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Troubles Traveling in Cuba

By Rick

This trip I arrived at Holguin airport at 4 pm. and was met by my Cuban friends with the carro particular (private car) they had hired to take us back to Guantanamo. It was difficult for them to find a driver willing to run the risk for the price we wanted to pay but this guy was proud of his classic Chevy and young enough to think he could escape the roadchecks looking for tourists using non-licenced taxis. He had reconditioned his car very nicely but the springs in the original back seat were very soft and we hit the floorboards everytime he went over a pothole large enough to bounce us in the air.

As we made our way eastward, everyone in the car (except me) insisted on stopping at every vegetable stand along the way and arguing over the price for garlic, tomatoes and whatever else was being offered. This behaviour concerned me as the time was passing quickly into night. Anyone who has driven at night in Cuba will know what I mean!

By nightfall, we had not yet even reached Santiago and instead found ourselves passing through an unknown village. In fact, we got lost three times and had to ask for directions many times only to be told we had missed our turn-offs by several kilometers. Each time our driver would curse the locals complaining that the villagers "had no brains" whenever we asked for directions. Perhaps in order to maintain his profit margin he only bought enough gas to get us back to Guantanamo and therefore we ran out of gas just outside of the village of La Maya which was about 40 Km. short of our goal. Our driver would have to walk 3 miles into town in order to find some fuel. I suggested we flag down another vehicle but the Cuban friends laughed saying no one would stop. I thought that maybe someone would stop for a tourist...but no! As our driver vanished into the complete darkness of the Cuban countryside with his plastic bottle in hand I was lamenting the disasterous start to my holiday!
The rest of our company however were still enjoying this travel adventure. They caught several fireflies which we examined, admired and released. Then we looked up at the star-filled sky which is normally obscured by the artificial light of the cities. I managed to pass some time by reaquainting myself with the awesomeness of the Milky Way. Then the Cubans sang songs, told stories and we had a little roadside party until our chofer returned with the help of a local with a motorcycle. We followed this young man into town to his black market gasoline source as the Servi-Cupet gas station had already closed. I thought the young local with the motorcycle was going to take advantage of our situation monetarily but all he wanted in return was that we take a small package to his relatives in Guantanamo!
Our 3 hour journey had taken us almost 7 hours and we didn't get to Gitmo until 11:00 pm. Everyone was waiting with a now cold supper of mutton, yuca, and arroz congri. The children had already fallen asleep on the couch waiting for my arrival. I think the point of this story is how Cubans can make the best of a situation and hopefully I will be better able to develop this Cuban skill of making lemonade out of life's lemons. "Nothing in life is necessarily good or bad, but thinking about it that way makes it so".

















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