The Cuba Diaries

Notes from my holiday to Cuba, madly scribbled into a tiny moleskin notebook over breakfasts of guava and omelettes.

Quick glossary – Casa = airbnb-style homestay accomodation // Viazul = inter-city coach.

Monday 3rd

Travel to Cuba. Up well early (OJ forgot her railcard). CBG -> KGX -> GTW. Nando’s breakfast. Plane with Norfolk man. Watched X-Men and Independence Day. Chaos at airport; immigration, baggage reclaim, customs, currency all mad. Taxi possibly ripped us off too. Arrived at casa in Havana. Host is lovely. Watermelon juice on arrival. Lightning!

Tuesday 4th

First day in Havana. Breakfast at Casa. Walked to Central Havana / Old Town. Seafront. Talked to lots of people. Walked around. Saw plazas + parks. Cathedrals. Coconut ice cream. Lunch: burgers + sandwiches. Walked around some more. Saw some art. Went to Havana Club museum. Drank mojitos at Hemingway’s bar (La Bodequita). Came back. Spent ages searching for water. Found some water. Sat on casa rooftop terrace. Went to local restaurant for dinner. Pizza and ‘smoked pork.’ Tired!

Wednesday 5th

Second day in Havana. Had a lie-in. Walked to the ‘Musee de la Revoluccio.’ Accosted on the way. Did a mini-art tour. ‘Free’ but they wanted a tip… Quite interested museum – lots of exhibits. Took a taxi along the Malécon to the John Lennon Park. Pics with statue and beers at the ‘Submarino Amarillo’ bar. Watched some 80s music videos. Walked to casa. Out to the Hotel Nactional for cocktails (Pina Colada and Cuba Libre). Amyée booked our casas for the rest of the trip. Dinner at ‘Waoo!’ (Tomato bread, stuffed plaintains, and tamales!)

Thursday 6th

Up early. Said goodbye to Amyée (and paid up – $101). Taxi to Viazul terminal. Four hour coach ride to Vinales, stopping in Las Terazas + Pinar del Rio on the way. Finally arrived in Vinales and met casa owner Roberto (no english!). Went on a long hike through the farms/fields. Saw a cigar being rolled – got to smoke one. Went through caves and saw rocks that look like things (lol).

  • Fidel Castro
  • Snake
  • Eagle
  • The Queen
  • Monkey
  • Dinosaur
  • Dolphin
  • Musical rocks (made sounds when you hit them)
  • Tortoise
  • ‘El Diablo’

Last stop was a farm where we learned about pineapples, sugar cane, coffee (very enthusiastic guide). Back to casa then over to another one for dinner – but we didn’t have enough change to pay. Tired – so early night.

Friday 7th

Woke up late. Long breakfast at casa (fruit, bread, spam?, cakes). Left about 1 to find the hop-on, hop-off tour bus. Waited two hours but it didn’t show up… saw the plaza though. Gave up and bought a beach trip for saturday and the sunday viazul for Trinidad. Got a taxi to the Cuevo del Indio, an underground cave. Taxi driver came too for some reason. Walking and a boat tour. More rocks that look like things. Dinner at a restaurant – roast chicken and fried chicken (no mojitos). OJ didn’t feel well.

Saturday 8th

No breakfast. Day trip to Cayo de Jutia. Shared a bumpy taxi ride with 3 others. 1 1/2 hour journey, driver stopped a few times to pick us fruit, take pictures, check out a secret beach. Beach itself was v. busy. Didn’t get a lounger, just sat on towels. Sea very warm. Drank some Bucaneros. Lunch was seafood and rice. Did some reading. Left at 4. Back at casa. No dinner. Mojitos on the balcony, listening to music. Talked to Roberto about art and music. Early night for the sunday Viazul.

Sunday 9th

Got up early (~5.30 am) to catch the Viazul. Roberto made us coffee and sandwiches and we said goodbye. Coach trip took around 8 hours, stopping in Pinar del Rio, Cienfuegos, and a few road stops. In Trinidad, got a bike-taxi to our casa (suitcases tied to the back!) and met our new host. In the evening, went out to a bar for tapas dinner with beers. THen we watched a live band on the steps of the main square with cocktails and beer. Got very lost on the way home. Trinidad is a maze…

Monday 10th

Wasn’t very well during the night and felt a bit funny all day (must have eaten something dodgy…). Saw the main sights of Trinidad – Plaza Mayor, etc. Did a photo tour (walking) from the guide book. Went to the city museum and climbed the tower there. Sat on the main steps again with fizzy orange. tried to book Viazul but was shut. Came back to chill at casa for a few hours. Dinner at ‘Le Taco Loco’ – food took a while to come, but good fried beans and rice. Hassled by a pack of stray dogs on the walk home.

