Carnets de voyage

Trip Information

Cuba III
Cuba III (7)
Trip Date:2010-02-06 - 2010-02-13
# Photos:29 [View]
Countries visited:Cuba
Vue: 9174
We had many reasons to go to Cuba:
- Of course, the principal reason was to go away from Canadian Winter... even if it was not for longtime ;-)
- Not too far from here (at least, in comparison to my beloved Brazil)
- There are a lot of advertisements for Cuba in travel agencies. They convinced us also because of the prices - not very expensive.
- It is not necessary to take drastic precautions. For example, no special vaccines are needed.
- It is one of the favourite sunshine destinations of Canadians. Everybody has already heard good things about vacations in Cuba.
Here we go!
My husband and me.
It was the first time I allowed myself to travel long distance outside Canada, other than to go to Brazil.

2010/02/06 - Saturday
We left Canada on Saturday, 6 February, 2010, directly from Montreal to Cayo Coco - there is an international airport there. The airplane was full. There was someone waiting for us at the airport to lead us by bus to the hotel. The name of the hotel we stayed in is Tryp Cayo Coco.

Meaning of "cayo" (cay): it refers to each of the sandy, shallow islands, often largely covered by mangrove, very common in the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. They are small, low-elevation, sandy islands formed on the surface of coral reefs.
"Coco": the name of the small island is not because of coconut, it is because of a bird called coco.

When we arrived there, it was raining and we were very disappointed. But the staff of the hotel told us that the sun will be shining the day after. And they were right! Thank goodness!

$$$ Exchange rate:
1,00 CAD = 0,85 Pesos

We arrived hungry, at about 11:00 AM, and we ate delicious hamburgers at the hotel.

The bedroom was very beautifully decorated and comfortable. A pleasant balcony gave us a beautiful view to the pools and to the sea.

For dinner, we went to the restaurant already included in the payment. We were pleasantly surprised. It is a buffet-style breakfast, lunch and dinner restaurant - nicely decorated, good food, excellent service!

Almost all Cubans of the staff speak English, French... and Spanish, of course.

2010/02/07 - Sunday
Sunday morning – we had a briefing at a hotel conference room – all we needed to know about the stay there.

After the conference, we went around to see more of the hotel. A splendid decoration with palm trees in profusion. Everything kept in good condition, clean.
More tourists arriving, others leaving… a lot of people, it looked like a party in a village. A Quebecer village ;-) – most of people were from Quebec.

Among the comings and goings of the crowd, some peacocks were walking in beauty and elegance, ready to be photographed ... I did it.

The vehicles in the parking of the hotel were all new! Where are the famous old cars often seen on pictures of Cuba? I didn't understand and I was a bit disappointed.
No problem... "Vamos a la playa", the sun and the sea were waiting for us in a magnificent day… we were lucky, we had good weather all the week long.

The fine white sand… The turquoise sea, incredibly turquoise! My husband had shown it to me through the window of the airplane and I was really astonished. Why is the sea of a so intense colour? I don't know. Whatever... we just enjoy it!

We came back to the hotel... Is there internet connection? Yes, of course. Not high-speed. But it is alright, we are not there to stay indoors.

In the evening, after dinner, we watch the shows, listen to the music of typical Cuban groups here and there. It is party time!

2010/02/08 – Monday
I was in a hurry to book an excursion to the cities located in the bigger island, to know the "real Cuba". There were several options of excursion – I chose that one called "Espectacular", which offered more options to know people and their traditions. There was one for Tuesday – tomorrow... perfect! 75 Pesos per adult.

And another beautiful day with the sun shining – we went to the beach, of course. We took care of the skin, because it was windy and we didn't notice how strong the sun was... we started looking like a lobster ;-)

Late afternoon we were back to the hotel to not miss the "Crazy games" on the pools. We didn't participate, but it was amusing to watch it. All the team of the hotel, leading the shows and competitions, had a funny way to say bye bye to the person who failed – they said "Ciao, ciao, Mickey Mouse"... I don't know why they say it. Could someone tell me why?
I have the impression that it sounds like Fidel Castro, don't you think?

