A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: HimalayanPeter

22 April 2017 & onwards

Havana to Los Angeles & Sydney

semi-overcast

today was my last day in Cuba. My flight from Havana was scheduled to leave at 5:55pm, and I was advised to allow plenty of time, s I arranged a 12:30pm airport transfer from the guesthouse. So the morning was free for a last walk around Old Havana.

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I made my way back towards the guesthouse and noticed that the church near the guesthouse was open, so I took a look inside.

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back at the guesthouse, I had already checked out of the room, but I was able to have a shower and change my clothes before heading to the airport. The car arrived just after 12:30pm, and the ride to the airport was approximately 30 minutes and cost CUC25. When I made my way into the terminal, I couldn't see my flight on the departure board. I eventually found someone who spoke English, and it turns out my flight was leaving from another terminal, several kilometres away. The first taxi driver I found didn't speak English, and drove away without me. The second taxi driver didn't understand what I was saying, but he found someone who spoke English, and agreed to take me to the other terminal. Cost was another CUC5.

Made it to the terminal, and found the Alaskan Airlines check-in. I was early enough to be at the front of the queue when the gate opened. They then announced USA passport holders only. I couldn't see any other queue, and when I finally attracted an officials attention, they were surprised that a non-USA resident would be on the flight. After a long examination of my passport and visa, I was allowed to check in my luggage, and get a boarding pass.

I then joined a queue to convert my Cuban currency into Euros, and after waiting in a sizeable line, I discovered the kiosk was only selling Cuban currency, & I would have to go through customs to get to the purchase kiosk. I got through customs with no problems, and joined the currency exchange kiosk before the queue got to large. I then had a couple of hours to fill in before the flight. As the afternoon wore on, some heavy rain and thunderstorms occurred. By 5:00pm, there was no sign of my flight, and other flights were beginning to board. Turns out my Alaskan Airlines plane didn't land in Havana until after its schedule departure time, but it had a reasonably quick turn around, and we were boarded and on the runway by 8:00pm. Unfortunately, a thunderstorm hit, and the plane was moved of the runway until the storm passed. We eventually left at 8:30pm, which was 2.5 hours after scheduled departure.

I was scheduled to have a 3 hour turnaround in Los Angeles, during which time I would have to get from the plane to the terminal (by bus), collect my luggage, go through customs, and move to another terminal. Needless to say, by the time I did all that, the Virgin Airlines flight was long gone, and the Virgin desk was closed. I couldn't find any help desk or officials, and the next Virgin Australia flight was the following evening. After going on the internet, I was unable to locate any flights that I could get on, so I looked for some accommodation for the night. After a few false starts, I eventually got into a room at 2:00am.

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The room was reasonably expensive, but it beat sleeping in the terminal, and the room was very comfortable. After a leisurely breakfast, I got the shuttle bus back to the airport. There was still no-one at the Virgin Australia desk, and a check on the internet indicated I wouldn't get a seat for another day. I located a seat on a Delta airlines flight departing at 10:30 that night. After locating the right terminal, and joining a massive and slow moving check-in queue, I eventually got a boarding pass about 2:00pm, I then considered doing a bus tour of LA for the rest of the afternoon, but I was tired, depressed, and didn't want to risk missing this flight, so I sat in the terminal for several hours until boarding time. The flight was full, and got into Sydney about 6:30am on Anzac day. After passing through luggage claim and customs fairly quickly, I then caught a train from the airport to home.. I was tired, but pleased to be home, albeit a day later than planned.

Posted by HimalayanPeter 03:37 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

21 April 2017

Vinales to Havana

overcast

Today we left Vinales at 9:00am for the return drive to Havana. The day is overcast, and during the drive we watched a video by Estela Bravo of Fidel Castro's life, which was very interesting. After a brief stop to refuel the bus, we reached Revolution Square in Havana about 11;30am. Since I had seen the square at the end of the earlier tour, I took the opportunity to photograph a few of the renovated hire cars for which Havana is famous.

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We settled into our guesthouse, which was the same one as we had stayed in a week earlier, and then had the afternoon free, before our farewell group dinner tonight. I went for a walk through the old city, then into Vedado (the new city) before returning to the guesthouse.

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It should be mentioned that Cuba does have some modern shops.

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even by Cuban standards, the above car was not exactly roadworthy. The building below was built by the founder of Bacardi Rum fame, Emilio Bacardi.

