I just had the great pleasure of spending an educational week in Cuba, staying with local Cuban families in Havana (Habana) and Trinidad. I was able to cook as the locals do, visit some beaches, and walk many, many kilometers through the metropolitan and country areas. Cuba has more to offer than classic cars, cigars, and communism. As a motorcycle rider, I was pleased to see the plethora of motorcycles, side cars, and electric bikes that filled the streets. One will often see women on balconies and rooftops with drying clothes waving like prayer flags, men sitting behind rebar protected windows, and children playing soccer barefoot on the streets and at the parks. Take a journey to a land that few Americans have had the ability to visit, through my pictures and words.
My trip began with a flight from Cancun, Mexico to Havana, Cuba, where I was greeted by a friendly stranger who escorted me to northern Habana where Crystal Blue of Enlightened Globetrekker Adventures was hosting 12 woman on an educational retreat.
I met with the remaining ladies and caught a cab with them to one of their mother in laws’ houses in Central Habana, where they would spend their remaining time in a small apartment owned by the gracious Tamara. We shared a beautiful meal together after all helping peel and prep potatoes, meat, rice, and beans. We originally took the young girls for a walk to get pizza, and this plan got thwarted by a deluge that surprised all of us, but is common, as this is the beginning of their rainy season.
The warm rain had us running for cover, laughing, and at home cooking instead, which was an especially warm welcome to Cuba. When finished eating, we walked out to the corner where one local was making ice cream and making ice cream sandwiches to sell for 50 cents a piece!
Day 1 was so fun and exciting, and all the travel had me weary (I had taken a 200 mile motorcycle trip the day before in Mexico which provided me with perfectly sore buns and thighs). Day 2 would be no less exciting, with a 5 hour taxi ride from Habana to Trinidad, filled with rain, drives past various mango orchards, sugar cane farms (Cuba’s #1 crop), and views of mountains and beaches. Upon getting settled in at our next home stay with a family of 5, we set out to explore Trinidad by foot and get accustomed to the cobblestone streets that we would call home for the next 5 days.
These next days were tough, and I didn’t take it easy on the girls. We had challenges to overcome, like not being able to withdrawal money while in the country, navigating the city with no wifi, and going without many of the amenities that Americans are accustomed to. I had them walking everywhere, including 5 kilometer hikes to the beach, making sure they ate all their fruit, veggies, and even hard bread to ensure we didn’t run out of funds before having to catch cabs back to Habana and the airport, and hand washing all of our laundry from all of our sweat soaked clothes.
The Cubans talking loud and fast, the constant harassment from locals asking for the clothes off my back (which I happily gave them), and having to search far and wide through the city for affordable options of produce, fish, and taxi rides were taking their tolls on all of us. Thankfully, everyone on the adventure was willing to step out of their comfort zone, compromise, and help take care of each other (even though they claimed I was like a drill sergeant). We all rewarded each other with multiple foot rubs, movie nights, and ice cream or cigars when they were offered to us on quiet nights on the roof top.
My last day in Cuba started and ended with more of the same struggles. Getting overcharged by taxis, sitting on the side of the road, haggling with the drivers, getting dropped off at the wrong terminal 3 kilometers away from my gate, and getting lost on our way to find Callejon de Hamel.
The moments I won’t forget will be the middle of the day, spending quiet moments with our host Tamara, her son and husband joking around, dancing, and eating delicious home cooked food. We went to a land unknown to us, integrated and bartered for goods, conquered Mirador, and hiked to Playa La Boca (which everyone told us was impossible with a child). Cuba is a beautiful land with a culture that is unfamiliar.
It is not for everyone, but it will be missed.