There were many other activities, like gymnastic, lessons of dance and so on... good for younger people ;-)

In the evening, another good show, this time "Noche Latina" – an excellent 'corps de ballet' performed many typical dances of the Latin America, in a mix of classic and contemporary ballet. Bravo! This show, yes, it was spectacular!

Tomorrow, a long day...

2010/02/09 – Tuesday

$$$ Exchange rate:
1,00 CAD = 0,75 Pesos

We took some Pesos, in case of... maybe we will find some tourist traps ;-)

And the guide had warned us to not forget our passports, because we will take the only road to leave the small island to go to the largest one, where Cubans live. Yes, the hotel where we stayed is part of a hotel complex situated in the small islands of the northeastern region of Cuba. There is no resident population in these islands, only hotels. Most of people who work in the hotels live in the city of Morón (for better understanding, see map here - use the zoom). To cross the sea and thus establish the communication between the small islands and the largest one, a road was built with stones arranged in the shallower parts of the ocean. It is a very solid road and has withstood many hurricanes. The trip takes 1 hour and a half. So the hotel staff spends 3 hours on the road every day.

The road is closely watched to prevent anyone not authorized.

We went there in a comfortable bus with air conditioning and our guide gave us a lesson about Cuba, during the trip - History, geography, demography, politics... all in excellent English and very good French. He made jokes at times, it was very interesting and enjoyable. Everybody loved it! According to his own words, we were going to visit the "real Cuba".

- Ciego de Ávila
- Ciro Redondo
- Typical Cuban meal
- Crocodiles
- Morón
- Redonda Lagoon

Ciego de Ávila
Ciego de Ávila is the capital of the province with the same name. There, we first visited the so called house of the artisan. To be sincere, I didn't like it. Of course, there were beautiful work in silver, but it was like entering in a private house, like an intrusion in a family privacy. It was not a big public house, as I thought it was. And they spent too much time there. Meanwhile, I went outside to look at the street scene. We notice immediately the multiracial origin of the people. Bicycles are very used. Trishaws (rickshaws) are very frequent as taxi vehicles.

Then, we went to a cigar factory, to see how they work – a quick visit. Women play an important role in the production of cigars, there were only women working in this factory.

By the way, in all activities that I saw Cuban women working, I had the impression they were doing their job with great professionalism.

In the cigar factory, I think they seemed to be tired of seeing tourists coming to look at them as if they were rare objects... or something exotic. I was embarrassed to be there and I wanted to leave the place as soon as possible.

In the cities, I had the impression of poverty. We see that consumerism is really not there. Shops are pitiful, we are accustomed to see an abundance without limits, which seems more absurd there. And the contrast between the resorts and Cubans way of life is outrageous. I think that one day, it will do something in the minds of Cubans. I don't know...

According to the tour guide, the investment in these hotels is an experience which the government is doing, with 50% paid by the State and 50% private. But he has not revealed who is the private investor. On the other hand, we know that hotels are from the Sol Melia chain of hotels, which is of Spanish origin. He also said that there is a contract establishing dates – after some years they will decide what to do – nationalize everything, privatize or keep it the same way.

Then, we went to a place where a good group of musicians gave us a little show. It was a great part of the city tour... Too bad, it was not for long time.

We had some minutes to go around in downtown. We saw the shops – nothing, really nothing interesting to buy.
In the streets, people were friendly, but some of them have harassed a little – or they asked for our hats, or money. But there were no thieves; we were safe with our cameras, for example.
And there we saw the famous old Cuban cars - which are American old cars from fifties or even older.

There were some people in the center park, doing nothing; they didn't seem to be at work. Maybe in vacation too?... I was in doubt about what our tour guide had said about the absence of unemployment in Cuba... just my thought... Anyway, it is not of my business.

And we went back to the bus, to go to a sugar refinery located in Ciro Redondo.

Ciro Redondo
Cuba was one of the largest exporters of sugar in the world. Its main partners were the former Soviet Union and the communist countries of Eastern Europe. The disappearance of the communist bloc had drastic consequences for Cuba.
Although sugar cane remains a very important agricultural product, employing a significant parcel of the workforce, Cuba now is investing a lot in the tourism industry.
In the entry of the sugar refinery, there are many posters and we can read the main objectives and basic concepts about the refinery and about the socialism.

