Exploring Cuba: Cigars, Yachts and Old Chevy’s.

I really enjoyed Cuba. Cienfuegos was a great town and the people are fantastic. It`s a bit confusing at first with the 2 currencies but once you work out it and you get hold of the local pesos Cuba is dirt cheap. Pizza 40c, Ice Cream 5c, Cigar 5c, A few days food at the market for less than 2 dollars.

We also found that in Cuba, with money any thing is possible with the husslers on the street. Blackmarket cigars, quality mountain bikes and cheap travel. The Cubans are not allowed to deal with tourists unless they have a permit but in Cienfuegos the police were very relaxed and they got away with so much more. It cost $16-$20 to get to Havana but the guy in the street can arrange you a door to door car for only $15.

While we were in the harbour the english guy and kiwi girl crewing the ….5 MILLION dollar yacht would come and visit us alot. They invited me over for dinner and to stay one night and then paid me for helping clean the boat the next day, it was an amazing boat and they were really nice people. They even sent me on an expenses paid trip to the dolphin aquariam to see what it was like, for when their owner arrived. I got my new friend Ramon, who I met by admiring his immaculate 1950 chevy, to drive me there. It was the real Cuban experience driving around in an old chevy and the dolphins were pretty good as well.

We finished our time on the `big` yacht by being invited over for drinks with the owners and their friends, they were obviously loaded but were very down to earth, friendly italians, there crew were better though, one morning they delivered us 4 btls of wine and coffee and tea and said`It`s on the company account don`t worry`.

After spending a week in Cienfuegos and meeting great people, tourist and local, including the two young americans sailing to Vanuatu, I decided it was time to head to Havana. People had told me you could easily spend 2 weeks in Havana so I left myself 6 days there. I had the driver take me to a nice `casa` out of the city and paid up my weeks board, and what a mistake it was.
I did not like Havana at all, spend two weeks there well those people must do a lot of sleeping. it was an interesting city with the anti-bush propaganda, the police constantly harrassing young people just to keep them on edge, the chevys, the atmosphere and of course the hustlers. To anyone going to Cuba, they are amazing people the Cubans, very friendly and relaxed but they are also very clever and have there ways to make there little bit of cash. I found them all to be completely honest and trustworthy but unless you start the conversation with them anyone who comes up to you will be trying to sell something, most likely cigars.

After my 6 days in Havana wandering the streets and soaking up the atmosphere, along with endless ice creams and pizzas I met up with Jamie and Laura for my last night there before heading for the airport the next day. Now the airport trip had been on my mind for a while. There are a few options to get there a) Pay the $25 and get a taxi b) Pay $15 and find a local to take you C) Buy a bicyclye, ride it there then sell it, or then there is option d) Take the local bus for 1 cent. I had long ago decided on this option even though it is billed as only for the Hardest of Hardcore backpackers. I asked some locals how it worked and even did a reccie mission to the bus stop, and thought it looked ok but of the 5 locals I spoke to about it not one suggested I do it in fact they were dead against me doing it, one lady had hysterics of laughter for around 5 minutes when I told her. she said I could go by bus for 2 cents joking and I responded telling her I was doing it that way, she found this amusing and then laughing said `well why dont you take the semi-trailer bus as that is even cheaper`, when I told her that was the one I was taking she just couldnt stop laughing and had to get her husband to join in the fun. The local bus really wasnt that bad its just the same as elsewhere, the locals dont use it `cause they hear bad stories and then that spreads and becomes exaggerated. Pickpockets, Breakdowns, Hot, Crammed with people etc etc.

After saying goodbye to my family, who wished me luck for the bus trip, I walked the 10 mins to the stop. I had to wait for 2 buses to go by as they were to full, and packed my self in on the 3rd, and yes it was pretty full but not as bad as the tubes at rush hour, and after about 5 mins people were getting of and not on so my 25 min trip, not 3hrs, was actually quite pleasant and the pizza shop I found along the 2km walk to the terminal was just a bonus.

I got into the terminal with loads of time to spare and headed to the toilets to freshen up for the 9hr flight. Went outside to smoke my first cigar in Cuba and what a fine one it was, and for only 3p I decided to bring back 40 of them to flog of at UK prices.

On the 25th April at 20.30 cuban time my visit had come to an end and we started our trip down the runway, after a complete powerloss for 5 mins which freaked everyone out, and departed for London. I guess the Cuban flight attendants aren`t used to people drinking so much on planes and actually refused me on only my 4th beer, I pleaded as best I could and managed to get one and then fell asleep at the end of the film, waking up just in time for a terrible airline breakfast and deciding that a beer might be a little hard to obtain so i settled for tea. We landed into London on time at 10.30am and I started to freeze, 5 months in Central America and then back to these temperatures, what was I thinking.

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