Tuesday, February 26, 2013


 Another tempestuous crossing from Mexico, across the Yucatan Channel, racing against the coming coldfront, and we finally doused our sails in Hemingway Marina, Cuba. The 'Old Man of the Sea' wrote several novels here in the 1930's, including Islands in the Stream, about his beloved Cuba. With our old friend Turlough aboard as crew, we set off to explore this baffling land of contradictions.

Fifty years of Socialism under Fidel, and the U.S. embargo, has created an isolated island nation stuck in a 1950's time warp. The once elegant streets of Havana are fringed with stately, pastel-coloured manor houses, slowly mouldering away, and concrete tenament housing for the masses. Salsa and Jazz music drift into the cobblestone streets late into the night. Old mid-century American cars (Macinas); Chevy Impala's and Buick's, repainted in graphic colours, line the roadways.
  Our first stop is La Floridita Bar, where Papa Hemingway's bronze statue still holds a sacred spot. With the double currencies of the Cuban Peso, generally for the locals, and the C.U.C. or Convertible Dollar, mainly set up for the tourist trade and luxury items (like say, toothpaste or moisturizer), it is difficult to get a handle on how this complex economy actually works. The Cubans also get ration coupons from the government to buy basic necessities. This tends to mean standing in long lineups for chicken or a tin of peanut butter in shops that have mostly empty shelves. But the people are patient and cheerful and spend their time chatting in the queue or arranging their next crafty business deal. 

       Another Cuban anachronism is the ongoing fascination with revered son of La Revolucion, Che Guevara. The face of the ruggedly handsome guerrillero adorns building facades, museums and T-shirt shops throughout the island. The legend of Che and Fidel's dramatic siege on Batista's cruel regime has won the hearts and minds of this most patriotic of peoples.

       But Cuba quickly seeps under your skin. We took an inland trip through the rural campos (countryside) and toured the dusty, French-provincial, mausoleum-like towns of Cienfuegos, and Santa Clara shrine to the ubiquitous Che'. It was like a step back in time to watch the horse and buggies quietly clomping along the cobblestone avenues.
       Trinidad, the gem of the island, is a perfectly preserved Spanish Colonial settlement where the clocks stopped ticking in 1850. Built on the wealth of the sugarcane plantations and the grim slave trade, the town is laden with fine carved furniture, cut glass, and candelabras of times past.
We hooked up with two lovely Aussie's and rode our bikes to the beautiful beaches of Playa Ancon on the coast.
Our Aussie travelling friends, Carolina and Cam 

       On our trip home we are amazed to find the six lane highway, built by the Russians during the Cold War, virtually empty of traffic except for a few trucks and tour buses, and the odd horse and carriage ambling along. A vision of an L.A. freeway flits across my mind, and I wonder once again if perhaps there is another, simpler world out there? Time to stop and smell the coffee.    

Playa Ancon
Our charming host at Casa Ramon

Upon our return to Havana we received an invitation to attend a local Salsa dance with Turlough's good friends Tom and Elisa and girlfriend Coo-kie. A good time was had by all and we would have to agree, Cuban Rum really is the best!

Elisa, Coo-kie and Cathy at Salsa Night


  1. have enjoyed following your adventure and hope someday to follow your tracks as well.
    Fair winds and following seas to you both...
    Dick & Anne "Full & By" still relaxing in Mexico

  2. We have enjoyed following your adventures and hope someday to follow your tracks
    Wishing you Fair winds and following seas
    Dick & Anne "Full & By" still relaxing in the Mexican sun