Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Cuba -- # 4 of 4

On our last day in Cuba Jane relaxed at the hotel and enjoyed the beach while I went on a jeep safari. After picking up the jeeps (Suzukis) at a compound on the edge of Varadero, we headed out, along with 2 or 3 other bunches that left at about the same time.

Jane said to me before I left that she hoped I didn't end up with a 20-year-old drunk as a driver. When I mentioned her comment to the guy that was driving, he said, "How about a 60-year-old drunk?" He limited himself to 2 or 3 beer through the day. He was good fun, and a good driver.

I didn't bring my driver's license to Cuba so I couldn't drive, which was my preference anyway. I wanted to take pictures. We were on highways, back roads and some off-road too... but not much. We went through a few smaller cities and towns as well. It was a great day.

A school in a small town. Kids wear state-supplied uniforms, based on the grade they're in.

Propaganda on the highways and some buildings remind you that you're not in a democratic country, but they're the only reminders really.

Every day is laundry day somewhere.

We see signs in the Oshawa area now & then about "sharing the road with farmers". In Cuba, they don't need signs, it's just part of life.

This was interesting, but sad at the same time. I learned that it's a common practice on jeep safaris in Cuba to bring along bags of candies, scribblers for school kids, pencils, etc. and to throw them out the windows for kids that wait along the roads that the jeep safaris take. The jeeps don't stop, or even slow down much.

I shared a jeep with a couple from Nova Scotia. The woman brought 52 bags of candies. Throughout the day there must have been 200-300 kids out to meet the jeeps. Some mothers were holding babies or standing with younger ones as well. The 52 bags were gone long before the end of the day.

A stop for coffee, beer or a swim. This was the only time we met another bunch of jeeps. There were a few locals here trying to earn a peso or two.

A great name for a chain of gas stations... Oro Negro is "Black Gold" in Spanish.

This shot shows the Russian influence from earlier years. The three cars in the shot are all Ladas, a Russian car that is about as basic as a car can be. There are 1000s of them in Cuba.

The jeeps going through a smaller city. Our jeep was #7 of 8. It's a real contrast, an uncomfortable one at times... the rich tourists, by Cuban standards certainly, driving through areas where people have very little.

A very common sight... cattle and horses tethered by the road where they can eat the grass, to save the owner some expense of feed.

Sadly, many of the horses you see have their ribs showing.

Another morning stop was for a beer and/or a swim at an underground cave.

Some colorful stalactites.

Typical of the countryside in the hilly regions.

We stopped for lunch at what the brochure called a ranch. More accurately it was a tourist farm, but it had some interesting things to have a closer look at, like this pineapple field. I was wearing jeans so I could walk along the rows without tearing the skin off my legs.

I'd never seen pineapples this close at this stage. The pinkish & bluish colors surprised me.

We have Catalpa trees in Oshawa that have large pods like this but Cuba had dozens of trees it seemed with large pods.

Guarding his lady...

And either shaking off the day or telling me to keep my distance.

A cafe at the farm, with a cactus fence that's common in many countries..

A different breed than ours. The hens seem so small.

The lighter green is one of the Sugar Cane fields at the farm.

This field was one that we could get to.

The field above was by this 'sugar shack' where they offered us sugar cane juice for 1 CUC ($1 US)... in sharp contrast to the 1 "old" peso we paid on an earlier day-trip at a local stand, which made this tasting 25 times as expensive. I don't begrudge the tourist price though. That's the way it should be.

Another surprise to me... I didn't realize sugar cane was so colorful.

You find tender moments wherever you go.

Flowers, flowers everywhere... but these caught my eye with their red blossom and white whatevers.

Cuba has 1000s of Turkey Vultures. You see them "everywhere". These were at the "ranch".

There were two pools at the farm. Egrets are common in Cuba too.

The first Spoonbill I'd seen in a while, with a Coot running by.

A Great Blue Heron...just like at the marsh.

Three in the frame.

South American Coots.

I never try for shots of birds but if one lands close enough to me, like this one did, I do oblige them.

I don't think he had any takers, not that there was any danger involved. It would've been a slow walk I'm sure. Some went horseback riding.

Mango trees...

I seldom pass on a shot of a mother with her brood.

There was also a small field of bananas at the farm. Banana blossoms always fascinate me.

The last stop was a short boat ride on a river. Mangroves, with their prop-roots, able to grow in swamps or flooded areas are yet another example of nature's amazing variety.

These two were fishing on the river. They reminded me once again how most Cubans have very little and how resourceful they are. It looks like their "boat" is just a bunch of foam blocks.

We drove by this quarry on the way home.

This horse was by the quarry... the healthiest horse by far that I saw in Cuba... almost a little too healthy.

No matter what you think of the Castros and their politics, you can't help but love the Cuban people themselves. They're warm-hearted, friendly & kind, and from all appearances they're in love with life. If it takes American exploitation to improve their lives though, so be it... I'd like to see Cubans do better.

But sadly they'll lose something too... those things that we all lose when more wealth enters an economy.

- fini -



At 23 June 2012 at 05:06 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

nice posting.. thanks for sharing.


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