With Belize well and truly behind be it was time to head to the infamous Cuba to meet Yang but I wasn’t going alone. I would soon be joined by Kathy who although wasn’t that far away in Barbados still had to fly an unbelievable route to even get to Mexico. I have been looking forward to seeing Yang for so long and at times wasn’t sure if I would go but with the flights now booked and Kathy on her way it was time to have fun and explore the land that time forgot. I can’t wait!!
Tuesday 8th December
After passing out with Nader still playing Xbox I woke to a quiet house and so started to do a little work. I was still really tired but not needing to cycle for the next 3 weeks I could relax. Having already sorted through most of my stuff, what I had to do wasn’t much. I was soon joined by Nader, Alisha and their daughter Layan where we sat to drink coffee. It was great to feel relaxed and didn’t really want to leave but needing to get to Cancun I knew I had to. With a couple things left to do on my bike I did what I needed and finished packing. They were so kind in telling me to treat the house as my own but with my flights to Cuba and preparing to fly home I really needed to get going. Yang had asked me to buy him a tent along with a few other things and so I needed to get it before I headed south to Puerto Morelos. Having time to relax and do some work was great. It gave me chance to catch up a little before it was time to head off. Nader told me to be ready by 4pm which I was already but when he said lets go and it was only 3 pm I questioned him. Finding out the clocks had changed was good but what I should have done was changed my watch there and then. We headed out in his camper for the bus station where he dropped me off and I brought a ticket and said goodbye. I sat relaxing for about 30 minutes when a 1700 hour call went out. I looked at my watch and thought wow that’s really early to call that. In fact it’s almost exactly an hour early. The wave of panic hit me and I grabbed all I had and ran. Luckily for me the bus they called for was the one five minutes before mine which gave me time to sit in the right place and continue to sweat with the moments panic. Having just enough time for my heart to stop racing my bus arrived and I was off to Cancun. It felt strange to be heading there as it was where we had gone on our honeymoon and yet I had cycled here. I knew I had a few hours on the bus so once we were on the motorway I got to work. After a short while we arrived at a bus station and met two Dutch guys I had met in Belize. It was really great seeing them again and have the company of the next few hours. The bus made its way back to the highway and continued east towards the city. After a couple hours it was time to say goodbye and continue the rest of my trip east. I had looked up a few hostels in town and just hoped they were close to the bus station. As the bus pulled in I could see I was only a few hundred metres away and lugged my heavy bags to the first one I liked.
Still having room I checked in for two nights and headed out to grab a couple beers. It felt great to be hear and with them happy to look after the box I was taking home meant I could relax and wait for Kathy to arrive.
Wednesday 9th December
It didn’t take long to realise that Cancun was probably the best place to get to the airport and was defiantly the best place to get stuff done. Yang had given me a list of things to get along with a large box for me to put my bags in to get home, so I started to research where I could find the things I needed. I was told about a Walmart where I should be able to find most of it, I set off following the map and after a little searching I found a massive store. I soon found a tent and then after a bit more searching I found a couple carry mats and then tequila. It was then for me to find one big box for my bags and although everything in the store came in a box they just didn’t have one. I picked up a couple smaller ones hoping it would be OK and feeling hungry spotted a Mac Donald’s. I really wanted something else but being there I ordered what I wanted and sat down to bite into a half cooked burger. The first thought was oh no as the last time I was in Cancun I had a Mac Donald’s and caught salmonella poisoning from it and made my journey home and the following week a nightmare. I quickly changed it and headed out hoping I was ok. I returned to the hostel and asked about a box and was then sent out with new directions and found a Delivery place that had a box that was perfect. I returned once again to the hostel and sorted my things ready to leave behind. Once everything was done I sorted out my washing and headed to the launderette to wash the rest of my things.
With nothing else to do I wondered around a few stalls before picking up a few beers for the night and await news of Kathy’s arrival.
