Today it was “adios, Havana. See you again at the airport in a couple of days. Multiple stops while making for our hotel at Varadero Beach.
Johandra kept feeding us info as we cruised along. She pointed out various bays and Marinas, explaining that Cubans who wanted to sail or putt-putt around couldn’t really do it without some kind of escort or special permission. She has a brother that emigrated to Belgium (not sure how he was permitted.), married a Belgian woman and has a baby. They wanted to take a Catamaran out for some snorkeling and swimming. The sister-in-law rented the Catamaran with her Belgian passport, then they all spoke French to one another going and coming so that no one would suspect they weren’t all Belgian all the time. Luckily, no one asked them for I.D. If they had been sniffed out as Cubans at all, they’d have been shorebound.
First rest stop was near Matanzas at an area favored by Canadians for fun in the sandy shore sun. Lots of Canadians apparently see Cuba as a Riviera-type area. We did indeed encounter such, sucking heavily on straws stuck in pineapples at 10:00 a.m. The guys we met from Edmonton said that the pineapples were basically “setups” and you had to add your own rum. Again, there was a little salsa band on hand. Everything very merry.
On the way from the rest stop, we saw oil wells, and Jocandra explained that Canada and China have been big investors in Cuban oil. Indeed we saw one refinery sporting joint Cuban-Canadian flags. No Chinese ones, but, hey, the Chinese seem to have taken over the transportation industry. Our tour bus and every other one we saw (many) were of the TuYong make. Of course, Cuban govt is heavily involved in all manner of their purchase and operation.
Matanzas means something like “killing fields” named for the vengeful actions of some 18th century Spaniards who pretty much wiped out the local indigenous population in repayment for the drowning of some Spanish soldiers. Now, though, it’s a pretty prosperous little resort town, and we stopped at Theater Velasco to take in a performance by a local dance company of some renown which focuses on Afro-Cuban and Santeria (sort of a Catholic/African peoples hybrid religion and culture).
Lots of energy and skill in this group, even over and above the one we’d seen in the Rosalia Cardenas modern dance group the day before.
Lunch was something completely original. Again, it was an organic farm where we were fed dishes produced right there. However, in addition, the proprietors are artists. They have promoted in particular the plastic arts and host a bi-yearly even where ceramic and other artists from wherever can come and exhibit their wares. In return, they leave one work behind, and the result is the most marvelous sculpture garden you can imagine. The family (the founding couple plus three sons) does not own the land, but has production rights. As long as they keep producing, they can stay. Over the years they’ve doubled their acreage by moving the fence line. They’re up to about 80 acres now. The place reminded us of “Abraham’s Garden” in India where one corner had bananas, another corner coffee, another corner Fruta Bomba. How they carry on two full time careers, who knows.
This evening we got to our last stop, a sand and sun tourist hotel, part of a chain called Melia, in Verdadero. All inclusive, so one must exercise some restraint, or not.
We had our day at the beach. Discovered a new drink—Mulata. We’ve now had enough of what most people seek forever for vacations—surf, sand, and tradewinds. It was a nice drive back to Havana airport. All went well until we got on the plane and it was discovered that there were several duplicate seat numbers on boarding passes. Then, when everyone got seated, it turned out that we had to wait almost an hour to get the luggage loaded. We pulled into Miami a couple of hours late. Immigration was very quick because of the new auto-kiosks that actually you’re your picture. Efficiency is nice, but couldn’t help thinking about how many jobs it wiped out. Because of the late hour, we canceled plans for a group dinner in Little Havana and gathered in the downstairs bar to drink and kiss good-bye. So now we will kiss you all goodbye as well. Hasta la hasta to and from Cuba.