the best ways to see Cuba in a day. The driver will take you to places you have never seen down old bumpy roads the local way, not the tourist roots. On the day we had a local girl called Jane as our guide and that helped greatly on the day when she showed us the best place to eat in Holguin!
Nothing was ever a problem always asking us where we would like to go next but for me I loved the part of being in the old american classic car cruising through the country side. We also managed to stop where Christopher Columbus landed. We had a horse ride around the indian village, you could just imagine how the cowboys lived as we drank our coffee that was freshly ground from the local beans, and our coconut milk from the coconut shells.
Conclusion of Cuba
Its certainly true what they say! blue sky’s and golden beaches as far as you can see with all the locals being very friendly and always happy to practice their english. It’s a place I would defiantly visit a second time but I would advice you to stay at the bottom end of Cuba or Trinidad as Havana has no beach and the baggers there can be pushy (everyone wants you to go to there bar and can be annoying when your looking around)
Havana for me would only be a day trip as most places will do an internal flight for a overnight stay (around one and a half hours flying from top to toe). Do your own trips not hotel excursions as you will see more of the real Cuba and also better value for money.
I hope this is a good in site in to Cuba if your thinking of going, but please do feel free to ask me more questions at the bottom of the post and I’ll do my best to point you in the right direction.