Thursday 10th December
Being the day I would meet up with Kathy I checked through the last of my things that I was taking home and loaded them into the large box I had brought along with my bicycle wheel. Checking I had everything I needed for Cuba and wrapped Yangs Tequila bottles up in the two sleeping mats he asked for and put them into a box and just hoped I they made it through. With a few jobs to do I put my box into storage and headed to the bus station bound for the airport. By the time I left I knew it would be tight getting to the airport to meet Kathy only to find there were three terminals to chose from. Getting off at the wrong one meant I never got to see her arrive but soon I was at the right one and meeting an another amazing friend who had flown in a bizarre route to get here due to the complexities with the flight paths from Barbados. It was so great to see her and to catch up on what she had been up to and what she was doing now.
Kathy’s here yay
Kathy had very very kindly booked a hotel to the south so we set off and after a while arrived at a beautiful place with an amazing room.Armed with a packet of hobnob biscuits that her mum had sent out I was happy and hungry to we headed out to eat.
And she’s brought hobnobs !!!
With the hotel restaurant having no one around we decided to head to the one at the beach which seemed to be miles away and found there was none there either. Not really being a problem we sat and ate a lovely meal listening to the sea lap on the beach and watch the brightly lit cruise ships make their way up the coast.
It was so lovely to see Kathy again and we were both excited about flying to Cuba and meeting up with Yang once again.
Tomorrow was also going to be a tough day. It would be Sharon’s 40th birthday and for her not to be here to celebrate it was not only hard but wrong. Everyone should have the chance to live a full and fruitful life but for Sharon that was taken away from her which was so unfair on her and all who loved her. The only peace I would have was that I would be with Kathy and Yang who both knew and loved Sharon and hoped it would make the day a little easier.
Friday 11th December
Waking after an amazing sleep and seeing Kathy was awake we got ready and headed out for breakfast. My heart felt heavy with Sharon not being there and life being so unfair. It felt good to be with Kathy and heading to Cuba to see Yang was good.
Having a flight at midday meant we didn’t have time to go to the beach which was a shame but I was pleased we saw it last night even though it was dark. Once we’d had breakfast we headed out to wait for our ride and soon our taxi arrived where we were taken to the airport. With about an hour and a half to spare we checked in and I just hoped the box I packed for Yang made it out the other end. Once we had looked around the airport and been checked through we were soon on the plane ready to go. I was excited about Cuba, about seeing Yang, spending time with Kathy but for some reason I felt unsettled by the country only just opening up to the rest of the world.
Flying out of Mexico on our way to Cuba
After an hour and a half we touched down in Havana and went to check if Yangs box had gone through. Luckily it had and once we had everything we headed out to get a taxi. As we waited we met another couple and decided to share the cost and headed into the city. The first thing that stood out about this country was the really old cars, they were everywhere and looked so cool, I just couldn’t wait to have a proper look around and take in the sites.
Just amazing to see these classics
We told the driver the address and I checked my emails to confirm but even though I had seen them before I couldn’t download the whole email. We were soon dropped off in the area but in the a city full of high buildings with anyone of them being Yangs home we had to think of a plan. With Kathy looking unsurprisingly nervous and me trying to be cool although a little nervous myself we needed to find Internet which we knew could be found in one of the large hotels. After 10 minutes of walking we reached a hotel then were told to go to another.
All together at last and it was so great was it to be together
We arrived at the Hotel Libre which was the Hilton where the mafia had once taken it over and were then told to go to the second floor where we were given a slip of paper that would give us Internet for $5 for one hour and would last for up to three days. Once I had finally downloaded the messages I sent Yang an email then tried to ring him. It took a while to sort out and to send an email but I knew Yang would arrive. Kathy wasn’t so sure but knowing Yang I knew he would be here. Not knowing when was another matter but within a few minutes I spotted him coming up the stairs to the second floor. It was so great to see him and felt like yesterday when I had seen him last. Deciding to stay and have a beer we ordered one each and with the three of us together we sat and made a toast to Sharon for her 40th. It just didn’t feel right her not being there but I knew she had touched the heart of all of us and had made a very long and lasting impression on all of us.
It was hard to think she had never got to see in her 40th but made us realise how precious our lives are. I was pleased I was with people who knew her and loved her and that so many were also thinking of her and thats all I could hope for.
