As the first day of any journey, it starts with an early morning, a lot of sitting, and a whole lot of nothing. But once you’ve reached your destination your struck with that sense of newness. You can’t stress the things you don’t understand or that are out of your control. You simply have to take it all in and enjoy it. Which is exactly what we did on our first day.

As we walked to find a place to print tickets, (which we never did end up being able to do) we stumbled on a Chinese cemetery. We asked the cemetery guards if we could look around and they took us on the grand tour! This included taking us into the ancient tombs and showing us the piles of bones! One even kept picking up femur bones from various diseased and holding it like a baseball bat and saying “baseball!” With a huge grin. I’m not going to lie I had a slight fear of the ancient Chinese putting a curse on us after this, but it was still a very neat and an unexpected adventure!

“BASEBOL!”

The second day we spent in Cuba, we journeyed down to Trinidad, which was a four hour drive, However this beat the bus which would have taken six! At one point our car broke down and the driver got out of the car and said “no problemo” popped the hood and then screwed the gas pedal back in! 

Once we arrived in Trinidad we decided to explore the town. We walked the cobblestone streets of this insanely preserved colonial town. We walked…

and walked…

They hang their meet in windows all day in the heat!

and walked!

Until we couldn’t walk anymore. On our way back to our casa we saw how the town comes alive in the evening. Neighbors sit out on their front steps and talk while the kids play in the streets.

We had dinner at our casa and then went out again to see if we could find some good drinks and dancing! We found good drinks (mojitos and piña coladas for $1.50) but sadly could not find the dancing. Instead we stumbled upon a show that consisted of flashy clothing, very little on the girls side, and honestly not so good of dancing!

Going into day three we were ready for a real adventure and set out to cubano falls. We hiked for about 40 minutes until we came to something I did not expect! The fall was nothing super spectacular as it was simply a decent stream of water falling down a big rock. But what surrounded it was magnificent. There were caves that you could literally swim right into. I climbed a rock and jumped off into the chilly but refreshing water and we swam into these huge caves that were on either side of the fall. There were even bats on the ceiling! I am so glad we decided to go there instead of el Nicho falls, not only was it easier but it was something I had never seen or even imagined to see and experience!

Once we finished our adventure it was time to endure the six hour bus ride back to Havana. The ride wouldn’t have been so bad if the a/c hadn’t been broken! Instead I sweat my little booty off the whole way! It wasn’t all bad though, I did get to sit next to a local from Havana named  Dariel and we talked about local and American culture. It was nice getting to talk about Cuba with someone who lived there and could speak enough English to communicate!

On our fourth day we woke up in Havana in one of the most beautiful and extraordinary homes yet. Luckily our host spoke a little bit of English and she gave us the grand tour! Their were 3 different sets of stairs leading to different areas of the house. Including 3 kitchens at least, many bedrooms, bathrooms and sitting areas. Along with a beautiful courtyard full of plants including orchids and succulents. The casa owners were architects and so was the father of the wan. He designed and built the house over many years and their family of 14 lives there until recently. Now it is just the husband and wife and they rent out the rooms.

Our casa owners posing on the terrace after the tour.

Where we ate breakfast. The contrast between the antiques and the random modern touches such as the exercise ball and radio is exactly what all of Cuba is like. Old with hints of modern times.

The most beautiful bathroom and bathtub I’ve ever seen.

Upon arriving in viñales we noticed how almost every house was a place for visitors like us to stay and they all looked relatively the same. Our casa owner Juan picked us up from the bus stop and walked us back to his place, where we were greeted by his lovely wife. After getting settled a man that spoke very good English came to our house and offered a horse tour of the valley, we excitedly agreed and spent the afternoon riding to different attractions through the valley.

We visited a tobacco farm first where we watched a man roll a cigar and then got to smoke one!

Me smoking my first cigar!

After the tobacco farm we came to a coffee growing farm and tried some delicious rum.

The next stop was my favorite because we got to hike down in a cave all through the dark passage ways with flashlights!

Our last stop was a lake where we got to swim and even met some other travelers around my age from the states and from France. We all agreed to meet up to go salsa dancing later at Casa de la musíca.

