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Published: March 11th 2018
Our plane departure time was 8am, so we were required to be at Baracoa airport at 6am. So we were up to see the sunrise this morning. More importantly we saw the full moon over Baracoa bay, and it was lovely. It weren’t for the powerlines in the way it would have been a perfect view. Our host had organised a taxi for us who turned up around 5.30, put our bags on his roof rack and we were off to the airport. Now why we needed to check in two hours before when there are only two flights in an out of Baracoa a day, I don’t know. There were only about 70 passengers on the flight, but hey…that’s Cuba. To be fair, almost everything is manual. They manually wrote out our boarding passes, they manually ticked us off the manifest as we walked into the waiting room. The only thing electronic was the bag scanner and metal detector…. which I managed to set off for no reason.
We arrived in Havana with little drama. We caught a taxi to what we thought was the infotur office in Havana Veija. Turns out there is more than one. He took
us to the other one. No matter, we walked in and explained we needed accommodation for one night. The assistant flicks through a rather large wallet of business cards (Everyone has business cards here, Casa owners, taxi drivers, paladar owners. Everyone) She pulls out one and explains they are not far away. She gives them a call and confirms they have a room available. We asked the price 25-25 kook. OK its all good. She pulls out a map and gives us directions. We find our way to the casa to find its run by two old duckies who don’t speak a word of English. I mean not a single word! We are down to relying on mine and Jo’s Spanish. This lead to much nodding and si-ing without much actual understanding.
I was feeling much better after the previous days dramas. However, the last meal I had eaten was breakfast the day before, which found its way into a plantation toilet, by now its after 2pm, and we had skipped breakfast. I was somewhat hungry and I was not alone. Jo looked ready to start eating the dogs on the street. We wandered toward Plaza Veija (or so
we thought) and found a taco place. Five kook for three tacos. Sounded good to me and for the first time Jo was almost excited about the food. Not that it was fine dining, just that it was different to the usual chicken, lamb or pork.
Fed and watered we took to wandering around town and made some touristy purchases. We had no particular destination so there were several bar stops along the way. We needed to use the banos and it would be rude to use the facilities without buying something. By 6.30 it occurred to me that I had consumed a few to many mojito’s on to little food. I really just wanted to go home to sleep but Jo insisted we have dinner. I know I’m in trouble when Jo is the sensible one. We stopped at a tapas bar on the edge of Plaza Veija where they had very nice chicken fajitas and we got to dance with the waiters. Well they danced, I stumbled. The highlight of the evening was watching one of the waiters work very hard to talk Jo into a mojito with Havana Club, aged 7 years. After a twenty-minute discussion he succeed in his task and she got one. (cost 7 kooks, which I think was more than dinner) The verdict - it was worth it. We stumbled home around 9.30 to crash out and prepare for the long journey home which begins on the morrow
Havana to LA
I’d had a pretty rough night’s sleep, my stomach cramps had returned, thankfully without the vomiting this time. But when the alarm went at 6.30 I was up and into the shower. We had arranged for the breakfast with the Cuban Nonas at 7.30. Sadly, I couldn’t eat the omelette they had supplied as it churned things up a little much. So, I loaded up on coffee and bread. We counted up our cash left from the night before and worked out we had enough for the accommodation, the tax I to the airport and still have five kooks to spare. We asked the Nonas for the bill and it was five kooks more than we had calculated so there went our margin of error. Lets just hope for an honest taxi driver.
The taxi arrived early and took us to the airport. There was a bit of confusion over which terminal to go to, our itinerary did not list it. When we said Miami the taxi driver nodded, Ahh terminal 2. Well I’m glad someone knows where we are going. The taxi driver dropped us at the airport and took our last 25 kooks and seemed happy with that. (for once) We had a brief moment of panic when Jo couldn’t find her tourist card. When we entered Cuba, we had to fill in a tourist card. They stamp the card at customs and give it back to you on entry with strict instructions not to lose it as you will need it to exit the country. Jo had not placed it with her passport. Or the hotel reservations. Or the pocket with the foreign currency. A few heart stopping moments while we found a seat and she essentially unpacked her suitcase in the search for the card. Stuffed at the bottom of the case lay the card, looking all innocuous and harmless. Both of us breathed a big sigh of relief as neither of us wanted to spend our last hours in Cuba arguing with an official over our right to be here or leave.
We make our way into the terminal and couldn’t find where we were supposed to check. So, we asked, apparently, we were to check in at Terminal 3. Our taxi had confidently dropped us at Terminal 2. Terminal 3 is 3km’s away along the freeway so walking not an option. We could get a registered taxi for 10 kooks. (how f#&%!i(MISSING)ng convenient!) Apart from a few kooks in coin we had in our purses, we had no money. So, then we had to find a bank to get more money. The was an ATM machine near the cadeca (money exchange) so we decided to take out 20 kooks to pay for the cab and a coffee at the other end. The ATM decided not to work. For the first time in Cuba all our cards were rejected. We still had some US$ from our time in New Orleans so we had to cash some of that in. As we were waiting in line there was an American woman who needed to trade her kooks for USD so we went past the middle man and swapped her 1:1.
The upside was we now had enough money to get to terminal 3, the downside, we had far more than we needed. We had traded $46 when we really only needed 10. We made it to terminal 3 with 2 hours to spare, so I for one was glad we started out early. It only took 40 minutes to check in. (there were about 20 people in line) then we went for a coffee. We decided a good way to spend the kooks was to buy cigarettes so we ordered a cartoon from the cafeteria. 15 kooks and she threw in the coffee for free. Now what? We decided to keep a 3peso note each (for the memories) which left us with 15kook. It’s too small amount to changeover but too much to hang onto. As Jo hadn’t brought any touristy trinkets the day before we went walking around looking for something she might like. We settled on a wooden bird for her and a hat for me and a gift for a friend and we were down to coins again. If anyone thinking of going to Cuba, you are welcome to it. At the very least you’ll need it to pay for the dunnies at the most inconvenient of times.
We patiently made our way through security and boarded our plane for Miami. It worth noting that there were about ten people in front of us at security, which took about half an hour to process. Later in the day, going through Miami, I think they processed around a hundred people in the same time frame. Cubans really do operate on their own time. Unless it is getting off a plane. As soon as the plane touched down in Miami and the seat belt sign turned off, they were all up, bags in hand, ready to disembark. I had been seated in the row behind Jo in aisle seats toward the back of the plane. Waiting to disembark at the terminal, Jo figured, there’s no rush, I’ll just take my time and chill until the aisle clears. The woman next to her was up and ready to go within thirty seconds and was visibly annoyed Jo wasn’t trying to rush out the door. I swear she was just looking for a way to climb over Jo to get to the aisle.
We had a couple of hours layover in Miami. Just enough to grab a bite to eat, a cigarette and marvel at the flushing toilet. Then it was on for the 5 ½ hour flight to LA. It felt like forever. Once in LA, caught a cab to our hotel in Venice Beach. It’s quite a funky little place. It is formerly an apartment building which has been brought out and converted to a hotel. It’s claim to fame is that it was once owned by Laurel and Hardy, and Jim Morrison used to live in room 205. Once we settled in we were treated to a free magic show in the courtyard, accompanied with by free wine and nibbles. Cannot complain about that!
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