Once we were ready to go we headed back to Yangs house to settle in. He shared his house with two other Chinese guys and so we were shown around before we opened a bottle and had a few drinks. Yang had brought lobster and beef for tea and with the help of his friend they cooked a traditional Chinese dish with a bit of help from me. It was so good to be there and his food was amazing. Yang had even brought me some cigars which we sat and smoked together. Although I had never smoked a cigar before and that I don’t smoke it would have not only been rode not to smoke one but criminal while in Cuba.
Yang Aka Hoven Castro trying out his first cigar as well
With the night still young we headed out to get some more beer only to find the shop keepers were busy counting money. With a massive cue and no sign of being served we decided to try another place and were told the government shops were always like this.
We headed down to the waterfront to take in some sights only to find hundreds of people hanging out on the sea wall. It was lovely to see so many families and friends enjoying the warm evening air and reminded me of all the people that hung out on the river nile while we were in Khartoum in The Sudan.
There were thousands on the streets just chilling
We brought a couple beers and sat in the park relaxing and chatting before heading back for a day out in the city.
On our way home we walked the quiet streets passing many houses with the doors open and people watching tv, sat chatting on their old sofas or on their front doorstep. With all the old cars parked up under the street lights it gave off a life of their own and it began to feel more of a magical city. It was mesmerising and couldn’t wait to experience more of sights, sounds and smells tomorrow.
Saturday 12th December
Once we were awake we got up and got ready to leave. We were soon out of the house and stopping one of the many old cars to take us into the old town.
Once we were dropped off we found a place to eat a late breakfast. The`musicians had already started to play and put us in the mood for looking around the town.
With the band setting the mood we walked the streets looking at the old markets and made our way to the chocolate museum to have a taster of the locally produced chocolate. On arriving there was a cue outside which at first I thought I could have chocolate anywhere but not in a rush to get anywhere fast we stood for about half an hour before being let in to the gates of heaven. The smell was divine with chocolate machines slowly turning as the chocolate poured off and moulds waiting to be filled and many animals of all shapes and sizes all made of solid chocolate waiting for me to eat them. We sat and ordered a hot chocolate and while the others ordered there own chocolate I had a small lion.
The hot chocolates were so thick and tasted incredible
When it arrived the hot chocolate was so thick you could almost stand and spoon up in it and the solid chocolate was just amazing!!. Putting this the place to visit at the number one spot i would also put it at number 2, number 3. i think you get it 🙂
Feeling sick but in a that was amazing way we continued to look at the sights passing many old churches, famous streets, hotels and where Hemingway would go to write his books while drinking Mojitos. This town was full of things to see and we were just on the tip.
Kathy showing off Hotel Florida and looking inside one of the many beautiful churches
After a bit more looking around we headed back to one of the main squares with some of the most amazing and well kept cars that were all waiting to take people on a tour around the city.
Take your pic they are all beautiful
For $25 dollars we set off in an old 1950’s car and drove slowly around the streets taking in the sights. It was so cool to be doing this, It was so cool to be in Cuba and just amazing to share it with Kathy and Yang.
And were off
Once our tour was over we headed back to Yangs place before getting ready to hit the town once more.
We often passed a broken down car but knew it wouldn’t be long before it was back in action
This time we headed to the hotel El National which is one of the prettiest and most expensive hotels in Havana. We sat on the terrace and drank mojitos together watching the lights reflect off the bay and hear the cannon fire at 9pm.
The Famous Hotel National
Being in Havana the one thing Kathy was really keen to do was find a live band and dance. once we had finished our drinks we headed out and searched the area and found a place to get a drink and watch the band. They were great fun to watch but with little in the way of dancing I knew we would have to look harder. Still with the rest of the week to find a great place we headed back via the hotel to download emails before returning home.
It had been a long day so a shower was what was needed but then found there was no water. After some time we then found out that the water is turned off in different areas of the city every other day to preserve water and the days there isn’t water you have to rely on what is left in the water tank. Asking next door for some water was great as they were so kind and told us that this was normal and that this is Cuba. If you thought that this was mad enough I then found out from Yang that it cost $1 to keep the gas stove lit for a month and $2 to buy a box of matches so people leave there stoves lit because its cheaper then buying matches.
