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Cuba 2007


I suppose if you have viewed all of the pictures you may wonder why I
describe our holiday in Cuba as a "sorry experience". Havana was
fantastic, our days were full sight-seeing, from the Malecon to Center Park
and all the bits in between.

Malecon Sunsets.

We decided that using public transport in Cuba would be too slow and difficult and so we hired a car and booked 2 nights on the island Cayo Levisa just 200km from Havana.

Cayo Levisa.

It soon became apparent that once out of Havana road directions and street signs became pretty much non-existent but we had plenty of time as we are staying on the island the day after but finding somewhere to stay over night won't be hard, would it? We finally came to the turn off for Cayo Levisa and as we had time
to spare we decided just to check it out. On reaching to port we thought we would confirm our reservation because we only had a reference number and no print out. And guess what, the man at the port said we had no reservation and we needed a hard copy of the email. Great, internet cafes were few in Havana and now we are in the sticks. We were recommended to try Vinales and off we go on a wild goose chase. No internet cafe and someone suggests Pinar de Rio. The Rough Guide book clearly warns of the 'jineteros' particularly if you are in a rental car. Full points scored and as soon as we arrived became their target but managed to avoid their full attention. Found the internet cafe, got the hardcopy and drive back to Cayo. No good even this could not convince them that not only had we booked but had also paid. Come back tomorrow they said and you can stay one night and no amount of arguing made in difference. By now it's 5:00pm and still nowhere to stay but during our travels that afternoon it became obvious that places to stay were, like the road signs, pretty much non-existent. Stopped at a petrol station in La Palma and asked for a Casa, the guy there disappeared for a few minutes and came back with good news. We could stay across the road and here's Jo in our shack. Moved our backpacks in, parked the car, including ripping half the sills off and wanted a beer which the garage sold.
Nipped across to the petrol station where the same guy who helped us wouldn't serve me because  I'm English but go back with Ramone from our shack and he would serve me. Bloody wonderful!!

Well, back at the port the following day and they still insist we can only stay one night but once on the island we are given a ticket for 2 nights, what a result ... until, after a bad night's rest due to faulty air-con and the mosquitoes the phone in our room rings and the receptionist is asking why we haven't checked out. The ferry is leaving in 30 minutes. Oh well, so much for the 2 night voucher and we were, effectively, evicted!! and
without a plan. It does look beautiful though and it was.

Cienfuegos via Santa Clara & Trinidad.

A new plan and somewhat hasty one at that. We'll go to Santa Clara, stay overnight and then head to Trinidad. The journey there down the Autopista was delightfully  uneventful, except for the flat X road sign which I recognised but couldn't place, until the poor car hit this serious unlevel level crossing at 130kph and the tyres and the road parted company and with a resounding crash re-united. Well, there goes the insurance,
deposit and probably the excess. But never mind it's looks alright and it's still going. Over-nighted as planned and during breakfast at Casa Sra and Cary Sra gave us a card of one her friends in Trinidad. Fairly harmless, one would have thought!! When we arrived in Trinidad we parked the car and found a Casa and with the landlady we went to collect it and drive through the gates into the old town when suddenly a woman is banging on the car, shouting and ranting in a language we totally didn't understand. Then she produces a business card exactly like the one we were given at breakfast and she's insisting that we stay at her Casa, not bloody likely!! The landlady and this strange woman then proceed to have a very heated argument which goes on and on, until being totally fed up I sling the landlady out, tell the woman to bugger off. Jo wants to do some sightseeing but I just want out, Jo wins but her camera is doing something weird and all the picture were out for focus. Enough of Trinidad and another random choice and head for Cienfuegos and having found a really good Hostel, thoroughly recommend it - Hostel Bahia, stayed a few days in the sanity of this wonderful town.

I haven't mentioned yet the food and to be honest it's crap, grilled meat and beans, Jo's a veggie and by now she just wants something different but that doesn't happen. Now, and seemingly, nothing goes pear shaped apart from the guy trying to get into our room half way through the night. The beach at Varadero really is quite amazing and apart from the surly Cubans we really enjoyed it.

Playa la Este via Rio Canimar.

For some strange reason we decide to visit Rio Canimar and there's very little to say about it except for that the hotel was just as expected. poorly maintained and scruffy not to mention the most depressing restaurant I have ever had the misfortune of visiting. We only stay one night before moving on the Playa la Este, our last stop before returning to Havana. Our guide book points out that you will see more beer cans than fish on the Playa la Este and it's a very true!! The receptionist at the hotel was delighted to tell us that our room had hot water  but actually for the first few hours we had neither hot nor cold water. Again, wonderful beach and amazing sea but again the hotel was rubbish and let's not forget the Security Guards arriving late in the evening to sell us cigars. Still it's become all that we expected.

and back to Havana

Back in Havana and just a couple of days to kill. That is how we felt, just wanted out and get away from surly staff, second rate accommodation, everybody to speaks to you ends and sentence with "Give me a dollar" and the most boring food.

And finally, thanks to Elaine, someone else's opinion and I quote "We found it very difficult and felt ill-prepared by all the guff about friendly locals tootling music as they swore eternal friendship  - having said that, once we got to grips with it it was fine (although never anything less than hard work)"