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The following photos are of the Revolution Museum, and the open air display behind the museum. Whilst I didn't do the museum tour, the glass pavilion houses the Gramma, the boat that Fidel Castro and his revolutionaries used to travel from South America to Cuba for the start of the revolution.

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here I am in San Francisco, or at least San Francisco district of Havana. This old maritime building (portrayed in the next 2 photos) is scheduled to be renovated)

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The next photo was another view of Havana from the rooftop of our guesthouse.

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Our group dinner was at a small and crowded restaurant in old Havana. We had a few cocktails, as can be seen, and afterwards, a few of us went on to a bar in the Plaza Vieja where an all girl band was playing. It was a great last night.

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Posted by HimalayanPeter 18:07 Archived in Cuba Comments (0)

20 April 2017

Vinales

overcast

Today we went by coach to a beach on the coast north of Vinales. Although not far in terms of distance, the road was badly potholed and our speed was very slow. We left at 8:30am, and got to the beach by 10:30am. Fortunately, we were ahead of the crowd, and were able to get deck chairs for the day, at a minimal price. Although it was overcast today, it was a hot day and the water was warm.

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Karrel had organised sandwiches, fruit and juice for lunch, and there was a bar just behind us, so there were a few cocktails consumed. We left at 2:00pm, just beating the rain. We had a quick stop at a cove near the beach where there is an old light house.

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We were back in Vinales by 4;00pm. After quickly freshening up at the guesthouse, I went for a walk down a few back streets of Vinales. baseball is a major sport in Cuba, but the season was finished. However, I came across the local stadium where some kids were having a game of baseball.

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at the end of the street I came across the farming area where a farmer was ploughing the field with an oxen pulled plough.

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And yes, Cuba does have essential services such as garbage collection.

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had dinner with Becky tonight at one of the restaurants in the main street.

Posted by HimalayanPeter 04:01 Archived in Cuba Comments (0)

19 April 2017

Vinales

sunny

today was a free day in Vinales, although Karrel had arranged a few activities for us. The first was a walking tour of the local park on the outskirts of Vinales.

Our first stop was at a tobacco farm, where we saw tobacco leaves drying, watched a demonstration of cigar rolling, and tried cigars dipped in honey (apparently the method used by Fidel Castro). Not every-one enjoyed the cigars. We had an opportunity to purchase cigars in bulk.
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From the cigar farm, we continued on past horse riders, coffee plants, and other farming activities.

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Our next stop allowed us to taste locally made honey (the bees certainly liked it) and locally produced rum, both of which were for sale.

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We then continued through the park until we came to a small café where we had a refreshing drink, before leaving the park about 12:30pm.

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After returning to the guesthouse and having a quick lunch in town, a few of went out to Cueva del Indio (Indian Caves), an underground limestone cave and river. The tour cost CUC5, and whilst the tour was only an hour, it included a short boat ride through the underground caves.

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After the cave tour, we freshened up at the guesthouse before catching out tour bus to an ecological farm on the outskirts of town. We had a short tour of the farm before having dinner (made with farm grown produce) on the farms restaurant balcony, overlooking the Vinales Valley.

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Posted by HimalayanPeter 04:07 Archived in Cuba Comments (0)

18 April 2017

Soroa to Vinales

rain

9;00am departure from Soroa, heading for Vinales where we will spend a few days. The morning started off overcast, but cleared as we approached our first stop, a terraced ecological village. We spent an hour walking through the village, and having a coffee overlooking the village.

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After a lunch stop at a roadside café, we were supposed to tour a medical herb farm, but whilst it was open, they weren't accepting foreigners, so we continued on to our next stop at a lookout with spectacular views of the Vinales Valley.

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We arrived at Vinales at 2:00pm, with overcast skies. After dropping our bags off at our guesthouses (mine is the blue house below), we went on a brief orientation walk into the village. However, heavy rains started so we took shelter in a bar until the rains eventually stopped.

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The above photo is the interior of a typical chemist shop. Because of the ongoing international blockade, Cuba places great reliance on herbal medicines.

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After a brief walk through town, I made my way back to the guesthouse to freshen up before heading back into town for dinner. I met Sophie, Olivia & Becky at a restaurant, so had dinner with them. Most of the group had arranged to meet in the church square (which was also the WiFI hotspot) at 9:00pm, before heading of to a local bar for a couple of cocktails. Soroa is very tourist oriented, with many guesthouses, and plenty of restaurants and bars.

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Posted by HimalayanPeter 00:12 Archived in Cuba Comments (0)

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