With the water coming back on at 7am I thought i would wait till the morning and headed to bed. It had been such a good day and couldn’t believe we had seen to much and yet hadn’t been here that long.
Sunday 13th December
After an amazing nights sleep we joined Yang for breakfast and headed out around town to look around some more before reaching the old town to visit where Hemingway went to drink mojitos. We headed upstairs to take in the atmosphere and sat relaxing while having lunch.
Kathy getting into the swing of lunchtime dancing
It was really great to relax and sit in history something that this city is loaded with. Once we’d had lunch it was time for something sweet again and so headed back to the chocolate factory to have more chocolate. With less people waiting outside we were soon in and shown in to our table. Even though we had been here yesterday the smell was so intense and incredibly mouth watering.
Today with no chocolate bears or lions left we had chocolate chickens instead which tasted just as amazing and knew it was probably a good thing we were leaving tomorrow otherwise I would be here everyday getting ever larger. Once we’d had our fill of chocolate we headed to the art market to look around. There was so many amazing things for sale and could have been lost in there for hours but with only a few hours till sunset we headed out to the main road and caught a taxi to the old fort. Also known as Morro Castle the harbour fort was first built in 1589 to defend the port from invasion.
Looking out over the canons to Havana and a fisherman fishing off a upturned crate
Me winding Yang up saying its not a real lighthouse and of course the sunset over the city
The fort still being in excellent condition it was an interesting walk around above and below in the many tunnels that link the different sections. Being a harbour defence the canons have rusted badly with many now being used as road bollards around the city. Being a great place to watch watch the sunset we sat on the corner of the light house and watched the world go by along with the fishermen fishing from an upturned crate. Havana just seemed to keep giving and with the plan to head out the city tomorrow the fun wasn’t going to end here.
After spending sometime there looking around and watching the sunset we managed to find a taxi that would take us back and reached yangs house.
Their cooking was so good
His room mates were cooking dinner which smelt so good and once showered we headed to the hotel to get Internet. Yang had got his phone this time to share the wifi to lots of phones so we all sat and used the Internet. The whole system of limited internet and only being at the hotels was mad but it did stop people wasting their lives staring at a screen while their own lives passed them by. An hour soon passed and it was time to head back. I was enjoying Cuba but found that getting around wasn’t as straightforward as it could be. We were how ever having an adventure and just hoped it went to plan. With a hire car reserved in theory tomorrow all we could do was hope it worked out and could head out way form the city to explore what we could of Cuba in the time we had.
Monday 14th December
Needing to get a hire car we set the alarm early and were up and out the door by 7.45am. We headed to the car rental place and being Cuba we had to wait until 8.30 before it was open. Even though Yang had reserved a car they didn’t have any for us so we went to check out another place to see if they had something. With no luck there either we headed for a hotel and asked there. Needing to wait for the guy to arrive who hires cars we sat and had breakfast and discussed our plans for the next few days. Finally after another hour we were making our way to yet another car hire place where there was a guy waiting for us. We first had to look around the car to check it was ok which from a distance looked pretty new but on closer inspection was pretty much made of filler and resprayed. After what seemed to be an age we signed the papers and were off.
By 11.30am we were making our way through town heading west. It felt strange being at the wheel as it had been so long but didn’t take long to settle in. Having Yang and Kathy in control of where we were going we slowly headed out of the city stopping on the way at a supermarket.
Now which one shall we pick? the options were just endless!!
Although it was big the supermarket with most of the shelves full it only seemed to sell a few things compared to most supermarkets with some shelves only selling one item. After a short while getting what we wanted and then being sold 32 beers when we only had 8 and our checkout lady doing a runner we were soon on our way out of the city and onto the country roads.
It wasn’t just the scenery that was pretty but also the the old cars, tractors, trucks and buses that were actually old trucks with huge boxes put on the back to take loads of people. It was fascinating driving through this country although hard work with the millions of potholes that cover the road.
These trucks were used for everything including being a huge taxi
The colours of the hills, grass and palm trees against the pastel colours of the cars and houses were stunning and gave a beautiful backdrop that seemed to change with every hour. Having not got the car till 11.30am it wasn’t long before it was lunch so stopped in the next town to find a restaurant. Everyone seemed friendly and more then happy to help us find a place which gave us local Fish and rice.
