Monday, October 7, 2013


A quick trip to Cuba is rather an impulse (we blame you Elizabeth as we hadn’t even thought about it.) GR2 is safe & we are on a very short 40 min flight to Havana. We made it to the airport by the skin of our teeth after waiting for ages to get the final OK at the dealership to store the truck . Then catching a taxi takes ages. We have Euros in cash & our credit cards……we should be OK right!

Then we have to pay $25ea for visas & $25ea departure tax. This starts eating into our cash straight away. Then when we collect our prepaid “Rent a Wreck” car (a Chinese Geely!!!) we have to pay insurance, bond & for a full tank of gas. Our credit cards are refused. They are also refused at the ATM. More cash vanishes from our reserves. First thing off the list is the touristy salsa show at Club Tropicana (sorry John none of those 200 gorgeous dancing girls for you to see). Next off the list is shopping (sorry guys – no cigars)

Then off we head. No signs & no GPS. Needless to say we find the longest route into town & it is getting dark by the time we find our Casa Familia. The neighborhood is none too salubrious! Our Casa is full, so we are moved up the road & our car is put into secure parking. Ha-ha… A guy on the street paid to occasionally watch it. Both doors have already had the locks tampered with & there are so many dents I don’t think they will notice if we get anymore.

Casa’s are like B&B’s. For $30 you get an ensuited room with aircon & fridge. Brekkie is usually $4 each extra. (And is pretty good- with fruit juices, fresh fruit, eggs, coffee.) After a long night with a hard mattress & the nosiest aircon ever (an internal room is way too hot here to sleep without aircon), we set off to sort out our money. First to the Hotel Frio, then on to the International Bank. Absolutely no go! Our cards are linked to USA banks & so are blocked! Bummer more research should have been done by me. Now we are on a budget. The money here is crazy too. There are 2 currencies in use – CUC for tourists & Paso’s for the locals. Naturally CUC's are more expensive. A confusing way to maximise the tourist dollar.

Time to explore this glorious, crumbling, decaying, hot & believably humid city.  Once it was stunning. As a bonus the old cars are amazing. Better than the ones in the car museum John visits.

We plan our next few days & book Casa’s through Tatie (our initial contact lady) at Varadero, Trinidad & then back with her at Havana. We head off. The countryside is lush with lots of sugarcane & bananas. Not too many hills. The roads are surprisingly good. First we head along the Caribbean coast to the glorious beaches on the long fingered peninsula of Varadero. Here, surprise surprise, our Casa is taken & we are moved to another. The water is a glorious aqua colour & the sand powder white. It is tempting just to stay put. But on we head across country to Cienfuegos & Trinidad stopping at some very poor villages. We slip in $10 of fuel at a time (we plan to return this car empty as instructed). Trinidad is a really lovely old (and crumbling) town with cobbled streets. There are street parties happening – Independence Day celebrations. Should be a noisy night. Our casa room is gorgeous & it is cool enough to sleep with open windows. (Needless to say it was not the Casa that was booked!)

After exploring town it is a long 350km drive back to Trinidad, only to find Tatie is not at home, so we return to the Casa we stayed at a few nights ago. Fortunately she has room. Finally it is back to the airport, our bond money refunded. Finally Fernando we can buy some Cuban cigars! Amazingly in this crazy country our USA based credit cards can be used in the departure lounge at the airport. Go figure!!

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