My dad wants to go toCuba; Castro had
been to Roskilde, so he thought we owed a return visit. My mother is
of course keen on the idea, and Jesper can be persuaded. Me? - I've
been home for 10 weeks, so I have an excursion.
8.6 1997. Jesper's mother drives us to the airport, all works
well, until we find our seats. After calling Spies 25 times to book
extra leg room, I am told that the plane is in the US for having
removed some seats, so it can handle the long flight. Therefore,
there will be enough leg room for everyone. The seat we get is just
smaller than even those in front and rear of us. I just can't be
there, and as we have to pass Stockholm and pick up some Swedes, the
flight will be 13 hours. Complain to the stewardess, who finds some
empty seats between smokers and non smokers.
A stop in Stockholm, and then over Iceland,
Greenland (then we've seen Greenland), Canada and down over the
United States. Landing in Varadero Internationales at 15, local
time. Music (salsa) with little dressed dancers and mobile rum-bar
at the airport. One can easily feel welcome. Finding the bus and
head towards Havana. We make a single stop at Cuba's highest bridge,
where we admire the vultures. They are everywhere, and in
considerable quantities. We pass numerous working oil pumps, which
pollute much less than I had expected.
In Havana, we book into Hotel Plaza, right in
the centre. We get some late dinner, and Jesper and I head out into
the rather poorly lit city. First around "City Hall Square", some
hookers & hustlers, but not really strenuous. The surrounding
streets are very dark, but just before we return to the hotel, we
see an illuminated street. There aren't really any shops in the 3 Km
long street that ends down at the harbour. This does not mean that
there are no business people, a small group of people accompany us
through the street. They are 15-18 year olds, very beautiful girls,
who say something with "amory" and "won dolar", we say "NO!", But
they have a little bit of difficulty understanding. With one of them
under your arm, you can keep the rest at a distance, so that they
are allowed to accompany us. We buy them an icecreme at the end of
the street, and returns They are very difficult to get rite of at
the hotel, but when we finally make an appointment tomorrow night,
they leave (then we are in Vinales).
drive through the beautiful landscapes to an ecological village,
where we mainly visit artists. The city itself is in a very
beautiful valley, which I get to explore a bit.
We continue to the only preserved old-style coffee plantation. There
is no coffee, but drying places and others are restored. The main
house has been transformed into a restaurant, here we get salted
We head on to a cigar factory which unfortunately has closed due to
the rain. (We get 3 days of rain, otherwise sun with some heavy
showers). Instead, we try a liqueur factory. We see the barrel hall
and the bottling room, get a taste and crawl back into the bus.
in the afternoon, we arrive at the hotel in Vinales, which is
located on a mountain top with a fantastic view. It's dark for a
while, so we throw away our (only) shoes and walk down the soaked
slope in front of the hotel. Mimosas known as "don't touch me"
should be called "don't step on me", as they have thornes. A small
stream has devoured deep into the clay, forming a gorge. Down in it,
there is a frog's concert, and we crawl up through the river,
interrupted by 2-3 meters high falls. Back out in the field we come
across the local farmer. He invites us home, since I'm not
particularly interested I make a deal for manjana, as I
figure it's something for my mom (that was it!).
After dinner, Jesper and I arm ourselves with
flashlights, and head down toward the city. It's black night, but
with the help of the hearing (and the flashlights) we find giant
playing grasshoppers, scarabs, frogs, cicadas and geckos. Suddenly
Jesper sees a 5-6 cm large firefly. We observe it deeply
fascinating, along with its companions for a long time. I find
another, 1 cm firefly from another species. Back in the hotel we sit
with a glass of rum, listening to 5-10 species of frogs and 4-6
species of chicadas / grasshoppers. Like all other places in Cuba,
there are masses of bats, some only 4-5 cm tall.
10. While we wait for the rest of the company, we can enjoy a
small busy hummingbird swarming from flower to flower. When everyone
has arrived, we walk down the road to Vinales, which is a large
village. The others stay in the centre, where some single dollar
stores are found. Jesper and I, walk down a small street and end up
on the other side of town. Along the way we must photograph an
driveway with horse, pig, chickens and goat.
The only thing missing is an old American car. About half of the
cars we saw were cruisers from the 50s. Other common means of
transport include oxen carts.
The bus picks us up and we drive to the Native American caves, which
are very large limestone caves. Seeing a single tailless scorpion in
the cave. A sudden power failure reveals that I'm the only one
carrying a flashlight.
We head further into the cave. Now it is a 180 X 120 meter painting,
which depicts the evolution of snail (early squid; ammonite), over
human to dinosaurs. Watching the painting, shovelling some food in
his head, and walking along another rock wall, where the diversity
of nature really shows up. On the way back, we pass some
haystack-like limestone formations, and come to an old lady's
"botanical garden". Diserpointing!
at the hotel we rent some horses. These are real cowboy horses with
Texas saddles, and one-handed handling. Rides a very beautiful ride
through the lush countryside. Jesper, who was otherwise a bit
reserved, acknowledges that riding is great. When the tour is
complete, a shower starts, and we seek shelter in a tobacco-dry
barn. I pick up a few leaves from the ground, roll a cigar my way,
and smoke it successfully. I learn afterwards how to (also) roll
them, and get a big one home at the hotel.
Back at the hotel, I see a very small frog
jump over the terrace. Before I get a closer look, it gets eaten by
a hen. The chicken and its day-old chicks get chocolate biscuits, to
save a little on the frogs. Our exceptionally good guide Marianne
says the next morning, there might have been some frogs in the room.
No, the chickens ate it, says Jesper.
After dark, we are back in search with cameras and flashlights. We
hear bull frogs and see 5-6 cm large ticks. Back at the hotel, we
are strengthening ourselves with some 7 years of Havana Club and
freshly made cigars.
hour drive back to Havana (ZZZ ...). We start down at the harbour
and walk through the old town to a colourful square, where tourist
things are sold. These are actually pretty good things, and almost
all of them are made by hand from natural materials. We visit one of
the few churches, which are not very impressive, either inside nor
outside. But what, it's only when people have a bad life, they use
churches, and people have a fair, not to say good life, it seems.
Nobody is rich, but nobody is missing anything. Few
convenience-beggars, no malnourished or dirty or lousy. There is a
lack of transport, but then you just drive with each other, or you
can also talk. Until about 1960 they got cars from the US, then they
got from the USSR, now they do not get, so they maintain their cars
even better than taxpayed Danes.
find the bus and drive to Havana's finest eatery. We arrive in worn
summer clothes, where tuxedos would have been a little more
appropriate. The food tasted just as good for that reason. On the
way back to the hotel, we pass Castro's Yacht "Grama", which he (and
Ernesto Che Guevara etc.) entered Cuba with, at the start of the
revolution. We go for an afternoon tour, and get a "shot" of a
"camel". Their biggest buses are built on extended trailers. We come
across another means of transport down the pier. Here, one of the
anglers has set up his homemade "ass-pushing" of the bulwark.
As we walk, we are sometimes harassed by hustlers. Their entry's
reply is always: Hey friend, where are you from? They give up
quickly when ignored, but Jesper wonders what they really want. I
respond to the next one. He hears a little about us, tells us he is
a musician, and has been abroad (hence his rare English), gives us a
coin each, so we remember him, talk a little more about Cuba, and
want us to join us at the coffee shop. We say nice no-thanks, and
leave him. We got our first hosels plated! OK - only two coins, but
that's a start then. Next time we flatten it, is only a drying cord,
but we will enjoy it a lot.
In the evening, the whole company takes on Tropicana. Old cabaret
with very nice show, a´la Molin Rouge.
The big company continues in