From here we headed along the windy country roads to Viñales stopping on the way to see some rock art which was much newer then we had first thought. From here we drove on and on our way we picked up a Cuban couple called Miguel and Rosio who’s bus had broken down. Miguel was a government quality control officer and told us about a Tobacco farm he worked at and that we could visit for free.
Farmer working the Tabacco fields, If you need to buy a fridge then you just pop into town with your Ox and trailer
Being on our way we decided to call in and get a demonstration. Even though I never smoke we all found it interesting and were pleased we had been. From here we drove on through the mountains and on into town where Miguel showed us a nice place to stay. Being perfect we unloaded our things and headed out to look around town.
As we wondered around every house and shop was a different colour which made this place even more pretty. Once we had looked around we went back for dinner before we left Yang to study and heading back out to find a bar. Knowing one of the things Kathy had come here for was the Salsa dancing that we had to at least try and find somewhere. Luckily we found not only a bar but a packed outdoor area where everyone was dancing.
Don’t tell Kathy I had fun 🙂
I could see she was in her element the only problem was it would involve me having to dance as well. Don’t tell Kathy that I thought it was really good fun as she’ll get me to dance in the future but I was pleased we had made the effort and both enjoyed the evening.
Tuesday 15th December
Having had a great day yesterday we were all keen to see what today had to offer. We got up and went to the restaurant to have breakfast. While we sat and ate we watched a farmer plough his field the other side of the fence. It was a beautiful setting but however beautiful it looked life working on the land wasn’t easy. While we watched Yang decided he wanted to have a go and so jumped the fence and went to help.
It was fun watching and soon they had finished and we set off to have a look in a cave.The cave was called Cuevas de Santo Tomas and is the largest of all caves in Cuba stretching over 46km and has 8 levels.
Once we had been shown around and not lost Yang we headed on again heading for the beach at Cayo Jutias. We stopped on the way at a beautiful beach where we saw another old car that looked awesome against the water so stopped to take a picture.
This car just looked stunning against the vivid blue water
It felt good in the sea as well
After a few minutes the car started up which made us jump. Not knowing there was someone in the car we wondered what they must have thought about 3 tourists arriving and taking pictures of them. We sat on the beach for a while and jumped into the warm caribbean sea eating snacks before it was time to head to the end of the peninsula to see what there was there. On arrival we found loads of people spread across the beach and a restaurant.
Although it was a nice place and somewhere to eat the place we had just come from was so much nicer having no one there. As the sun started to go down we set off to find a nice spot to watch the sunset and try and get a little closer to the town we were going to stay at. As we drove we started to think we would miss the sunset behind the trees but soon enough as we weaved our way through the mountains we came to a beautiful spot where trees cleared and we could watch it set over the forest in the valley below.
As people drove past they looked at us wondering what we were up to with one guy stopping as he thought we had broken down.
The sunset was incredible
Once the sun had set it was time to find a place to stay and headed towards Piner del Rio where we had been recommended a place in the lonely planet guide. On arriving and finding it much more expensive then advertised we headed into town and found a Casa Particular which are peoples homes that rent a room out to make a bit extra money.
These Casa Particulars were a great way to see what peoples homes were like inside
Being very reasonable and in a very beautiful old house we were given a room and headed out for dinner. I was really enjoying Cuba and was wishing I had much more time to explore. With another big day tomorrow and with it already being quite late we headed back ready for another day of adventure.
Wednesday 16th December
Having all slept well apart from both Kathy and Yang waking having been eaten by mosquito’s we headed out for breakfast and to try some Cuban coffee. Although I am a coffee drinker I was amazed by the coffee here as it seemed to not only taste different but the best I had ever had.
Whether a Cuban coffee or a Cuban beer these two always looked relaxed
From here we were off to the coast again but this time to the south. After a little while of driving through the countryside dodging potholes, trucks, tractors and horses we arrived at an almost desolate Playa da la Boca. With a strong wind blowing and not much of a beach we wondered along the sand and I picked up a few of the thousands of shells that scattered the beach. Although it wasn’t as nice as the caribbean coast the houses looked cool and so did pretty much everything.
