A kaleidoscope of images the scenery, the people and the way of life left these memories:
• Peaceful, outstandingly beautiful, power-cut Vinales. Our leader thoughtfully subbed us 10CUC each on arrival, little realising that payback would be delayed because one the power-cuts closed the banks.
• Vibrant Baracoa with its Casa de la Trova – bands playing early and late. On most nights we were too tired to venture out late, the odd Mojito or Pina Colada before dinner encouraging an early night.
• A hotel booking problem in Havana (the holiday is graded Pioneer) resulted in free tickets to Tropicana, a two-hour song and dance throwback with about 50 dancing girls (and guys) in amazing costumes, sometimes with feathers, sometimes with bongo drums and always with neck-breaking headresses, strutting their stuff at ground level and on elevated platforms in the trees. With free drinks of a glass of wine, can of coke and 1/4 bottle of rum per person, an interesting evening was assured.
• Swimming in a deserted Atlantic beach, then in the Caribbean and finally in a blue hole with tropical fish, were great experiences – the walking wasn’t bad either! Add a boat ride through caves and a wander through a bat cave; a speedboat ride past ospreys to an island with various herons, cormorants, pelicans and other birds; jungle walks where we saw a nesting hummingbird and many trees festooned with epiphytic bromeliads.
• Sadly, the welcoming friendly wonderful Cuban people are poor and Havana is crumbling. The two-tier currency is bizarre, with one currency used by local people for normal shopping, and the other used by locals when they buy luxury goods and by tourists. Cuba will undoubtedly change with time for better or worse – go before it does!