After our swim we watched the sun set into the mountains and rode our horses back. This was the best part of the ride because my mom and I took off galloping!

After a delicious dinner that our casa owners cooked for us, I walked to city center with Juan to meet up with my friends. I found casa de la musica but never found my friends. Instead I met a face teacher originally from Kenya and we spent the night dancing under the stars.

The next morning we woke up and were off to the beach. What was supposed to be an hour ride through the mountains north turned into a 2 and a half hour journey in a “collective taxi” which was really just a truck from the 60s with a canvas roof and seats bolted in. The road was full of pot holes and the truck had no shocks so we drove 5 miles an hour bumping the entire way! These are the moments that most people don’t tell about their travels but they are there on every trip!

The collective taxi from hell!

Once we arrived at the beach the ride seemed worth it. The beach was nothing much but the water was Crystal clear and the prettiest blue I have ever seen. We walked down the beach for a while until we found some shade amongst the incredible drift wood. The best part of the day was when we walked all the way down the beach through a drift wood Forrest that we named dead Forrest until we reached a beautiful cove. It’s hard to believe but the water was even prettier and clearer here, like a swimming pool you could see strait to the bottom!

The incredible blue water. I must say I was kicking myself in the butt for not bringing my camera along!

After our beach adventure we went for dinner and some salsa dancing. Despite what my mom said about not dancing she ended up on the dance floor with one of the locals twirling her around. She even enjoyed it, that is, until the guy tried to make out with her!

The Salsa instructor from Kenya!

The next morning we got up at the crack of dawn to catch our bus to Havana and then another to Mantansas/ Varadero.

The beautiful sunrise from the rooftop of our casa.

During our stop in Havana I decided to take some pictures at a local market. At first I felt very nervous and out of place as the little tourist and her camera in the market, but then a bunch of the sellers started asking me to take there picture and we were laughing as they pined for the attention of my camera!

The last guy that called to me as I was leaving “Hey, what about me!”

Once we arrived to Mantansas we had to take a cab out to Varadero, we soon found out the one we took wasn’t a certified taxi and he had to pay the guard off at the check point to get on to the peninsula!

Our taxi driver paying off the guard.

After checking into our new casa we took a walk up the beach and then cut across to the street for some refreshments. We ended up at a famous restaurant that Earnest Hemmingway frequented back in the day. There were pictures of him on the wall and graffiti all over. We enjoyed some traditional cuban music, the local beer, Crystal, and a delicious olive snack.

For dinner we went to a rooftop restaurant in the site of our casa and had a wonderful seafood in tomato sauce dish. We also met some travelers from Canada that we ended up going out with after for some drinks. We took the horse drawn carriage to the most renowned tourist bar called The Beetles, which had a cover band who played only American classics from the 70s, 80s and some modern Red Hot Chile Peppers.

That nigh my curse hit me as I woke up multiple times throughout the night to run to the bathroom. Apparently all the seafood wasn’t so good after all! I spent my last full day in Cuba with Food Poisoning mostly sleeping, except for when my mom dragged me out to go eat or walk some shops. I mostly slept or sat in the corner of wherever we were. It all worked out however, because our beach day wasn’t much of a day for the beach as it was. Huge storms rolled in all day drenching the peninsula.

I look a lot better than I felt in this picture!

The contrast between the bright blue gulf and the intensely dark storm was magnificent!

Luckily our last day we got to squeeze a little extra exploration time by taking a taxi back to Havana instead of the bus. We walked the crowded streets of old Havana for the better part of two hours till it was time to catch our plane back to the states.

The taxi we took back to Havana, a 1957 Belair.

The Streets of Old Havana!

Overall I must say my experience in Cuba was very interesting! I loved how I felt transported to another time period all together. One thing I feel I search for when I travel is that feeling of visiting a far off and long ago place and that isn’t as common in the new world. This is why Cuba was so wonderful! I am so glad I got to go before things start to change and I cannot wait to go back in 15 or so years and see just how different, or the same, it becomes! So long for now Cuba!