As it was close to lunch time we stopped at a small restaurant that looked like it had been closed for 10 years and once we had left looked like it was going to close for another 10.
From here we made our way through the countryside to our next stop the Robaina Tobacco plantation where some of the best cigars in the world are made and also where Fidel Castros brother ‘Ramon’ and Sting had come here to smoke the famous cigars.
The wrapper leaves being grown undercover to encourage them to grow taller and the filler leaves grown outside with one upper, middle and lower leaf used as the filler
We guessed this guy had rolled some cigars in his time, The filler leaves drying undercover to stop then drying to fast or unevenly
This is the filler leaves after they have been rolled and held in a tight press before the wrapper leaf is applied
The plantation was started in 1845 and Alejandro Robaina took over the plantation when his farther died in 1950 and kept the plantation a family business even through the revolution when many had turned to Co-operatives. His Tobacco is rated some of the best in the world and the leaves are used to make the famous Cohiba and Hoyo de Monterrey cigars and being named the godfather of Cuban tobacco.Learning about the process of one upper, middle and top leaf being used as a filler to flavour the cigar and a separate wrapper leaf thats grown separate to the others inside a covered area to a much taller height to get the desired leaf was fascinating, then to watch a guy that looked like he had sat in the same chair since he was 5 and seen some history then roll a cigar that in the states would cost around £15.
Knowing how good the cigars were I got one of my own which I kept as a present to give a guy who trained me as a carpenter and always smoked cigars and knew he would love it.
From here we set off again to Las Terrazas which is a small nature reserve which has around 1000 inhabitants. We joined the motorway for the first time which was mad as there was hardly anyone on it and those who were on it were in old cars or on horse back which just felt strange.
Our first stop was the oldest coffee farm in Cuba which was run by the French and used slaves to work the farm. Now being a preserved ruin there were still coffee plants in the forest but the process of making the coffee had moved.
Feeling thirsty we put kathy to work on grinding our coffee
Having already done so much in the day our time was running out so we headed to a hotel to see if we could see the sunset.On arrival we found a nice spot to have a drink by a pool but did lack a sunset. With the water looking so tempting I went in for a swim then got chatting to some lovely guys who were on a cycling holiday in Cuba. It was interesting listening to them and to sit and relax while the sunset behind the hill.
Although we never got to see it set it was nice to relax together with the others before heading down to the lake to have some dinner.
With it now pretty much dark it was decided to head back to Havana and wake for a day in the city and more sight seeing and chocolate. Although we were a fair way from the city, having little in the way of traffic it was a relaxed drive back to Yangs house where they cooked another feast which again tasted amazing. With dinnertime over and a house full of Chinese students we headed up to the hotel to use the internet. With one of them using there phone as a router we could get about ten people on one card saving a small fortune. This had become a bit of a ritual but a fun one and although once people were on the internet it did bring them all together.
Thursday 17th December
Feeling nervous about returning our hire car, thinking they would find something to charge us for we got up and headed down to the car hire place to find out. After 10 minutes and a nod from the chap who inspected the car we were free to go and find somewhere nice for breakfast. With Yang needing to go back to the university Kathy and I were set free to make our own fun so headed for the natural history museum in the centre of town. Once we arrived we looked for a coffee shop to have breakfast before we were let loose in the museum.
Kathy looking very relaxed in this beautiful city
Once we had eating we headed back and went in to look around. There was some interesting things to see but we both thought many of the pictures would only look good in a museum.
After we’d had a good look around we headed back to the main square to have lunch and to listen to some more music. The same band arrived, played the same music from the same film but you know what? it didn’t matter. They were brilliant and although we had heard the same tunes over and over again we were in Cuba and thats what they do in Cuba.
There was always someone playing or selling something
Yang and I decided to levitate to the markets
The old markets were amazing and while Yang and I looked around Kathy was enjoying being serenaded, in fact Kathy was always being serenaded 🙂
As usual once the main course was over it was again time to head to the chocolate museum to top up on my favourite food before heading back via the coffee shop and the train station.
