On the Road to Habana

On the whole, the Cuban people are poor, with the average wage per month being about $19 USD’s, according to Wikipedia, or 466 CUPs.  About 80% of the people are employed by the government. Only recently has there even been a private sector, which is now the other 20%. There are no traffic jams because few have cars. There are no yachts in the harbor because there are no rich. Or, there is no ostentation. Interestingly, one of the guides told us, and other confirmed, no one knows where Fidel and Raul Castro live. They just show up for work. They are said to live among the people, in true commie fashion. Uh-huh. They probably don’t have any Caribbean bank accounts either.

On our trip from Varadero to Havana we saw many examples of what daily life is like for the Cubans. Here is a guy on his way to work. It is Wednesday, not Monday. That says it all.


More likely you will see groups of say, 50 or so waiting along the road for the next bus. The buses are often tandem, two buses being pulled by one. My guess is, the AC, even if it works, fails to meet the demand on a hot summer day. In addition to the buses you will often see another form of transportation, the dump truck:


Some dump trucks are even fit out with seats, possibly folding chairs. All this for a subsistence wage. It is said the people in the countryside are even poorer.

The road into Havana is four lanes all the way and well-maintained with flowers and well-tended plants in the median. We would often see workers with machete’s knocking down weeds. Clearly the idea is for foreigners to have a pleasant journey, which it was.

About half way to Havana, we passed through the port city of Matanzas. In typical Cuban fashion there were palaces next to dilapidation


A high-rise apartment.


A nice area near the harbor.


Not far from Matanzas we came upon this. The cloud extended out into the ocean as far as the eye could see:


In time the driver stopped for a much-needed break at this small observation area:


As usual, somebody was selling something:


Plus they had yet another band of musicians. And trinkets galore.


Or, you could just look at the scenery, which is what the stop is actually for!


Soon we were on the outskirts of Havana:


To get into the city, you have to go through a tunnel which takes you under the harbor.


When you come out on the other side, the fist thing you see is Morrow Castle, the only landmark I knew in Cuba:


We wound our way along the harbor for a brief time, then the driver turned down some side streets. Soon we were winding our way through very narrow, bustling streets of Old Havana.





There were some condition issues with the streets and some of the properties, but on the whole this was a lively and colorful part of the city. In time, the driver stopped at a corner. “This is it,” he said in broken English. We looked around. There was a door standing open that led into a small, I guess “courtyard” is the word, but it was more like an alleyway inside the building, painted green. A couple of stories up a woman yelled down for us to go inside. In we went.


We wound our way through a kind of passageway:


Under those steps you see in the background. Then into an open area:


When we got to these gates, the owner’s daughter was there to greet us and hand us each a set of four keys we would need to get our room. Experience tells me that this is about three keys too many. Up we go.


And go….


And go. Note the bottom step in the picture below. It is about three inches higher than all the others at every level. I took its picture because John and I tripped over it every time we went up there, which was often.


It was a hike, people! Theresa, Rich and Dianne Stoner will remember one much like it a little farther north.


At last we were in our new home! And, in spite of tight, and I mean TIGHT security, and the considerable cardiovascular test that was administered, we absolutely loved this place!


The room was basic, but had a great AC. John’s had two twin beds.


A common bath, but immaculately clean. Hot water was in short supply, however. Just like in Varadero.


The dining area, where they served a terrific breakfast.


An immaculate kitchen, which in pleasant Spanish we were invited to keep the hell out of.


And a very nice living room, tastefully appointed.


This is certainly better than we expected, given the locale. We had time to freshen up, and look around the hood before our first tour.




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