Photos from Cuba.
|All Photography Copyright Andy Lepki, 2009.|
Cuba is maybe not the location popularised on bacardi adverts... undoubtably beautiful, but with a thick edge of poverty which leaves you exhausted from trying to find a way of life which gives you a rootsy challenge
50 years of cynicism and envy of the dollar added to a whole lifetime of corruption and revolution, the country is charged with a strange blend of desire for a more lucrative future, and apathy of resignation, that although vastly significant in global history and politics, developments in the later part of the 20th century have powerful big hitters lapping cuba in the rat race, so they've decided they will just walk, and maybe chat to some people along the way...
much of cuba is a complete timepiece, and it can be quite disorientating trying to figure out exactly which era you are in... dollarisation sits alongside communism on an overfull bus, polluting the streets of havana with acrid diesel fumes... roads have huge pot holes, and brick dust and banging provide the daily accompaniment to which cubans orchestrate their daily existence...
Buskers practise along the tree lined Prado, the pretty main tiled walkway enveloped by 20's sugar speculators spectacular houses in pinks and fading tropical limes, but the aged trumpeters will expect a dollar or more for the privelidge of having this romantic salsa serenade...
People just hang out here, try and get into conversations with tourists to practise their english with the lure of the invisible sky high golden arches 82 miles away in Miami... these conversations usually follow the same pattern...
"hey amigo, my friend, english ? italiano ? deutchse ? "
The Cuban may be genuine and want to be of assistance to his guest, but you can bet your bottom dollar that your bottom dollar will be exactly what they're after... Although not physically threatening or imposing jinteros are a pest, and after two weeks you can be physically exhausted by shaking off literally hundreds of prospective translators/hosts/chefs and of course, cigar salesmen... that said, you do need the odd one's help, as hotels are so overpriced and poor value, staying in a Cuban home for a fraction of the price represents the best option... Cubans are allowed to rent out one of their rooms to tourists as the government collects a cut in tax from the license...
Some places, especially in Havana are unlicensed, and it is probably more advisable to pay the extra few dollars for the security... Family members are willing to move out and make up a fresh bed at the drop of a hat, and you'll get a key for you $15... most places will start the bidding at $20, but say you've been offered $10 and they'll let you go for $15... you get strangely used to the logic, and staying in homes is a good way to get your food... for say, an extra $5 you can get breakfast for 2, $10 for dinner... It all varies, but will definitely be a lot cheaper than eating out, which is an unbelievable chore in many places...
In Cuban towns and cities, familiar brands are evident shipped in from South Africa and Canada, but these are expensive compared to Cuban produce; for example Tikola will cost 50C and Coke $1 and there isn't a lot to choose between the two, and you get a moral tinge to the flavour that it is the national produce you should be supporting...
Cuba tips for Chris & anyone else (1999)
When people asked me what I was looking for, replying that I was looking simply for peace (trang-keel-ee-dahd) got the best response.
A tourist I met told me that she’d brought sweets, little toys, balloons for the children here and aspirins for the adults. In addition I was asked if I had any clothing to spare.
Should you need to extend your visa you will have to purchase stamps to the value of the necessary fee at any bank prior to making your way to the Immigration Office which in Havana closes at 3pm.
To reserve a train ticket in Santiago de Cuba head up Aguilera from Plaza Dolores. On the 2nd block on the left hand side you’ll see a sign with a train on it the last word beneath which is “reservaciones”,
Another friend booked Hotel Lido but when he went to get this tourist
Olga Hernandez Lopez
Ernesto Cardoso Vega
Kash made friends with a guy named Felix who works for the tourist
Andy made friends with Jorge who I consequently met. He acts as a
I met Hector who could also find accommodation in Central - 795143
La Julia Paladar
Finally a friend booked a flight with Adria Alexander at Hotel Lido
Jose Enrique Romero
Cienfuegos is a relatively affluent feeling town on the south coast of cuba, roughly 100 km, and a $10 drive away from havana...
After the frenzy of Havana, Cienfuegos is a good place to regather and take advantage of the relative tranquility...
A fairly compact town with not really that much to do, dollar shops are springing up more and more selling salsa cds, tshirts, ornaments and general miscellany; my huge cuban flag, a symbol of pride and patriotism cost me $12, yes dollars, from one of the strange feeling department lack of department stores...
You could go into one of these needing some socks, and find no socks but hundreds of egg whisks; absolutly no logic defines supply and demand in Cuba away from the black market, a market a naive traveller would be well advised not to dabble in unless they had dollars to smoke...As described elsewhere, luck plays such a huge part in what casa, and ultimately, experience you have in a certain town... our luck was in, and Geronimo was a complete star on the cuban flag; a fantastic host, cook, and tourist adviser, only to willing to assist...
His house was a bargain, and felt safe, a priceless commodity after shifty policemen and jinteros in havana...
definitely recommended :
Jeronimo Garcia Escoriza
Rita Fundora Rodfriguez
Trinidad is south east of Havana on the the south coast. It's a really nice spanish colonial style town with well nice mountains inland and a really good beach (Playa Ancon). I think you could definitely spend a few days here as it is really chilled and the coutryside is well nice - a good contrast to Havana.
We stayed with a bloke called Pedro Jimenez: Calle Camilo Cienfegos No 213 Between Francisco Cadahia and Jose Marti Tel 0419 3520 It was a good house with a courtyard and high ceilings - we payed 15 dollars for a double room but its more for one with air conditioning.
I tried two other places in Trinidad, one of them was plain scarry, think it was on Jose Marti, but basically, avoid any house with teenage Dali angst nasty artwork and tasteless religious imagery... The bloke was a bit like willy roper from eastenders, the food was shit, and you have to eat near a huge doll crucifix...
The other place was with Fransicso Javier Zerquera No 360 c/o Ernesto Valdez Muñoz y Manuel Solano CP 62600 Tel 2220 And this place wasn't too bad, stayed a couple of days here, and the food was generally pretty generous, and the hosts were nice enough, but the bill here had a few add ons which we weren't expecting...
A double room was $10 a night, and added to this was $10 for dinner, and another $5 for breakfast ( for 2 ), and $5 a day bike hire ( each ). Someone in Havana gave me the address of their friend in Trinidad; didn't stay there, but for completeness: Jose Marti 358 e STG Escobar y Simon Bolivar ( Pro : Jesus ), Trinidad.
But there are generally plenty of casas available, throw the dice and see where you end up..
not stunningly recommended, but you can try.
Fransicso Javier Zerquera
Trinidad Casa Hospedaje
Kash “probably stayed in one of the better colonial homes here, call
Maria Esther Perez
Barbara Rondon Gonzalez
A sound brother who doesn’t speak any English – Norge Arostica (0419)
Santa Rita 13
Mabel Rodriguez Sanchez
Santiago de Cuba
Ing. Ruiz y Olga Jordan
Arlex Rojas Cruz
Absolutely lovely man (& his son) run this place. They have a lovely double room, and another one that can take up to four people - both with their own private bathroom & air con. Make you feel really welcome. He also can give you details of relatives casa (Balbina Cadahia) in Trinidad (which is already in the Lonely Planet guide).
$15 per night, including breakfast.
He would prefer to not have single men (unless they have good enough
Pedro Guillermo Marti Vazquez
Rolando y Laudelina
A sound brother who hardly speaks English – ask for Pantri man amongst
Pinar del Rio (pronounced peenyar del ree-o)
Vinales (pronounced been-yalehs)
$10 per night, breakfast & amazing dinners are extra, but extremely
Very friendly couple, lovely large room, with two double beds & private