We heeded the warnings. God knows, if we’ve learnt anything on this trip, it’s to never let a travel warning go unheeded. So instead of applying our kindergarten-level Spanish on a nation that is renowned for (a) it’s involuntary isolation from most English-speaking foreign influence; and (b) it’s reliably unreliable internet access; we decided to see the island nation of Cuba as part of a group tour. Accordingly, this video will feature a great deal more unrecognisable faces than most of our other videos. Happily, these fine people are no longer unrecognisable to us – we quickly concluded that we had lucked our way into a fantastic group of individuals, each of whom added their own unique facet into our touring party.
Our tour began in Havana, which was in every way the charming dilapidation that we had expected. Gritty exterior aside, the city had a communal feel that extended even to the obvious tourists, and we thoroughly enjoyed playing the roles of extras in the various time-warp street scenes that we found ourselves strolling through. After only one night (several too few), we departed Havana for the green pastures of Vinales.
Vinales was a National park replete with two of Cuba’s most famed forms of agriculture – coffee and tobacco. After visiting picturesque plantations, we got to sample the local wares and enjoy some truly scenic meal spots along the way. After Vinales, we headed east towards the infamous Bay of Pigs. Now more of an attraction due to its crystal blue waters and snorkelling, we also learnt of the bay’s battlefield past – the scene of a stirring victory for Cuba’s fledgling socialist government.
Our final stop before returning to Havana was the seaside town of Trinidad, known for its hiking and its beaches. We left the hiking boots at home and saddled up instead, trekking deep into nearby farmland before finding a waterfall that was perhaps previously secluded, although now fairly overrun.
Cuba inspired constant curiosity and thoroughly deserves the label as a tourist destination quite unlike any other in the world. We only learnt after departing that 2019 was a particularly slow year for tourism in Cuba, and that the dip in numbers is beginning to take a toll on the incomes of those employed by tourism – the bulk of our local interaction. Proving that, while the trade blockade perpetuated by Cuba’s closest and most powerful neighbour has preserved in Cuba a fascinating old fashioned destination for tourists, it’s a two edged sword. My advice is that if you wish to visit Cuba, there’s no time like the present. Not only will you see more of its raw, untouched charm (minus the crowds), your tourist dollars will also be going a long way towards supporting truly hospitable people in a time of need. If you needed any more convincing, check out the vid below!
– words by Andy