Back in Havana with a giant Cuban flag hanging limply on the face of the building across the street. After 3 weeks of travelling off the beaten track from Havana to Trinidad, to Camaguey, Sierra Maestra, Santiago de Cuba and Baracoa with a group of adventurers from North America on the Crazy Adventure Tour that I offer I find Havana absolutely luxurious. Hmmm, just goes to show, its relative folks.
Christmas was a low key affair with pigs squealing as they tried to escape their fiery fate on the river at the foot of the Sierra Maestra with Ulysses and Alexeis hosting us as we recovered from climbing the Commandante. There the remnants of Fidel and his band of bearded pranksters plotted revolution and guess what…??
60 years later the blockade is intact and the people are still struggling. La Lucha, the struggle, a word one hears a lot but now the meaning has shifted. Like finding eggs or bananas or a water tank. Just saying. Priorities change.
Back to the trip..High points, mountains with views and history that lives on, horseback rides to waterfalls with nobody else around and New Years dinner cooked by sublime Deulis in Barracoa and served on the terrace with a view of El Yunque (anvil) the square topped mountain that dominates the landscape like a brush cut from an Archie comic strip.
The Hurricane that hit Baracoa in September destroyed the majority of the palm trees, banana plants and many many homes but because it is a micro climate which we kept hearing and hearing “Micro Clima’ the resurgence of green is remarkable and the majority of houses are open for business and the people are still quirky and wonderful.
I spent New Years Eve dancing to traditional music a El Patio with local men who showed off their shoulder shakes with aplomb and the next day my knees hurt enough that I was reminded that another year has indeed passed.
In Camaguey we were kidnapped by a young hustler on a bicycle who guided us so helpfully to our house because our young driver, Jonny, (Johnny be good to us) did not know where he was and I repaid his act of kindness with a tip except…it was not our house. It was his commission grabbing house. Sigh.
Ok, back to high notes. A brass section in Santiago de Cuba that would be at home on any world stage, playing under the stars into the wee hours of this Caribbean town, sweltering in the folds of the hills that surround it. The smiling faces of the Son dancers languidly sliding to the floor, never missing a beat at the Casa de la Trova while wearing lime green nylon transparent shirts that made me sweat just looking at them and my envy at their dancing abilities. Oh in my next life…visiting Fidels grave in the big clean cemetery in Santiago with the soldiers goose stepping on the hour with very serious expressions on their young brown faces.
Riding in big old dumptrucks converted into buses and Cadillacs to Guantanamo where the base is a hazy line on the horizon from the look out.
And flying back to Havana on a propeller jet plane that was built in the era of Soviet fists and caviar but now gusts clouds of air conditioning into the cabin yet still gives a smooth ride. Below the terrain shifting from Tropical green undulations to flatter subtropical regions as we headed West.
And the cold beer glass that sweats on the table as the soft sounds of the malecon and voices and piano rise and fall, like waves, like the perceptions that continually change shape and colour in this vortex where time is flying forward but keeps getting thwarted as it bumps up against the invisible wall of 1960.