The adventurous family with ambitions to travel the world is back with another trip update. The Sweitzer’s, hailing from Missouri, have traveled across the US then through Mexico, Guatemala, Columbia, and now Cuba, where Steve has updated us on their journey once again.
While sitting in a cafe in Bogota, the TV news reported that the US and Cuba met to normalize relations between the two countries. Video footage showed the US flag being raised outside the embassy in Havana.
Polly and I looked at each other and said, “Lets go!”
As we flew into Havana, we were a bit anxious. Although Obama and Castro were working through the details of the new relationship, we weren’t actually cleared to enter the country. What would Cuban customs have to say? The thump of a stamp in our passport said it all. We were in!
All the Cubans we met were extremely hospitable and kind. They were excited about Americans being able to visit Cuba once again. It will greatly enhance their economy and provide many new jobs, especially in adventure travel. They need American tourist dollars to rebuild a decaying infrastructure and to refurbish many old buildings that were once the crown jewels of the Caribbean. Cuba is a diamond in the rough.
Our taxi driver led us to a vintage 1955 Chevrolet, 4-door sedan, our first exposure to Cuba’s “maker culture”. When Communism took over decades ago and after the “Bay of Pigs” incident, all supply lines to the US were severed. This meant no parts for American-made products. Industrious Cubans made the parts they needed for repairs by repurposing other materials. This is a practice that permeates every facet of Cuban life. Nothing is wasted or discarded. If a washing machine breaks down, the motor is pulled and used to power a homemade knife sharpener, for instance. This type of existence has led to creative thinking on many levels. I refer to it as the “triumph of the creative spirit.”
I’m sorry to report that the food scene is poor. They simply don’t seem to have access to good produce and protein. It’s not uncommon to visit a grocer with empty shelves except for a few eggs, washing soap, and booze. Music, however, is everywhere. Live music streams from nearly every bar and restaurant. A highlight for us was a concert featuring the members of, “The Buena Vista Social Club”, a remnant of the project spearheaded by American musician and producer, Ry Cooder. If you haven’t heard this record or seen the film, it’s worth your time.
We found great beaches 2 hours outside of town. Here we swam, kayaked and sailed. The VIRB XE action camera, fēnix 3 and vívoactive wearables were ideal for these activities. Cuba controls all satellite and Internet activity. Access to the Internet is very limited and doesn’t work well at all even if you can find it.
If you visit Cuba soon, take cash. Credit cards and ATM cards from US banks are not accepted yet. We found ourselves low on cash and left Cuba before we saw all of its treasures. Cuba is fascinating and we would recommend that you visit soon before all the fast-food chains and cruise ships arrive to spoil the experience.
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