When you start planning a trip to Mexico everybody will tell you how bad the roads are, well they are perfectly fine compared to Cuba.
We know this because we drove from Havana, Cienfuego, Camauey, Santiago then planned on flying back from Santiago but as lucky would have it, it got cancelled three times.
We tried to have the journey split into two days but with a slither of hope it was decided we would risk it for the biscuit and try get a flight the following day. Whilst we were all pondering our faith Gill was busy trying to convince Alan to ring Raul Castro and negotiate a trade agreement in exchange for the use of his private plane. Unfortunately Alan didn’t bite.
So the long bouncy journey from Santiago to Havana started, approx. 12 hours long otherwise known as ‘Survivor’. To preempt Gill becoming the first contender to snap I made sure we went to a restaurant the night before to pick up 2 bottles of vino blanco ensuring we would have it on arrival or for the journey if required.
Now vino blanco in Cuba is like finding a Cuban in New Zealand, a rare sighting. So with a packet of local ciggies and two bottles of vino blanco Gill was set for the journey.
Now to get the three men ready for the journey a bottle of Jameson was punished the night before and coffee in the morning so they could ensure the 3 ‘s’ were done prior to being set off.
For me, well I went to bed, woke up at 2 with a sore stomach and spent the next 2.5 hours staring at the ceiling thinking FML todays going to be a long ass day.
I thought this ride would be survival of the fittest due to boredom, turns out staying alive on the Cuban roads was going to be the hardest part. Driving through the fog with zero vision is nothing compared to seeing a car cross the centerline unaware & zooming straight towards our van at a slow speed of 120kph.
Thankfully our quick thinking driver managed to see the oncoming car and swerve out the way. We never decided on whether he fell asleep or just couldn’t understand the layout of the road. We were informed this was also quite common on highways in Cuba.
I think even with a near death experience on the Cuban roads it hasn’t put any of us off recommending Cuba as a cool travel destination.
For all four of us an important piece of the Cuban travel experience is the amazing people you will meet, our guide Carlos has the most incredible story giving you a great insight into the Cuban lifestyle. I will go into more detail in the ‘People we meet’. (Yes, I know I’m really behind on the blog! But at least that means we are having lots of fun & a lot less time spent on the road!)
Every single Casa we stayed at was beautifully presented and each owner took extreme pride in providing you with a wonderful stay. Every breakfast you were presented with a meal that could have provided us four with enough food for the day.
I would love to go back to Cuba in a few years to see the difference tourism has made to the economy. Prior to traveling to Cuba I had never been to a communist country so my understanding was very limited of their way of life & I naively had not overly thought about it.
Cubans are not allowed to go on boats with motorized motors in fear of them fleeing to America. This is only one of the many restrictions Cubans are faced with, but don’t worry we managed to sneak Carlos onto the boat giving him his first ever boating experience!!
They are not allowed to travel overseas without permission. Every day Cubans are allocated food rations – a bread roll. If you do not have housing the government will provide a house for you, everybody has free access to education, healthcare & university. As Carlos discussed with us this does then create a problem, people get lazy but for every lazy Cuban there is one working extremely hard.
Both Jake and I came away from Cuba feeling a desire to read more about both Che Guevara & Fidel Castro to try and understand at a deeper level the love and respect majority of Cubans still feel towards both men. Its been almost a month since we left and he’s nearly finished his first book I’ve seen him read!!! Travel really does change you.
Cuba is an amazing place I would highly recommend travelling there, I would recommend adding it onto a trip like what we all did. It would be a long journey from New Zealand if you only visited Cuba but the perfect add on to a trip to the States or Mexico. I also feel like you could go to Havana for four days and have the most amazing experience the colours, people and rum will give you an amazing experience that you will remember.
For Jake and I getting to meet Gill and Al there was more than we could have ever wished for, to share such a crazy experience with family was a real blessing. It will be a trip to remember for the years to come. I mean really who would think I would be sitting next to Alan getting a free haircut in a Cuban salon! Not me. Thanks again Mum and Dad!!
- Get a guide and get Carlos he was amazing. You can contact him through Facebook – Carlos Manuel Rodriguez. He added so much insight into the Cuban lifestyle from his own life but also shared so much Cuban history with us.
- Don’t go to Cuba for the food or the wine, you will all suffer a sore stomach at some point. Just deal with it and you’ll be fine and pack some Imodium just incase (thankfully we never needed it, but I never travel without it now…..)
- Always carry toilet paper, public toilets don’t provide it.
- Do some squats before you leave. Toilet’s don’t come with a toilet seat. The Cuban government sells the toilet and the seat separately so nobody buys one.
- Go to Havana, Trinidad then head up north to the beaches approx. 8 days. The south is great but they only fly out now when they have a full flight so this means your flight will mostly likely end up cancelled!