Pat's World Trip Journal travel blog

Havana Old Town. View from hotel roof.

Fairly typical street musicians

A novel bit of recycling - marking out the pedestrian area.

Havana, street fun.

Thurs 27th Jan 2005.

Days 113-119: Hobart to Havana, Cuba.

Tasmania to Havana took 4 flights and 48 hours, because of long times between flights at Los Angeles and Montego Bay. By the time I got to Havana, I was really tired, and this might have helped the stomach bug take hold. Luckily, I had reached the hotel before it got too bad, but I then had to stay in my room for the next 36 hours till it had passed. On the last day of the 3 that I had in Cuba, I felt a bit stronger so arranged to have a private Salsa lesson, but the instructor never turned up at the Hotel to fetch me. Then in the afternoon, I went in search of a Salsa club recommended by the Hotel, but I couldn't find it. I wandered around for an hour, looking for it, or someone who could speak English and who knew where it was, but to no avail. I suppose in a way it was for the best, because I still felt pretty washed out.

Having said that, I loved Havana. There seems to be very little money to spend on infrastructure, like roads and buildings, so an awful lot of the buildings in Old Havana (where I was staying) are in a parlous state of repair. The buses are all decades old, held together by string, and they travel very slowly because they don't have any brakes! That's my theory, anyway. The cars are also very old, mostly. There is a fleet of new taxis, some new private cars, but in the main they are all ancient, with a lot of late 40's and early 50's American cars. What with the old buildings, it looks as though you have stepped back 50 years in time. The Hotel where I was staying used to be favourite of Ernest Hemigway, the American author. That meant that it was on the list of all the tour parties that walked the streets every day.

The people of Havana seem very friendly and open, with lots of music and dancing on every street corner. There isn't a café or restaurant that doesn't have it's own resident musician(s), playing a lovely mixture of latin-american rhythms. It will be interesting to see whether the spirit of the people will remain under the onslaught of capitalism when the Americans are eventually allowed back in. I hope so. Fidel Castro has had a love-hate relationship with the USA for the last 46 years (mostly hate, I would guess), but they would always welcome the US dollar. That is, until November of last year, when they suddenly turned their back on the greenback, and introduced a new currency, the Peso Convertible. Quite by chance, this happens to be worth exactly 1 US dollar, except that when you convert dollars into Pesos, they charge 10% commission, which they don't for any other currency. I wish I'd known, because I got a fist full of dollars before arriving here! There is also the ordinary peso used by the locals, which is worth about 1/10th of the Convertible Peso. This means that tourists pay at least 10 times what locals do. It's a very clever way of making sure that hard currency gets into the country.

Because of being sick, I didn't do a quarter of the things I would have liked to have done, so I will have to return one day, and try again.

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