Category Archives: Cuba

For some cities I just don’t know what to write. I don’t know how to explain why I loved this place and why I think everyone should go there. A place can be so beautiful and yet when people ask me why I recommend going there, I can only say “it’s just so stunning”. It’s a good thing we’ve got cameras, because Cienfuegos in Cuba is one of these places. It’s not a huge city, and you don’t need a whole lot of time to explore it, but there is a reason all those cruise ships dock here for an afternoon. I arrived in Cienfuegos by shared taxi. I shared it with my travel buddy and two girls we’d met in Playa Larga on a dive and snorkel trip. They had booked accommodation in Punta Gorda and we had no clue where we were going to stay. So we got off…

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It was pouring! This wasn’t just rain. This was rain that would get you soaking wet within the minute. All sad I looked out over flooding Baracoa while I had my breakfast on the covered rooftop terrace. Shit. What now? I had an excursion planned. As the time to leave got nearer, the rain didn’t stop. “Don’t worry.” said the casa owner, “Just a tropical storm”. So I put on my raincoat and ran to the office from where the tour left. Inside the office stood the same guide I had the last day, big grin on his face. “Nice weather”, I commented. Together with all the other tourists I got into a van. We drove out of Baracoa, water splashing up from the puddles. It was indeed a tropical storm. As quickly as it had started, it stopped by the time we arrived at our first stop. We didn’t…

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The parque nacional Alejandro de Humboldt can be found about 45km outside of beautiful Baracoa. It was high on my list because it would reveal a bit of Cuba that couldn’t be seen anywhere else. This is a part of the world where things are still being discovered. Not only is this a mountainous area, but it has some rare flora and fauna. The 45km to get there are a bit of a challenge though. I’d booked an organized trip with a guide leaving from Baracoa. An old van, with the guide sitting on a small wooden stool, bumped over the dirt road full of potholes. The road was wide enough, but our van swayed from left to right trying to avoid the worst parts. Turning into the national park we even had to drive through a river before we finally parked at a small house. I had read it…

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Why would a travel day have to be boring? Cuba has more to offer than just the cities and that is why I am happy we met two awesome German girls who were up for some adventure. Talking to some taxi drivers in Cienfuegos, we had arranged a full day trip that would take us to Trinidad via some of the region’s attractions. The only tricky thing was, that we hadn’t seen the vehicle. We crossed our fingers and hoped for the best. The next day it turned out our taxi guy did show up. The thing is, in Cuba you can say you need a lot of space a gazillion times, but in the end the tiniest car will show up, no matter what they promised. Of course that was the case now as well. Our inventive driver got out some ropes to put our luggage on top of…

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Just getting to Santa Clara was an adventure. This isn’t necessarily the case, but in our case it was. A lack of planning made it into a quite spontaneous ride. The morning we left Baracoa we didn’t know we’d be in Santa Clara that same night. We had booked a collective taxi to Santiago de Cuba, of which the guy organizing it assured us that it was a comfortable vehicle. When our ride pulled up to our casa, we were surprised to see some kind of jeep. Two people were squished in the front seat and the back had two benches. All the bags went onto the roof. Of course we picked up some more people and in the end there were six of us in the back. One of them was the taxi driver’s son that we picked up in Guantanamo. As we drove through the mountains, holding on…

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Every guidebook talks about the famous Malecon in Havana. In my head this was the center of life in Cuba, with people catching up, music playing and full of life. I expected the Cuban version of a street along one of the beaches in the Costas in Spain. I expected restaurants and bars. I expected people playing salsa or reggaeton blasting from speakers. My casa was on the end of the Malecon where the sad looking American embassy is, hidden by a bunch of empty flag poles. The Malecon stretches all the way to Havana Vieja, so I often walked along it to get back and forth. The Malecon is basically the biggest street of Havana with crazy traffic. Just crossing the street was a challenge. On the sea side is a pedestrian area. Sure, it’s a place where people hang out at night or go for a stroll, but I…

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Before I had ever set foot on Cuban soil, I had an idea of how certain places would be and how I would explore them. Often, things turn out to be very different from what you expected, but one day in Vinales things happened exactly the way I had imagined them. Vinales is a small town surrounded by big farmland. In the middle of this farmland are the Mogotes, big hills that stick out of the relatively flat landscape. Some people say you have to be with a guide to explore this area, but we just started walking. We would find out how far we could go. A bright orange dirt road took us out of town. We walked past the cowboys, waiting for customers for the horse riding, into the fields full of tobacco. Since we didn’t really have a destination in mind, we turned into a private road…

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There are many ways to explore Vinales. Since we’d explored the surroundings by foot already, it was time to be creative and find another way. We’d seen some ATV’s on the side of the road. They looked brand new. It was worth checking out. The owner said they were only for organized tours, but he may have some spots available due to cancellations. Did we have a motorcycle license? No. Ok. Experience with quad bikes? Sort of. Ok. You do at least have your normal car license? Yes. Although officially you need a motorcycle license, the rules could be bend for us. He was already showing us all the features of the new bikes, but we’d decided to go for the somewhat cheaper and legal option. We walked to a spot where we new the cowboys were always hanging out and asked one if it was possible to do a tour. When…

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This snake was on our path on a hike in Cuba. I love the way it curves like a windy road climbing steeply up a mountain.

Nothing was planned and it bothered me. On top of that there was miscommunication between me and my travel buddy and so my day started with an argument. I was not feeling like spending a day together. The one big thing left to do in Baracoa was to climb El Yunque, the iconic 575m high mountain that looks like a table mountain, but really isn’t. The guidebook describes it as a rite of passage and it is one of the most popular things to do in the area. We ended up rushing out of the casa, drinking our breakfast juice on the way out while I was trying to apologize to the lovely girl who was serving us breakfast. We did make it to the mountain, but it was a bizarre day. I sort of just sat on a bench in the square, wondering what was going to happen. We’d…

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