Due to the still existing embargo between America and Cuba, Hilary and I had flew to Playa Del Carmen in Mexico for a couple days down time at the beach before jetting off to Cuba. After a several hours delay we finally boarded five hours late for the dicey Cubana Air flight. We finally arrived and was collected in a beat up Lada and driven to a beautifully ornate hostel with a rooftop and spectacular view of Havana. We had a celebratory beer on the roof enjoying the view before jumping in to bed to sleep before meeting the other members on the tour group the next morning.
The next morning we ate breakfast on the glorious rooftop overlooking Havana and were introduced to our new friends for the next seven days. We were travelling to the small town of vinales, but before departing we did a brief tour around inner city Havana, learning the history as we wandered through the beautiful cobbled streets. After a brief stop for lunch where I consumed half an avocado and five bananas in an attempt to eat gluten free we arrived in the small town of Vinales. We checked in with the locals families we were staying with and met our host families. After some rest time we were treated to a delicious home cooked dinner from our host, with our first introduction to the ubiquitous Cuban beans and rice. Later that evening we hit the local disco for a show and some terrible salsa dancing on my behalf. The next morning following one two many Mojitos Hilary and I were a little green around the gills, but still powered on for a hike through the mountains and tobacco fields. We tried the local cigars which were more pleasant than I thought they would be, but still a little much for someone who doesn’t smoke cigarillos regularly.
After a much needed afternoon nap we were ferried to a local restaurant overlooking their organic farm. I drunk a delicious local cocktail with blended lime and spices, quite the hangover cure. The rest of the group hit the bars again afterwards but not wanting to tempt my luck I hit the hay for an early night.
We had an early start the next morning to travel to Cienfuegos via the bay of pigs. Bay of pigs was a key historical site during the revolution as it was where Che Guevara and Fidel Castro landed after they sailed from Mexico, having been in exile for a number of years. Its a beautiful bay with a rocky sea floor which made the water look crystal clear. It also had a large Cenote (Rock pool) next to the beach, being fed by the sea. That night we partook in the festivities for the Committee of the Defence of the Revolution (CDR) anniversary festivities joining the locals dancing in the street and drinking rum and coca cola.
We were off to the beautiful colonial town of Trinidad the next morning and after arriving in the afternoon we dropped our stuff and hit the beach for the afternoon ferried there in our first vintage car ride. We sprawled on the beach drinking coco loco (fresh coconuts with rum poured in to them) and then hit Trinidad town that night ending up in a cave converted in to a disco. After another early rise the next morning we hiked out a beautiful crystal clear waterfall for the day, it was the most amazing swim I have had in a long time. For our last night in Trinidad David our tour guide organised for a picnic on the beach with a bonfire and our own band. I swam at the beach with a cocktail in my hand as the sun set and thought about how lucky I was to be on this trip and that Cuba has been my favourite place to visit so far.
Next morning we were back on the road to Havana for our last couple of days in Cuba, stopping briefly in Santa Clara to visit the Che Guevara museum (featuring a delightful peach pip carved in his likeness). We went out for our final meal with our tour group and bade farewell to our tour guide. After a well deserved sleep in we set out to explore Havana for our final full day in Cuba. We wandered around the city and decided to go on a vintage car tour, the only way to see Havana. That night we met up with some friends from the tour group and went out for dinner, followed by drinks at a renovated mansion that had been turned in to a roof top bar. Beyonce and Jay-Z visited when they were in Cuba so we knew we were in good company. The following morning we had a last blitz around the city before saying goodbye to Cuba and hello to Mexico City.