Posted by: lindsaygoes | February 6, 2012

Adventures in Cuba, Part One, Hiking and Salsa in Baracoa

Portrait from Baracoa

With things a little slow on the job front, it looked like it was time for another holiday, so I was on to a spontaneous trip to Cuba. It was a little nervewracking at first because the trip took a few days to get confirmed, so I couldn’t book my flights, and also had to get my visa and travel insurance sorted. But finally it was all done and I was off to Cuba. But first I had to fly there.  

The first flight was delayed, then I had to get a bus across the enormity of Madrid airport, but then the second flight we were stuck on the runway for an hour while they fixed something. I think it was a leaky toilet. The food was a great example of retro plane food (ie inedible) and one of the hostesses dropped some ice on me. However, the point when I was considering leaving by one of the emergency exits was when I pulled my blanket out of it’s plastic bag and discovered it had bits of bread and spills on it. It hadn’t even been shaken off. Ewwww.  

So, arrived in Havana late at night and went to bed. Next morning I might have had to move rooms, but after bringing my luggage down found out I didn’t, so I went for a wander. The hotel declined to provide maps or general information so I walked along the Malacon (waterfront) as I figured I couldn’t get lost, saw a little of Old Havana and then took a hop on – hop off bus around Havana, which apparently provided commentary, but it wasn’t really working. Headed back to the hotel in the afternoon and caught up with a few other people from the group and joined them to an Afro-Cuban music thing. Which would have been better if I was tall enough to see anything. That night we met up with the rest of the group and headed out to this hidden little restaurant with very yummy food.  

The next day was an early, early start, heading to the airport at 4am. Ouch! Apparently, despite all evidence to the contrary, one member of our group had already checked in, so there was some complication there. Then they changed our gate, and once we got on the plane some of the seats were double booked. But we all managed to find a spot and eventually took off to Baracoa. Coming in to land was a little scary as the sea ended at the last minute, finally revealing the runway. We had a wander around in the afternoon, heading along the water, up a lot of steps to the local castle. And then we had to walk down again. We were staying in homestays, which was really nice, getting to meet some locals for a change, and had lovely home cooking. Went out to another Afro-Cuban show which was lots of fun. One of the dances was kind of like the result of Charlie Chaplin doing the haka, and they also had fire-eating. 

The next day we went for a hike to the Yunque mountain, walking to a cave to swim in. We had quite a clamber down through the cave until we got to the pool at the bottom, but it was nice and refreshing, even if the climb was a little scary. We also stopped at a farm on the way and had various fruits forced on us. I even got to eat some cocoa fruit, which is quite nice but tastes nothing like chocolate. In the afternoon we took some of the old cars to the beach, which was less comfortable than expected due to loose tires/lack of suspension, but fun, and  I tried some street pizza which cost about 30 cents (Australian) and was cheesy and then we had a Spanish lesson. Thanks to my rather good short term memory I impressed everyone, and then promptly forgot everything for the next day. That night I had a seafood feast with lobster, prawns and fish followed by ice-cream. It was yummy.

The following day it was another hike to a waterfall. We caught some bike taxi’s through the town to the beach and after a bit of a walk discovered the bridge was out. And it was very out. So we caught a boat across the river then walked through the bush to get to the waterfall. Due to the rain that morning the next river which we could normally walk across was very high and we had to swim across with various warnings of ‘Go exactly where the guide is pointing’ etc. I thought it was going to be terrifying, but it was lots of fun. Except then we had to scramble up some more rocks. Not so much fun. But we made it to the waterfall and had a swim there, which was lovely, although got a bit cold before too long. We swam as close as we could to the waterfall, which was pretty powerful, but very relaxing once you swam away. Then it was a scramble down the rocks, another swim and a hike back. In the afternoon we wandered around the back streets and took photos of people (surprisingly happy to have their photos taken) and then had a salsa lesson. I think our teacher was starting to despair of us by the time the lesson finished, but I did put some of the moves into practice that night when we went out. Although after having one guy ask ‘Will you lie with me?’ during the dance, and another inching his hands towards my butt and then saying he loved me, I was ready to finish up. But then a few of us went and listened to a few locals playing their guitars in a nearby park until the police came and told them to be quiet. 

Ok, I might leave things here as this post is getting rather long and I’m really only on the first stop! 

Lindsay



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