Traveling to Cuba was a Dream Come True

December 13, 2017
cuba, cuba getting around
Traveling to Cuba was a Dream Come True

The magic started the moment my mom and I entered Havana’s airport and there was no Wifi network available: we knew it was going to be a life-changing experience. When traveling to Cuba we rented an Airbnb in an Art Deco building, just two minutes from the famous malecón, and we explored the city by walking and taking taxis that took us back in time to the 1950s. Men in the street would hear us speaking Spanish and approach to ask where we came from, and whether we needed transportation. Even though we were always approached by men for the same reasons, and that we walked in the middle of the night by ourselves, we never felt like we were in danger.

On our second day in Havana we went to the central bus station Vía Azul to ask about prices and departure times to Cienfuegos. The taxi that took us to Vía Azul told us that most people (locals and tourists) took “shared taxis” because it takes less time, and is a door-to-door service. As expected, once we got out of the taxi, at least three men came to offer us this shared taxi service, so we spoke with the first one and arranged the pick up time and the price (it was actually cheaper than the bus ticket). It was a complete leap of faith because the next day, when the driver appeared at our doorstep, it wasn’t the one we had spoken with. Both of our travel companions were Cuban, so they asked us a lot of questions about what we were doing there and why we chose to visit Cuba.

Three and a half hours later we arrived in a completely different place: unlike many other cities, Cienfuegos was built by a French captain. We were received by an amazing group of children dancing in the street to traditional songs and wearing traditional dresses. A city less touristy and calmer than Havana, the architecture of Cienfuegos makes it one of a kind. It is a small town, so this time we opted for the bicitaxi for getting around. We only stayed one night there, and arranged another shared taxi to go to Trinidad the next day.

The rainbow that appeared on the other side of the sky stole a piece of my heart and kept it there forever. Traveling to Cuba was a dream come true.

On our way to our next stop, we crossed a mountain range called El Escambray. It was an amazing change of spirit, and arriving to Trinidad felt like being in an ancient book. With cobblestone streets and (very) colorful homes, it is the best-preserved colonial city in Cuba. We got there a bit earlier than planned, so after walking around we decided to go to the beach at Peninsula Ancón, 7km from the city center.

In the evening, while going through a small market looking for a magnet to add to our collection, we stumbled upon a young lady who asked us if we had any clothing that we didn’t want to take back with us so we could trade it with her for some souvenirs. We were shocked because she was the first person who had asked us for something because she needed it; she wasn’t even asking, she was willing to trade. We ran back to the house and picked a couple of things. We hadn’t brought a lot of clothes with us and regretted not bringing more things to trade and help.

The best thing about Trinidad was the outstanding sunset. It was like the sky was painted the most beautiful combination of colors just for us. Traces of yellow, orange, pink and even purple lit the sky. The rainbow that appeared on the other side of the sky stole a piece of my heart and kept it there forever.

We shared the taxi with a Chinese guy who was fanatical about the 1950s car we were traveling in. He wouldn’t stop taking pictures of the car, and the Cuban driver didn’t quite understand why he found it so amazing!

We shared a taxi with two European guys on our way to Varadero. We realized that it was easier for us as Latinas to blend in with the locals, and we actually got a better price than the European guys. Varadero was nothing like we imagined it would be: certainly there are big resorts but there are also small houses that offer accommodation, and it is a place full of culture. What is amazing about Varadero is the beach; I had never seen such an amazing contrast in the sea.

After two days of enjoying the beach, we continued our journey to Viñales, a National Park known for its tobacco and coffee plantations. This time we shared the taxi with a Chinese guy who was fanatical about the 1950s car we were traveling in. He wouldn’t stop taking pictures of the car, and the Cuban driver didn’t quite understand why he found it so amazing!

Viñales was the perfect end to this once-in-a-lifetime experience. We went horseback riding through the plantations early in the morning, and spent the rest of the day talking with the owner of the land. He explained how they make the tobacco and coffee. One may think that because they sell it to the government, they are well paid. However, they are not, and their sales are strictly controlled.

We went back to Havana for one more night before flying back to Colombia, soaking up every detail of history that we could find. Our taxi drivers became our history teachers and each person that we met became our family. Cuba, you were a dream come true and I truly aspire to be as unique as you are.

About María del Mar

María del MarI was born and raised in Colombia. I’ve always been curious of what’s outside my country and I take every chance that I get to discover somewhere new. I am currently living in France and traveling through Europe in my free time. I love the smell of new books, new places, new food and meeting new people.

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