Ah...Cuba at last...we´ve been wanting to come here for ages. And as soon as we do, we get stuck in the city, unable to escape, unable to anything really. Well, serves us right really, we knew it was the end of the hurricane season, and this year has been a bad one.
The first afternoon and the following morning were fine. Very hot and sticky though. We found ourselves a nice casa particular and settled in.
The first afternoon / evening we just wandered around the local area ¨Habana Vieja¨and ¨Centro Habana¨. Down the Prado to the Malecon and the ocean, through narrow streets back up to the Capitolio. Just trying to take in as much as we could, the old colonial buildings, some restored and some definitely not, the people, friendly and unthreatening, and of course the cars. Plenty of new cars, and Ladas in various conditions, and the old American classics. Even the run down, battered ones were neat. You will just have to check out the pics.
We started our rice and beans diet that first night. And cabbage, which came to be a constant staple with almost any meal. The veges here are only
seasonal, and I guess cabbage is the only vegetable in season right now!
Before leaving the casa yesterday morning, Dulce, our landlady, gave us a stern warning about the approaching hurricane - Ike - and instructions to come straight back if the weather changed. Not that Ike was due near Havana until the following day anyway. This was our first introduction to how seriously the Habañeros were taking this approaching storm. People here are either really worried about it, live by a ¨better to be safe than sorry¨motto, or got so hammered by Gustav that they are taking no chances with Ike. So all the hatches are being battened down. Big time. So many places we passed were getting large sheets of ply nailed over the windows, or the windows filled with taped X´s. Outside furniture was being moved into cafes, fishing boats had been moved a couple of blocks inland, huge planters with trees in were being forklifted to safety (inside those cafes again!) and even a huge crane had been dismantled and was in the process of being tied down.
And then there were all the museums and forts we couldnt go in as they were
closed for the hurricane.
So what could we get up to? Well, first up was the museo de la revolucion, which alternated between interesting and tedious. It was full of photos, maps, newpaper articles etc charting the revolutions in Cuba from the initial Spanish invasion through to Castro and his heroic comrades. It was easy to tell who were the goodies and who were the baddies by the descriptions used - heroic, murderer, fascist, tortured etc etc. Out the back were various vehicles from the later armed struggle, including in a heavily guarded glass and wire mesh pavillion, the Granma, Castros yacht (or rather nice looking large motor cruiser).
From there we more or less followed the LP walking tours, taking in the outsides of buildings as by now nothing was open. We wandered past the plaza de la catedral, a lovely plaza, the plaza de armas, the Hotel Ambos Mundos of Hemingway fame (he did heaps of writing there and we cant get in the door), the pretty plaza vieja with a large crane tied down in the middle, the Capitolio Nacional and the Real Fabrica de Tabacos Partagas, a cigar factory with temporarily ended tours and
an expensive on site shop (cheapest cigars possibly US$5 each, but we didnt stay long enough to find out). Plus of course all the neat architecture and cars. It doesnt sound much written here, sorry!
After all that we tried getting across the river to the two old forts of the ¨Parque Historico Militar Morro Cabaña¨. We met a freindly couple of ladies at a bus station who told us we were at the right stop, and how much the bus would be. Then proceeded to change one of our CUC (tourist money) into MN (moneda nacional or locals pesos), at a slightly off rate but we figured the 8c NZ they fleeced us for was a fair price for the help and info!
But after all that, and the slog up the hill from the bus stop to the fort, they were both cerrado, apparently there is a hurricane coming. One fort was built 1589 - 1630 and the other 1763 - 1774, but they still had to close them. By this time we were getting a bit fed up of the hurricane that might not even hit Havana at all. Feels a bit like overkill, but
then we werent here for Gustav so what do we know. Still, the views across the river to the older part of Havana were good. And that was that as everything else was closed, including restaurants. So some beans and rice leftovers from Dulces dinner fed us that evening!
Today was worse. The storm had hit. But it was only a storm, not a hurricane. In Havana at least. It hit the east end of the country harder, compounding the damage from Gustav. Just what they needed, more wind and rain.
There wasnt a lot to do today. Obviously everything was still closed, so we sat around, got over any left over jet lag, read heaps, played cards...and finally escaped later in the afternoon just before cabin fever took hold. The streets werent as crowded as we thought they´d be. Wet and windy for sure, but little obvious damage, just a few branches and some rubbish. We couldnt get anywhere near the waterfront to couldnt see what the waves were like, but the wind was coming from the wrong direction really for anything too spectacular.
Anyway, we´d better go. Our hour of expensive dial up connection is
nearly over and I want to make sure this gets published. We´ll add more another day, when we have hopefully been up to something exciting, and maybe even been able to leave the city. If this lock down ever ends!
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