Our 36 hour stay in an all-inclusive was an eye-opener and not an experience we’d care to repeat. There wasn’t much opportunity to meet the local Cubans as staff are smiley but didn’t really have the time to engage in conversation as there was so much work to do.
There was a lot of choice at breakfast, buffet style, but the quality was much better in all the Casas we’d stayed in. The indigenous guayaba fruit was the best! Not quite a 5* hotel! … the 4* Fairmont Orchid Hotel we’d stayed in last year was of a markedly higher standard.
To make the most of the free beach sports equipment we headed straight to the punto náutico to be there for when it opened at 9:30. Bill took out a kayak and enjoyed the peace and tranquillity of an empty Caribbean Sea, then we both went out on a pedalo for an hour and watched the fish underwater, including a huge starfish.
a broken wrist is no barrier to enjoying the Caribbean!
Because the hotel is used by package tour operators, there was an on-site travel agent. We wanted to make contact with the airline for our return flight to see if flying with a plaster cast was allowed. Although the office was open, we waited so long that we had time to sample yet more cocktails! When the lady arrived, she wasn’t able to call numbers outside of the local area, nor did she have access to the internet!
Our driver, Orlando, arrived at 2pm to pick us up and take us back to Havana. Before we left, we treated him to a free coffee in the huge reception area. He told us he’d spent the previous evening ferrying tourists on the cayo as there are various bars and restaurants. Taxis are only allowed on the cayo with tourists so he made the most of it and I think he slept in his car!! We set off back across the water and through the police checkpoint. In a town called Carabien, he filled the car with petrol, leaving the engine running for the a/c whilst he did so. Health and safety is not a strong point in Cuba.
We picked up two female hitch-hikers in their twentieswho were going home after work – Orlando fancied himself as a bit of a ladies’ man and the bits of conversation I understood proved this!
We dropped the girls off near their homes in Santa Clara and Orlando suggested he take us to the Che Guevara Mausoleum in the city. As well as Che’s remains and a bronze 22-foot statue, there is an interesting museum dedicated to his life , including articles of his clothing and personal possessions. There is also an eternal flame lit by Fidel Castro in Che’s memory.
Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara was buried with full military honours in 1997 after his exhumed remains were discovered in Bolivia and returned to Cuba.
Santa Clara was chosen as the location in remembrance of Che Guevara’s troops taking the city on December 31, 1958, during the final Battle of the revolution, the result of which was the fleeing of the Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista, together with his fortune, to the Dominican Republic and then into exile in Portugal.
On the motorway back to Havana we stopped to help an old Chevy, which had no starter motor, and we drove slowly through an incredible hailstorm, passing cyclists cycling the wrong way and pedestrians on the motorway!
Arriving in Havana there was no sign of rain…but we did see a trussed up dead turkey on the front of a bike ridden by an old guy. (sorry- pic not too good but it is there in the background!)
Orlando dropped us off at his friend María’s house (called Casa María) on one of the main streets that dissect Havana, Calle Línea #803. The room we were shown was fine so we agreed to take it. There was a Betamax video player and an ancient PC in the living room, and María had internet.
Orlando said he’d take us to visit the fortress at the entrance to the harbour. It is the largest colonial fortress in the Americas- dating from 1500s and is at the huge military park (el Morro Parque Militar Casablanca) then we’d eat at the best restaurant in Havana called El Canonazo. We didn’t discuss a price for this extra trip, although it was added on to the bill we received the next day! Tip- never assume anything!
We drove via the house Orlando stays in when in the city- he took in the beer and toiletries we’d given him and he introduced us to a relative called Daniel, a 15 year old boy – he joined us in the car and we all went to the park and watched what is a nightly spectacle of marching soldiers and the firing of the El Morro cannon.
We then went to the restaurant and had a nice, though expensive, meal in an outdoor restaurant- with chickens roaming around! I think this place pays taxi drivers and tour companies to bring clients so I’d not recommend it – there are many more better restaurants in Havana.
We had a last drive along the Malecón and Orlando promised to pick us up tomorrow evening to take us to the airport. We still owed him the second instalment so we thought that would guarantee he would be there……how wrong we were!