One of the old steam trains that used to work on the island
With the evening booked to meet up with some friends of Kathy’s Parents we got showered and dressed up ready to head out. As I picked up my trousers which I had been wearing while I was here I noticed there was a large hole in the backside. On closer inspection there was a neat shape of an iron that had melted a hole right through the material. I was so gutted as these were a really good pair of trousers and had lasted without any problem other then a dog bitting a hole in the leg but other then that were perfect. oh and I had to have some extra pocket sawn on the outside but other then that they were perfect.Luckily for me I had black underwear that would hide my hole in the backside and a nice shirt that may distract from the fact my shoes were ready to fall off my feet. So once we were as ready as we could be Kathy and I headed out to the Hotel National with Kathy looking amazing and me looking like a tramp in a nice shirt and arrived to a beautiful warm evening.
With two weddings happing at the same time we sat and waited for Hugo, Ada, Carlos, Guillermo and his wife as the sun slowly went down behind us.
A wonderful evening with the most wonderful people
With Mojitos all round and to be honest what else could you drink at the hotel National as the sun set? and so as we chatted we saw the two couples tie the not and even watched them having the famous drink for the toast instead of champagne. With the evening getting on It was time to say goodbye and headed off to a restaurant that Yang had recommended.
It was great having the three of us there and was so good to have had the time to relax. With Kathy’s flight leaving early in the morning it was time to head back via the hotel Colina to check our emails with the other 20 Chinese and arrange a taxi for Kathy to pick her up in the morning. I couldn’t believe it was almost time to say goodbye but also how much we had done in the time we had. It had been amazing and couldn’t have picked two better traveling companions to see Cuba.
Friday 18th December
Once back at the house and knowing Kathy had an early flight I lay in bed unable to sleep. I was so worried about her missing her flight I laid a wake and kept checking the time. I’m not normally like this but for some reason i was worried. After several hours and no sleep the alarm went off and Kathy got up to leave. It was sad to say goodbye but it had been so amazing she had come out to join us. Once she was gone my head hit the pillow and i woke a few hours later and headed into town with Yang.
Being my last day in Havana and Cuba come to that it would be wrong not to head back to the chocolate museum to have one last hot chocolate and for Yang to buy some chocolate to send home with me. Once we had done that we wondered the streets buying freshly ground coffee that tasted the best I had ever had and headed back to Yangs for dinner.
The coffee was roasted and ground there and then making it taste even better
While Yang cooked dinner I packed the last of my things before it was time for me to head off. As I waved goodbye what I didn’t realise was I’d got the wrong flight times in my head and should be at the airport as I was leaving the city.
We slowly made our way out onto the highway where the taxi driver asked if he could grab a cold drink, thinking I had all the time in the world I sat in the car as my checkin desk was preparing to close and my driver quenched his thirst. I finally reached the airport and wondered to the checkin desk where I handed my passport over.
The lady looked at me and said the checkin is closed and the fight leaves in 15 minutes.A wave of panic washed over me and I had to think. I finally found someone who could help and they told me of another flight company that flew out that day.Once I had found one that was leaving the next problem was I needed to pay in cash. With the first cash machine not working I tried the second to find it was ok and was now booked on a flight.I headed straight for the gate not wanting to miss this one only to find that the time came and went with no plane.
Luckily having 250 other passengers waiting I knew there would be something and having the time in Cancun I was now grateful I hadn’t booked a connecting flight.Finally being on the plane I was now bound for Mexico to wait a day and a bit before I would head home. With a hostel booked and paid for all I had to do was turn up and relax. For now though I was finally heading home but I wouldn’t relax until I got of the last plane and had set foot on English soil.
Saturday 19th December
With the day to sort through my things I got up after a lay in and had breakfast. Although I didn’t have a massive amount to do I knew my day would soon fill up as it normally did. Once I’d had breakfast I set about checking the weight of my box with all my things in and checked it for weight. With 1.5kg to spare and my hand luggage weighing a ton I had to sort the things out that could help me get my things home. Putting the things that I couldn’t do anything with in the box meant I could now carry all my clothes in my hand luggage and if need be wear all of it to reduce the weight of my bags. This would probably make me look dodgy to the security staff as I stood in all my clothes and sweating profusely with my pockets filled with anything that was heavy but if that was what I had to do then I had to do it.With so many presents for so many people I wanted to do all I could to get it home.
