So, we had succumbed to the allure of an All Inclusive Beach holiday: after a summer spent wild camping in (beautiful but) rainy and midge-infested Scotland, we figured we deserved a treat.
Of course, if you’re going to Cuba, then you just have to do Havana, right?
Well… yeah, but there’s one slight problem: Cuba is a BIG island. Much bigger than either I or Adam had ever assumed. From end to end, it’s an 18 hour drive. From our resort in Guardalavaca (or ‘Guard the Cow’: amazing :D) to the country’s capital is 10 hours by car or a- seemingly much more reasonable- 50 minute flight.
We were unsure, but after much disgust from our friend Bryn, we decided he was right: we didn’t know if or when we’d visit Cuba again (little did we know we’d break our rule of trying different places to return to the opposite end of the country this year!) and it was definitely a bucket-list destination.
So, we booked the trip, managed to coincidentally get chatting a few days before to the only other couple in the hotel also booked on, and got up for the 5am departure.
Great, I thought. We’d get to Havana in plenty of time to enjoy our brief visit and get a whistle stop tour.
Of course, as I’m sure you noticed me allude to earlier, it wasn’t quite as simple as all that.
5am pickup + 1 hour drive to Holguin + check-in and subsequent wait at airport + layover at Cayo Coco, where we had to disembark the plane, wait in a crammed airport before getting back onto the same plane + second part of flight + waiting for checked luggage + drive from airport to centre of Havana, meant that we didn’t actually get there until mid-afternoon. At least 8 hours after we’d set off. We’d be making the same journey back the next afternoon.
We arrived to sunshine and grabbed some lunch before embarking on a walking tour… at which point the heavens opened. Making it a deeply disappointing coach tour with one brief dash out at Revolution Square in the deluge.
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Now, this is where I break off to tell you that that evening and the next day were AMAZING. We’d probably not be returning to Cuba, despite the people being amazing, if we had not had such a perfect time and wanted to spend MORE time in this great city. However, I’m gonna save that for a later blog post and focus on just the journey for now.
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Heading back to the airport, slightly tipsy after cocktails in the Old Town, we tried to prepare ourselves for another journey from hell. Of course, this one was to become even more ridiculous than the outgoing flight for a number of reasons…
- We landed in Cayo Coco, just as the sun was setting, again bustled into the waiting room, again propped ourselves up in a corner because there were no seats (and apparently one family needed a seat for their bag [cue lots of British under breath grumbling]). Of course, by the time it came to leaving, the sun was down and as we heaved ourselves up the stairs of the plane, we were battered by a barrage of ravenous Mosquitos. Attempting to bat them away, we rushed onto the plane: only to realise (duh!) that the doors were open and would stay open until everyone was on the plane, a plane that was crammed full of warm and juicy bodies for the mozzies to chow down on. I had gone 2 weeks in Cuba with less than a handful of bites (and the bastards love me). Suffice it to say, I had over 40 by the time we disembarked. It was like something out of a cartoon- people hitting themselves and those around them, air stewards racing around with ineffective spray, and number 2…
- The man who wouldn’t sit down. I don’t think we ever did work out why this guy wouldn’t just get into his seat and let the plane take off, but he apparently had a problem that overrode the discomfort of everyone else on the plane. Not least, a fellow Mancunian who, much to his wife’s dismay yelled at the guy to “si’ down; ya clown” (a quote which is now very much part of mine and Adam’s vernacular and never ceases to give us a giggle.
When, after another flight, another wait for baggage and another hour drive back to the resort, we went to grab some tea, we encountered some wild and unruly children… who managed to follow us back to our room… and- as predicted- were staying in the room directly next to us.
The final cherry was the fact that our door key (to the room almost furthest from reception) no longer worked. At this point I simply collapsed on the floor, gave up on life and left Adam to run back to get it redone, listening as the screaming children turned into screaming adults and a shouting match ensued…
Again, let me reiterate: if this is the only way you can do Havana, do it! It really is a stunning city. Or, as we’re doing this year, cut out the middle man, and stay to the North West of the island!