Tuesday 11th

Breakfast at casa. Went to Viazul to reserve seats for Santa Clara. No excursions available to the parks, so we had to get a taxi there and back. Haggled down from 40 to 20 CUC. Parque el Cubano mostly empty (few Australian tourists). 45m hike (3.6km) to a big waterfall. OJ stopped for a drip in the river along the way. Went swimming in pants – at the waterfall. Deep and scary. Went behind the waterfall and saw bats. Walked back and had sautéed potatoes and bean soup snack. Chilled at casa, and owner directed us to another casa for dinner. Strange place. 5 course meal (chicken nugget, veg soup, chicken, rice pudding, and spirits). Trapped inside behind the music. $31 CUC. Most expensive night out yet! Last night in Trinidad…

Wednesday 12th

Got up early to be out of the room by 10. Left bags at casa and headed to bakery for breakfast (sandwiches). Went for a trek to the top of a hill with a radio tower; man there told us all the sights. Stayed there for a big and left. Walk up and down very tiring, so we went back to the central steps to rest. Bought some biscuits at the bakery again and went back to casa. Got a bike-taxi to Viazul and travelled to Santa Clara. Nice city, our casa is lovely. Went for an explore around the main square – Parque Vidal. Very pretty. People tried to sell us wifi. Found a little bar on the Boulevard (side street) and had a beer ($1 CUC!) ‘El Presidente’. OJ had a mojito. Back to casa for dinner at 9. OJ had pork, I had lobster. So much food, and really good. Basically a whole lobster for a tenner. Overcome by food, and tiredness, I went straight to bed.

Thursday 13th

Huge breakfast at casa and went out to explore Santa Clara. First stop: Che memorial, mausoleum, and museum. Very good, and free. Then across town to another Che statue (smaller but better) and trainwreck museum. Back to town centre for a wander. Tobacoo factory was closed for tours, but bought some cigars/drink for presents anyway. Stopped for a pizza (after awkwardly going into a bad dingy restaurant and leaving) and returned to casa, where the owner was watching Downton Abbey. Taxi took us to coach station but casa guy had booked us on the wrong coach. We got a spot on the right one but had to wait two hours. Went across the road for an ice cream, accosted by taxi touts on the way. 3 hours on coach to Varadero (coach stank and seats were uncomfortable). Our casa coudn’t take us as their sister had randomly come to stay, but they led us to another one up the road. Went out for late 10pm dinner – beef lasagne pretty good! Then sat on the beach for a bit. Then to bed.

Friday 14th

Day in Varadero. Walked down the beach (very long) after popping to the bus station to book our Viazul to Havana. Bit rainy so we took shelter in an Italian restaurant for brunch – penne and spaghetti. Then back to the beach; it started raining again right away. Took shelter again in a cafe with some coffees. When it stopped, we finally went to the beach and chilled for a few hours. Big waves and hot sun (and possibly dolphins?). Long walk back along the beach into the evening. Set out to the Beatles Bar, but they didn’t do food. So went to ‘La Fondue’ for… fondue (beef fillet). Nice. Then back to the Beatles Bar. Very enthusiastic covers of Beatles songs (and many others), until we got bored around 11. Taxi back to the casa.

Saturday 15th

Chilled out morning. Had omelettes and sat on the beach for a bit. Walked our cases up the road to the coach station, stopped for a hamburger and coke on the way. 3 hour bus back to Havana – dude in front put his chair back the whole time 🙁 Taxi to Amyée’s, but she didn’t have a room for us anymore. Her friend down the road offered us a place instead. It’s not as nice, but Amyée says we can still have breakfast at hers. She recommended a club across town, so we went there. ‘Fabrica del Arte Cubano’. Total hipster place. They wrote what your ordered on a card and you pay at the end. Good system. Decent art. Last full day tomorrow.

Sunday 16th

Last full day in Cuba. Breakfast back at Amyées. Fell down the stairs afterwards. Queued up for ages to change some money, but we didn’t have our passport, so back to our casa, then back to the money change place… Then a long walk down the Malécon into old town. Just had a look around and booked tickets for a show and dinner in the evening ($100!). Walked back to casa to chill for a few hours. Running low on funds again. taxi back to old town for show. Decent dinner and free drinks. Show was lively with good music. But they kept trying to drag us up to dance. Nope. Taxi driver wanted $20 to take us home. We settled for 10, but turns out the bank had given us a wrong 10 (by mistake?). Oh well…

Sunday 17th

[Didn’t write anything here. But we came home without incident. Most interesting moment was probably when an American stopped me in the street and asked if I was one of the McPoyle brothers from IASIP. Not sure which one.]

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