dancing across cuba!
Cuba Travel Blog› entry 2 of 10 › view all entries
I spent 2 weeks in Cuba and did a tour with 10 other people from around the world.
Cuba is an awesome country - a place of like no other: The buildings are decaying in many areas... Marble statues of revolutionaries stand in beautiful plazas... Things do not work - the electricity will go off a couple of times a day and just try to get a flight confirmed out of the country!!!... Its safe to walk through the streets of havana at night... There is music everywhere and people DO dance in the streets... I met so many cubans that were salsa teachers... The beautiful 1950's Cadillac that still works - the first thing most tourists do in Cuba is to take a photo of a car or two or three... If i never see a ham and cheese sandwich again it will be too soon (this is the chinese or kebab at 3am too).
My first night in Havana was watching flamenco dancers then being swept up in the Carnival along the Malecon (waterfront).
The first stop on the trip was Santiago de Cuba. Its a beautiful town with the homes all painted different colours, people sitting on the streets playing dominoes, and bands busking in the park. Santiago is built a bit inland and we visited the fort that protected it (tried and failed) from the pirates that sacked the town on a number of occassions. We also visited the Moncada Barracks where the first act of the revolution was staged.
In Santiago i had my first salsa lesson, but you cannot learn enough in one hour that when you are at the bar and a cuban asks you to dance that you do not make a fool of yourself when you spin left instead of right, get arms tangled, step on his feet... especially when all Cubans can dance beautifully and twirl around the floor. We watched the professional bands a couple of nights play Salsa, Son and Caribbean music and tried to dance a little better the next time around (maybe at the back of the room this time Por Favor?). and we watched a youth group dance all the island dances.
Then to Camguay which is a gorgeous town with winding confusing streets, a real outdoor friendly culture and lovely plazas. We took a few bicitaxi's through the streets and raced until one of the taxi's brakes failed and they had o go around the block before coming to a stop. There is one park here where they have made statues of the some locals and one man was sitting in the same pose, in the same hat, reading the same newspaper as his bronze statue wanting a photo or two - so cute. and the little kids play soccer in the streets, older people play dominoes or chess on the doorsteps.
Then next stop was Trinidad which is a beautiful town that is like an "outdoor museum" with cobblestone streets and old renovated buildings everywhere, little bars and nightclubs in buildings that are just the old brick walls covered in vines and the stars above to dance beneath.
We laid on a beach during the day, had salsa lessons and learnt to play the congas. This is the tall round drum. And anyone that has heard me sing understands a little how musically untalented I am, so I was a little concerned about the music lesson and the making of our own CD. But we sounded surprisingly good. I played 2 congas at once and was not downgraded to the cow bell! So I can now play the chacha and the Chan chan. And the group is expected the record deals to roll in at any time now.
Last stop was in St Clara at the Che Guevara memorial which is another celebration of this martyr and the revolution.
Then back to Havana. The essential experience in Cuba was the Cuban Cigar. having it hanging out of the side of your mouth whilst sipping a mojitto. And to the Tropicana which i would not recomend. there was so much more soul and fun in the bands and performances we'd seen thoughout the country that the "teeth, tits and arse" feathers and colour and set dance moves just didn't feel the same.
We had been staying in Casa Particulares which is a room in peoples homes throughout our trip. Which was a great and way to travel. They followed particular rules of the state as is they were not allowed to serve lobster (but it was always offerred) and you could only feed the people staying in your casa but generally we had group dinners and amazing food in one of the homes.
Then a couple of days in Cuba as i could not get back to Caymans. It is so hard in Cuba to get anything done! But spent the time wondering through old Havana and going to the Museo de la Revolucion.
I loved Cuba. Go now before Fidel dies as it will probably change heaps and the feeling will be lost as coca cola signs come in, new cars, and the cuban identity dwindles.
Next is Cayman Islands for a few days and then to Mexico.