Well after 27 hours of mind numbing travel via Buenos Aires and Panama City we finally made it to Havana. We have already picked up a few things along the way so I thought I would share them before we tell you more about our adventures so far.
1. Never queue anywhere in South America unless you have been specifically told it is the right queue… even then it may not be the right one and you will waste hours
2. Even though a task may seem simple to you, it will often take 5 people to do it and they will all get distracted and do something else at some stage
3. There is no order to a queue
Ok, that is enough on queues. One very important piece of information, which would have been nice to read in the guide book is that you should never, under any circumstance, bring Australian dollars to Cuba. You cannot change them…. anywhere.
So now with some of the practicalities out of the way, we can tell you that this is a fantastic place! Even though they are having the coldest weather they have had in 15 years… just as well we packed for Patagonia!
The history and stories the buildings and streets of Havana hold are quite extraordinary. You can see that life has been hard to those that live in this great city and it seems as though it is split in two. There is the tourist face of Havana and then there is everyday life. Behind every doorway the locals are hard at work, building and making the essentials of life. Those things we have become so accustomed to such as vending machines, advertising, McDonalds and even fresh fruit and vegetables are non-existent. It took a few days to realise that we had not seen one single billboard or neon sign and it was a hugely refreshing realisation. Life is basic and simple here.
Eating is very cheap. We usually pay around 15 CUC (A$20) for a good meal for the both of us. Pork, rice and beans seem to be a staple, along with the now dreaded ham and cheese, or cheese and ham sandwich. But drinking is even cheaper. Cocktail affacionados will be in heaven with Mojito costing less than a glass of juice. The savvy traveler will be able to hunt down some great bakeries, coffee spots and places to drink boutique beer. Stuart, the anti-smoker, has fast developed a nasty cigar habit… he does however assure me it is only temporary.
We have found ourselves a quaint casa particulares (home stays), with gracious hosts Pablo and Lidya. They have quite a good little business going there with a few rooms at 30 CUC a night… that is about one month wages for working class Cubans. The influences of communism are still very strong with free enterprise just barely dipping its toes in the water.
Last night we spent quite some time with the SLR and our brand new (but now slightly battered from the flight) tripod in some of the beautiful squares in Vieja, which is part of the old town of Havana. Stand-by for some photos when we get ourselves organised.
For all of those of you that are wondering about the earthquake in Haiti and whether we have seen any effects, we havent. Lets hope that help comes quickly and our thoughts are with those affected.
Anyway, time running out on the internet card. We will be in touch.
Em and Stu