Saturday, January 25, 2014

Welcome to Cuba

Posted by Alexander.  Written Jan. 6, 2014.

Today was our second day in Cuba. And the first we saw much of it. You see we have this awesome plan of renting a car and going on a road trip to see some of Cuba. Of course to do that we needed to rent a car so we hired a cab to check out the rental places. The taxi that pulled up was a red Chevrolet that could have been driven out of the sixties. (Back to the future anyone?)  (Dad’s note; Actually, it was a 1955 Chevrolet, with a Hyundai engine in it.  We saw lots of classic cars all day.)

The Cubans have a thing for old cars.  I think that thing is called "necessity."
Yoel and the family in front of his 1955 Chev.
The driver was a Cuban who’s name we later learned was Yoel. I’m pretty sure the only English that he knew was the word “Yeah” but that’s ok. The reason why is because I have an awesome mom who used to be fluent in Spanish and hadn’t forgotten all that much. She was basically our translator for the whole trip. I tried my best to talk to throwing in the occasional “gracias” or “hola” when necessary. Dora has nothing on me. As we drove through the lovely countryside we passed countless horses, cows and goats.

Our first stop was an all-inclusive hotel, where we changed some Canadian dollars into Cuban convertible pesos ($1.11 Canadian bought $1.00 CUC). In the lobby of the hotel was a big white board signed by Fidel Castro, who had visited the hotel in the past.

The lobby of one of the all-inclusive hotels near Peurto de Vita.  Fidel was here at the opening.  Unfortunately, they wouldn't let us go in, since we weren't guests.
After that, Yoel took us to a local village called Melila.  We had been asking him about where he lived and what local schools were like, so he showed us around a bit.  Then, he took us on a dirt road to a local house.  We didn’t even ask to go there but it was WORTH IT! A lady greeted us there and we ended up going into her backyard. Of course she only spoke Spanish but we realized Yoel had taken us to a sort of local zoo. This lady had tons of animals in her backyard, most of them in cages.

There were dogs, (not in cages), hamsters, turtles, guinea pigs, (we got to hold them, awwww) a falcon, some turkeys, pigs that kinda stunk, barn owls, some pigeons, parakeets and a ton of other stuff. They even had a crocodile back there! They also had a big rodent thing in a cage which was cute in itself. We learned that it was native only to Cuba and that was cool. The best part was it had three babies that were climbing freely in the trees. Adorable right? They had a ton of plants too and we saw that they grew their own bananas with which to feed most of the animals. We got to try some and they tasted good.

A hutia, endemic to Cuba.
Pigs.  Smelly but cute.  In Cuba, usually these guys end up on someone's dinner table.
Barn owls.
Another raptor.
A crocodile, and his pal the turtle.
This parrot spoke a little Spanish.
We left the lady with a five CUC note and drove off with awesome memories. After that we got lunch. Yoel ate with us. That’s when we learned his name. They had fresh tasty banana chips that I devoured. After that Yoel kept grabbing more and laughing as he offered them to me. I had plenty but tried to explain I didn’t need more. He got it after the second plate. Mom and Dad learned a lot from asking him questions. We learned that Fidel Castro hadn’t supported private business like the restaurant we were eating at (called a paladar in Cuba). Raul Castro had allowed private business to thrive though which was good.

After lunch we went around and saw a ton of car rental places but none of them had any  cars for Tuesday!  When we finally finished running around we said goodbye to Yoel and went back to the boat. I asked if we would still go on the trip but Mom and Dad have a plan.

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