Heading back to the hostel I was treated to an incredible Mexican sunset
Once I was packed I set about sorting out my next blog and changing a few faults that I had found. With the help of Daniel who was a New Zealand guy and was great with computers he taught me a lot about WordPress and the best way to do some things.
Daniel who very kindly helped me with my computer
With a blog posted and other pages updated and tweaked I set about looking at train times home. Feeling hungry and not having eaten anything since breakfast I headed out to grab some snacks before working my way through the rest of my jobs . Once back I got back to the computer with my eyes going ever squarer I asked the guys at the hostel to print a travel document when he noticed I hadn’t been making the most of my Mac computer and so with another hour of tweaking things and showing me shortcuts I finally had a train booked back to Devon.
After missing a flight I didn’t want to miss another and needed an early night. By the time I was ready to sleep it was gone 3am and still had a huge list. I couldn’t believe where the time had gone and being so late without me realising just made me more nervous about missing my flight home.
Sunday 20th December
Today was the day I was flying home but knew I still had a long time until I was.
With a late flight booked and loss g 7 hours in time difference meant I wouldn’t get to Germany until late the next day with a wait in Germany and a connecting flight I just hoped I would manage to catch the last train home but knew it would be tight. With still several jobs to do and a final check of my luggage before I wrapped it in a mile of tape by the time I was ready I started to panic about the time. Being lunch time I had something to eat then faffed around for the next few hours until it was time to leave. Daniel kindly offered to help me carry my things and was soon on the bus to the airport still with loads of time to spare.
I got my bags wrapped in another mile of tape at the airport and went to check in. The desk was just opening but already it seemed like the whole world was catching the same flight and by the time it was my turn it was already getting late.
I put my box on which was bang on the nose for weight then the lady then asked for me to put my hand luggage on which she told me could be no heavier then 6kg. knowing it was well over weight I told her I had a load of food and drink and would have it before I got on the flight. She still insisted on weighing it so I quickly opened it up took out the chargers, laptop,camera and a few other things and hid them behind a pillar.
Still being 3 kg’s over weight she looked at me and told me to make sure I ate all my food with a knowing smile. Giving her a big grin and saying I will I loaded all my stuff back into my bag and headed off for my gate. With passport control another 3/4 of a mile long we were all now wanting to get to our gate. I was in for a long flight and a long ride home from London but knew once I was back in Devon it would be worth every minute seeing everyone again.
Cuba had been something of a phenomenon in my eye’s as it had held the unknown mystic that made it curious. I think if Yang hadn’t been studying there I probably wouldn’t have gone there mainly because of the extra cost on to my already long trip but also the extra time I had to allow. From the moment both Kathy and I landed in this strange and wonderful land our eyes were treated with delights from the past filled with history and a people that were warm from the heart out. So many say that Cuba is changing but when you think about it the country has already changed to much and so many times. With the days of the casinos and the party island to Mafia conventions, revolutions and now old American cars still running just about and the lack of internet and yet it has still held onto the tobacco industry, its mojitos and Salsa not to forget the days before all this with numerous invasions.
Cuba will change in time but the people who live here have something that so many don’t. Maybe the internet will change that but the people talk, they hang around, they hang out of their third floor balconies watching the world go by while smoking a Cohiba or lean on an old dark brown 1950’s chevy while there mate has their hear cut in a run down barbershop. Add to this the pastel colours of the houses, the old colonial buildings and the changing light with the sound of a band playing music off in some bar and you might get close to what it fells like to be here. Writing this makes me want to go back not just for the chocolate and the amazing coffee but to sink into the life,sound and smells and if anything goes wrong its because this is Cuba.
Although my mind is stuck in a land that time forgot and two amazing friends that had made my trip unforgetable I couldn’t forget I was heading home and to home that only a very tiny number knew I was on my way and I was so excited to see the look on their faces when I turn up. I was heading home for christmas and I was so excited.
Thanks for reading xx