I woke about 7am in plenty of time for my excursion and did my usual morning ablutions and headed out to the restaurant for breakfast. I grabbed myself some bacon and eggs, a bit of cereal, some juice and some damn fine Coffee. Now this might surprise you that being a Brit I went for Coffee rather than tea, the reasons for this are two fold: the Tea tends to be more reminiscent of the tea served in the NAAFI rather then from the teapot of a humble British Household and more importantly, the Coffee in Cuba is really good. It is strong as can be illustrated by the level of milk they put in a cup and it still tastes full bodied and strongly flavour, if the hotel had Cherry Pie I have a feeling I would think I would slowly turn into special agent Dale Cooper. Breakfast all sorted I picked up few knickknacks for the day (camera, wallet, sun cream etc) and waited to meet the coach. Fall bar pal Dave was also on the trip, not it occurs to me I have can of casually being referring to Dave with out really introducing. Dave (not to be mixed up with Dave and Margaret) was another fellow traveller on my flight and we met at the bar on the first night and had been casually drinking together early evening and would pretty much continue to do so. The trip we were going on was called ‘Cuba Life’ in which we would visit a village, a sugar plantation and an Indian Burial Ground and a reconstruction of an Indian village.
The coach arrived and we still have a few pickups to do so I lost myself to some music on my phone with a few tracks from Canadian Jazz singer Diana Krall from her album Glad Rag Doll which is one of my favourite albums by her and is a bit of a departure from here usual style. Our tour guide was called Martha and she was quite amusing with quite a wry sense of humour. Our first call of visit was a small Cuban village where we were first introduced to a Cuban Doctor’s which aesthetically looked similar to the surgery at Blists Hill Open Air Victorian Museum and had a bit of a hint of pre-1950s British health care just without the monetary cost to the patient. This is an element where the Trade Embargo does strike into effect, with many of the drugs we might take for granted in the UK are available in small numbers as they have to be sourced from places other than the USA or USA affiliated companies, which can be a bit of an arse really. I should also add that were in a rural area as opposed to a built up area so I would imagine city and town based it will look a bit more modern. We moved on next to the local Shop which is best described as a Local Shop for Local People (nothing for us there), now this just isn’t an excuse for me to make a reference to British comedy, but the set up with tourists is different to most countries. Like most of the countries in South America and the Caribbean it is a close currency in Cuba, but in another twist of fate there is a separate currency for tourists and Cubans, now some may tut their heads at this notion but bare in mind it also means that robbery and muggins are very low as consequence. Cuba operates a basic rationing system which provides the basics in terms of material for a month and any additional income will supplement this, so it is akin to the UK during the Second World War and the early 1950s in that sense. The principal supplies are Cooking Oil, rice, beans and sugar. Meat is seen more as a luxury and as such is not available on the ration unless it is for a family with young Children, the elderly or those diabetic (which isn’t overly common). Also bare in mind Oxon are frequently used in agriculture for drawing ploughs and what not and I believe that failure to look after your cattle correctly is a criminal offence. After the shop we went to a Cuban Primary school which only housed about thirteen pupils as it was just a country small village, and again the line up made me think of Blists Hill, no computers or calculators on hand.
Back on the tour bus we went on our way to a local farm which was run by a very nice couple whom our guide informed us had recently become grandparents and as such we’d hear the parrots repeating the name Roberto a lot. We were shown around the Plantation which grew Pineapples, Aloe Vera, Sugar Cane (different to the UK where most of our Sugar comes from sugar beat), Papaya and a few other items. As we were shown around the plantation the farmer produced a large machete and hacked off a few sugar canes for us to try, I don’t think I am going to be in a desperate hurry to chew on raw sugar cane again. While walking back up we were drawn to the rare sight of a Hummingbirds nest, apparently the nest are frequently hidden away and the farmer only spotted it because he saw a Hummingbird return with food in it’s beak. It was surprising to learn that our tour guide had not seen one before, I guess this just illustrates how obscure they can are. Once through visiting the Plantation we went to the farm house where we were given Espresso sized cups of coffee just illustrated how strong the coffee was, my ex-Philippa would have hated it with a passion, she hated strong coffee and thought Americano’s too strong. We were offered some Tapioca pudding which I haven’t had since I was at school. The previously mentioned Parrots were starting to be harassed by some of the tour’s dear-sweet-little-darlings and were promptly dragged away. I did ask the parrot if he had a nice little tip for Derby but I got nothing…
The next stop on the tour was the historical element of the tour. The was a Mausoleum built around an Indian Burial Ground to a tribe whose remains were excavated years ago, the remains were left exactly as they had been discovered. Some of the remains were laid to rest with there arms in a cross over their chest which suggested a connection with or having have converted to Christianity. There were a couple of remains which had been laid face down, which our tour guide explained was probably an execution and the punishment would be that the spirit would never the sun again. It occurred to me it could also reflect an idea that if the spirit returned to the body, the body wouldn’t be able to claw it’s way out of the grave; now you may wonder why this thought crossed by mind and the reason is that it was a plot point in the novel by Trevor Baxendale which was one of the last novels published in BBC Books EDA range. Anyway, the atmosphere in the place was… I don’t know, surreal doesn’t seem an appropriate word, it felt well…odd.
Around the place there were a number of artefacts on display, jewellery, totems and they showed similar styling’s to Mayan, Inca and Aztec designs.
We then moved on to a replica Indian Village which has huts made with various types of wood and there were a number of mannequins upon the site and a few log circles. These particular tribe followed a similar practice to certain Inca tribes in that infants would have their heads tied up early after birth while the bone was still soft and the head could be shaped into a characteristic physical deformity (one of the reasons people associate the Incas with involvement by extra-terrestrials), in this case it was a characteristic flattened forehead.
The middle of the tour was a mock live action fertility ritual which involved an unfortunate member of the crowd being laid on table and have lots of strange gestures and silly chants being shouted at her. It started off with mock fighting over her and then pretending to throw up, some chats which morphed into “We Are the Champions”. It got very silly but many people laughed…
The next stop was lunch and I had Chicken in Garlic and a red bean dressing, some rich Pantene Chips and some white Beans, followed by glazed Coconut for pudding. My lunch companion was a fellow single traveller albeit from the hotel next door, his name was George and he had recently become a Widower and was determined not to fade away. We had a pleasant chat and we ended up figuring how the hotel entertainment circuit works to a certain degree.
The final stop was an hours stop at the beach of Guadluvca and visit the local market which was full of little trinkets but nothing overly different from what could be bought on the beach stalls on the hotel beach. Dave, George and went for a walk and then decided to chill at a beach bar.
The drive home took about an hour and I chilled out listening to some Sixties music on my phone taking some much needed R and R. All in all it was a good day out, upon my return to the hotel I had a good swim in the pool and did about 15 lengths before chilling out before dinner. The evening would prove to be an interesting series of events…..