The refinery was not working during our visit. I had the impression that the employees were waiting for us?!? And yet, the guide had told us, before arrival, we would probably be lucky to see it working :-(

The transport of sugar cane is made by a train that passes inside the refinery. We saw the railway crossing right in the middle of the installations.

I was tempted to pick up a piece of sugar cane (the train carrier had just left some there) - for chewing it and get the delicious sugar water, directly from the source, as I have already done many times in my childhood, in Brazil. But I was too shy for that :-/

The tour guide showed us the equipment – an old machinery installed by Americans, in the old days. It is what they use until now.

He also showed us a small shop where they sell the famous Cuban rum made from sugar cane. My husband and me, we didn't buy it. How dare we? ;-)

Typical Cuban meal
To tell you the truth, I was hungry and could not wait for lunch. Finally, we arrived where we would have the typical Cuban meal. Speaking as a Canadian tourist, it seemed that we were in the middle of the jungle. For me, a typical Brazilian, the place reminded me the backyard of my grandmother's house, which was located near the center of the city of Belo Horizonte. Of course, today the city has changed a lot, it is much more urbanized, but we didn't consider it was a jungle, at that time ;-)

The food was delicious and again it reminded me the Brazilian food, mainly the way we prepare the food: rice with separated grains (not glued together), salted beans (without sugar), cassava... hmmm... delicious! I also liked the meat, but my husband didn't. He said it was not tender for his taste. He wanted to order a pizza... (I'm kidding ;-)

We visited a crocodile farm, this prehistoric reptile that, I must confess, I don't like. The same for all other reptiles.
Employees of the farm offered us to hold a baby crocodile with its mouth tied, so that it doesn't bite. I don't know what was the "fun", but people were enjoying it.

Besides the fun with the crocodiles, they make ornaments with their teeth, like rings, necklaces, bracelets and earrings. They do not need to pull their teeth. They normally fall and others grow in their place.

I bought a ring and I think it has a very strange property. Something strange happened already twice and I have witnesses ;-)
The ring breaks while I wear it. I take it off and put it aside. The next day it is fixed by itself and we can hardly see the "scar".
I've searched on the internet about crocodile teeth, but found nothing to explain this phenomenon :-/

Moron is where most of people who work in the hotels live. The city's emblem is a cock.

Arriving in Moron, we were invited to visit the city in a barouche and I was able to take some good pictures (in my humble opinion), despite the vehicle in motion. Then, we had some minutes to go around. As soon as we were far from the guide, some young men started to ask us for our caps and other tourists were asked for giving money. It was a tiresome harassment and it doesn't give me the desire to return there.

Another situation that I found depressing was the old ladies in the street who offered a flower to the women of the group of tourists and stayed in front of us without saying anything, with a sad smile... of course, they wanted some "pesos" and they went away after having them.

I think that museums should be included in the itinerary. It is a big lack.

Redonda Lagoon
The last step of the excursion was a boat ride on the natural lagoon "La Redonda".
At the lagoon side, there is a restaurant and a small tourist-trap-like shop with some souvenirs. And I fell into the trap, of course ;-)

End of the excursion to real Cuba
Before finishing my report of this excursion, I would like to tell you something interesting...
Someone asked:
- Why there are so many pictures of Che Guevara everywhere in Cuba, and so few pictures of Fidel Castro?
And the tour guide replied without hesitation:
- It is normal; it is because Che Guevara is dead. When Fidel Castro dies, we will have more photos of him, too.

I didn't take many pictures of this standard Che Guevara.

We were back to Cayo Coco.

And the subsequent days were sun, beach, sea... Good weather, everything all right.

The last day, my husband contracted "la turista" (how Quebecers call the diarrhea). I think it is because he ate outside the hotel jurisdiction. But we were well equipped, we had everything needed to face "la turista".

But after all, we can describe the final outcome of the trip as excellent!