I returned from Cuba late last night after a long, long journey. Fortunately my luggage didn’t get lost on the way back to London, as it did on the way to Havana. The airline (Iberia) somehow managed to forget to load several baggage containers onto the plane, so when we arrived in Havana, our bags were still in Madrid. Some members of the group got their bags the next day, but I had to wait four days for mine, and one of group didn’t get her bag until we went back to Havana airport to return home.
A view of Havana from Castillo de los Tres Reyes Magos del Morro
The group consisted of 15 Brits, two people from Ireland and one from Australia, and ranged in age from 30something to 70something. We had a Spanish-speaking tour leader from England, and various local guides. We all got on well and had a great time. Only a few of the group spoke Spanish, but this wasn’t too much of a problem as our local guides and most of the other people we met spoke English, at least to some extent.
The group (plus two random kids)
We travelled all around the island from Havana to Santiago de Cuba, via the Bay of Pigs, Trinidad and Camaguey, and then back via Santa Clara, Soroa and Viñales. Everywhere we went, we were told a lot about the Cuban revolution. We also visited La Comandancia de la Plata in the Sierra Maestra mountains near Santo Domingo where Fidel, Ché and others took refuge after the unsuccessful uprising of 1956; Ché’s memorial in Santa Clara, and the Museum of the Revolution, including the original Granma yacht, in Havana. There were only a few mentions of Cuba’s pre-revolutionary history.
For me, the highlights of the trip were Trinidad, walking in the Sierra Escambray and Sierra Maestra mountains, and a very memorable evening of music and dancing in Viñales, which ended with six of us squeezing into a Lada and being driven at high speed back to our hotel. That was one occasion when my Spanish came in very handy – there were no taxis but we eventually managed to find someone with a car willing to take us all to the hotel. The negotiations were conducted mainly in Spanish.
As well as practising my Spanish, I also had opportunities to use my German, Irish and Mandarin. I tried to teach some of the other members of the group a bit of Spanish and some juggling as well.