Cuba is one of those places. Like Iceland. Somewhere almost everybody wants to visit, but never does.
Of course, going to Cuba is exactly as easy as going just about anywhere. You buy a plane ticket, get on a plane and – hey presto – you’re in Cuba! And yes, it’s exactly like you imagine it – and better.
As you may know, discussions between the U.S. and Cuba started in January, regarding lifting the Cuban embargo. Time, it seems, is running out for those of us who want to visit the country before the capitalist influence inevitably starts to saps the soul out of the place.
So off we went.
The main challenge involved with travelling in Cuba is the lack of internet. I know, that’s hardly a challenge. Even so, having become accustomed to just booking place to stay on the fly, it was somewhat alarming to find ourselves stuck in Havana without anywhere to stay.
Luckily, most of Cuba is a hostel. Or rather, countless Cubans are more than happy to let you sleep in their room for a small amount of the convertible currency. (There are two currencies in Cuba: the Peso Cubano (CUP) which Cubans are paid in; and the Peso Convertible (CUC) used by tourists and outsiders.)
So, with the help of our initial hosts, we found ourselves a couple of simple places to stay: one in Havana and one in Varadero, the main beach resort region of Cuba.
I know what you’re thinking: beach resort region?! What even the fuck?!
That’s what we thought, too. In fact, we only wound up there because all the buses to the places we wanted to go to were booked up, and we wrangled a good price on a taxi that could get us to Varadero within 90 mins.
So off we hopped.
Varadero was nothing like we feared and everything that we wanted. It was quiet, clean and super friendly. Sure it was touristy, but we were there to eat, sleep and relax. So that’s what we did.
Rum (at £3 a bottle) was cheaper than water (posh bottled water, anyway), the coffee was the best I’ve ever had and the cigars were…well, Cuban. The beaches were endless and virtually deserted, and the sea was a crystal clear bluegreen haven.
Vikki summed Havana up better that I could, by describing it as a city that had been abandoned some time in the 50s, then suddenly repopulated a couple of weeks before we arrived, by people who just moved into the crumbling buildings and started driving around in the battered, ancient cars.
Probably the most startling bit of all was the lack of advertising – or any of the trappings of capitalism that we come to accept as normal. For two whole weeks, we didn’t have our headspace constantly and needlessly invaded by adverts and requests to attention, all to the same end of making us buy shit we don’t want or need. It was heavenly.
Truly, however, we did very little – which was exactly what we wanted and needed to do. There is, therefore, little more to write. I’ll allow the photos to do the rest: