On Saturday I had to kiss Chuba goodbye and leave the beautiful Viñales region. In Santiago I told S and H that I would try some other transportation mode than Viazul bus when coming back from Viñales. I kept my promise and shared a taxi colectivo with a French couple, a German man and two local ladies. The car was from 1965 (and looked and felt like that) but the trip went well and I got a ride until my casa, where Señora J was waiting for me. She said that my Spanish has improved a lot! That when I came to Cuba I didn’t speak much but now I’m talking all the time. So it’s not only my imagination. :)
I was happy to see J and her husband again (her son and nephew are traveling so unfortunately I will not see them) and I was happy to find my suitcase where I had left it. Call me materialistic if you want to but I survived two weeks traveling with only a big hand bag! But tomorrow I need to pack again... It was also good to be back in familiar surroundings in Habana Vieja. I went walking around Plaza Vieja and had a tuna salad and papaya juice for dinner. It’s been six weeks and now I’m starting to get a bit fed up with the Caribbean food. I don’t think I’ve had meat (except for meat-cheese-patties in Jamaica and occasional cheese-and-ham sandwiches, which is a typical snack here in Cuba) but I’m sure I’ve eaten more chicken than what I did in total during the past year. Neither can I have anymore pescado grillado because it always tastes the same and also shrimps and lobster are starting to make me sick. The only things I still have the appetite for are rice, fruits and vegetables. I need a break, I hope the food in Colombia will be different, at least they should have supermarkets so I can cook and eat normally again. In Viñales I found good Italian restaurants (and ate delicious fresh pasta even if I’m intolerant and shouldn’t) and this salad was a refreshing change as well. And because my dinner was light I decided I deserved a hot chocolate for dessert so I went to the chocolate museum (that’s a museum I like!)
Later that night I was thinking of going out but in the end decided to stay at home and spent some time with Señora J, talking and drinking tea. I told J I didn’t want to pack and was worried how overweighed my suitcase would be, and she gave me a very Cuban advice: “When you get to the airport just start talking to people and try to find someone who is going to the same place. Then if they have less luggage, ask them to take a part of your things. Very simple”. Today at the airport they didn’t say anything about the weight of my suitcase (25kg) so I didn’t have to do as J suggested but I’ll keep that in mind!
Yesterday it was raining again, why does it always rain in Havana?! I had to find a pharmacy (easier said than done) to heal my horseback riding injuries and then I escaped the rain to a nice little restaurant called Café Lampadilla. When the sun came up again I decided to go for a one last walk in Centro Habana and at the Malécon. But it was so windy and the waves were huge so that was impossible. I also hesitated on finally visiting Morro-Cabana, a fortress on an island next to Habana Vieja, but at the end I stayed on the mainland because I was worried it would rain again (as it did). So far it has always been bad weather when I’ve wanted to go there, hopefully one day I’ll make it.
Sitting at the café I thought of a short list of things I had never done before this trip to Cuba. It looks like this:
Before Cuba I had never:
So what did I think about Cuba and the places I visited? I chose to stay a bit longer in one place rather than traveling to a new city every two days. I think it was good because even if I didn’t stay for long, I had in each place time to settle down and get to know the place and people who live there. Also, the distances are quite long and traveling takes time. But I still made a nice tour around the island. I’ve heard that usually people like Cienfuegos better than Trinidad but I preferred Trinidad. I liked Cienfuegos as well, but I just didn’t get the same feeling about it. What it comes to the big cities, even if I already feel at home in Habana Vieja I think I liked Santiago more. Santiago is different, people say you either love it or hate it but it doesn’t leave you indifferent. And I must say I loved it. And then Viñales and the Pinar del Rio region. It was lovely, so peaceful and relaxing, but I think two days was enough to see it. Although I promised M I would come back to say hi to him and Chuba. Next time when I come to Cuba I would go back to Trinidad and Santiago but spend less time in Havana. In the south I would like to travel until Guantanamo and Baracoa and then maybe discover the Las Tunas region. I would also spend a day in Camaguay since I didn’t have time now. And maybe also go see how it is at the beach resorts in the north. And make a short trip to Isla de la Juventud island. And.... As you see, there are still lots of places to see so I have to come back soon.
Despite the fact that Cubans have tight of money and don’t live a luxurious life, they seemed to be very laidback and mostly happy with what they have. Also, they all work hard and do whatever is needed to earn a living, I think it is an exemplary attitude. All the people I met were extremely friendly and warm-hearted. At each casa my hosts would do anything to make my stay as enjoyable and effortless as possible: book taxis, organize activities, recommend places to see, prepare something to eat or drink whenever I wanted. Senora J even woke up at four this morning to make tea for me and to say goodbye. She had of course called beforehand for a taxi to pick me up so I said she really didn’t have to, that I would be perfectly fine leaving on my own and that I could also make my own tea. But no, she simply responded that clients always come first and that her job is to make sure that everything goes well.
Even if I’ve had hard time some days, overall I like a lot traveling alone. I like the fact that I can make my own decisions about everything: where to go, what to do and so on. I don’t have to have any fix plans and if one day I don’t feel like doing anything or talking to anyone that is fine as well. And because I’m sociable and talkative I easily meet people and thus don’t loose my mind. Then of course, I also had to get by and arrange everything on my own. But I’m quite good at it and luckily I didn’t get into any bigger trouble here. Also, because I was alone I naturally met a lot of locals and learned about the real Cuba, exactly as I wanted. And I had to speak Spanish which was great, now I feel a lot less lost than three weeks ago, even if I still have a long way to go to speak it somewhat fluently.
Now I’m at the airport, soon taking off again. This time: destination Cartagena! :)
I’ll keep you posted,
Read the next story here.
I'm Emilia, Finnish-Parisian, a recent Master's graduate. I'm currently traveling around the Caribbean and on a volunteering mission in Colombia. I'm passionate about writing, music and different kinds of sports. I can't wait to discover new places and cultures - and share my adventures with you!