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Monday, January 09, 2006

Cuba - Brisas Santa Lucia:

Day One - Thursday

We left Toronto after an approximately one and half hour delay and arrived at the Camaguey International Airport at around 13h (12h Toronto time, Cuba does not use Day-Light Saving time so we had to set our clocks one hour forward). It was an one hour drive to Santa Lucia and we were very hungry and headed to the buffet lunch to grab a light lunch before checking into our rooms. After checking into our room, we headed to the beach to see what it looked like. The beach was nice, but I think the beach last year was more blue and got deeper faster. There was more sea weed along the coast, but that was no biggie to me. We could walk out very far way and still be in shallow water.

We decided to go to the pool and begin our week-long drinking binge there. The pool was nice, this resort had only one pool compared to three last year, but I was not complaining about the pool because it had a bar there. We had dinner at the buffet place again, I think I was impressed with the food, there were more food that we could enjoy that had no meat, but of course during the week there were times when we ended up eating meat that was hidden in the food. After dinner, I was pretty much bummed from lack of sleep and the energy needed to maintain my excitement all day that I withdrew to my bed sometime no late than 20h.

Day Two - Friday
Tallwolf, 236 and I got up very early, maybe 45 minutes before the sun came up and went to the beach to catch the sunrise. There was a pier that had a restaurant at the end of the pier, which was closed in the morning, but we explored it and it had a cool "pool" in the center of the pier where people could soak in the water and they had a storage where they stored lobsters to cook for the diners. The sun rose around 7h40 and after taking some pictures, we went and had breakfast. The problem with buffets I have is tend to over eat so I was stuffed for the morning.
My father met someone during breakfast who suggested a taxi driver who would take us on a tour in the city of Camaguey for a lot less than the resorts 45 peso tour would. We also made plans to go snorkeling on Saturday.

We caught a small "train" ride that took us around the town of Santa Lucia. We saw several other resorts and ended up viewing the place where the Cuban people live and probably where most of the resort workers live. The tour also stopped for a few minutes to let us look around a small market place. There was not much to buy, but we used the time to buy some bottled water. We then were taken to the other side of the town and stopped at a kindergarten school filled with a lot of little kids.

After making our plans we headed to the beach and spent most of the morning at the beach before moving over to the pool. We spent a while at the pool before having lunch, the afternoon was spent with more drinking at the pool bar until we got involved with a game of pool volleyball. The kids made the game pretty annoying so I kind of got out of the game while the rest continued to play. Sir 236 made new friends with a little boy from Quebec that day. However before dinner, the kid and his father showed us a place at the end of the resort where two huge iguanas lived, eventually later during the week, 236 tried feeding them french fries


We had dinner at the buffet place and then had some drinks before calling it a night. The resort had some kind of live entertainment every night hosted on a stage near the pool, I never planned on watching them because I never really understood the music or what they were talking about and the shows usually started at 21h. There was a show that day, but I went to bed shortly after the show began.

Day Three - Saturday
I decided to sleep in and skip the sunrise while Tallwolf went out to capture the sunrise. We ate breakfast and met up in the lobby to catch our bus to the snorkeling trip. The boat ride took us out to the coral reef, it is said to be the second largest coral reef in the world. The coral reef looked very similar to the one I saw last year, but was definitely larger.





We saw some colourful fishes, but the reef itself was not very colourful. It was interesting navigating through the reef and when the water above the reef became shallow we usually tried to make ourselves thin to avoid touching the reef.



The person doing the reef tour warned us not to touch anything because some of the rocks or plants could give us fire blisters. That seemed to be painful, but I had no idea what it looked like so I was not going to try touching anything to find out how painful fire blisters are.





After the reef, we decided to walk along the beach towards the beach on our resort and we ended up finding strange clear balls along the shore and we started assuming they were silicon breast implants that washed up ashore after being gored out by sharks eating women out in the ocean until we found one that had ribbon-like arms or tentacles sticking out the bottom making us realize they were dead jelly fish.

We went for a swim in the beach before heading to the pool and we spent our day relaxing and playing volleyball in the pool except for getting out for lunch and frequent washroom breaks. We had dinner at the "International" restaurant that was beside the buffet restaurant, but the
choices were very limited, there was not a lot of vegetarian food and none for the main dish so I went ahead with the Shrimp dish and their veggie salad and bruschetta were delicious.


I think we played card games in the lobby after dinner while Sir 236 played with his new friend from Quebec and watched entertainment with them. After that it was bed time. I am pretty sure you guys are surprised every night so far has been early nights for me, and that was what it was like for the rest of the week.

I think today or yesterday was the day Sir 236's shoes were stolen from the pool patio. He suspected the Cuban workers stole them, but the rest of us highly doubted it, we suspected his shoes were stolen by other tourists.

Day Four - Sunday
Tallwolf and I got up early to catch the sunrise, had early breakfast and spent the morning at the beach. Sir 236 got up later and joined us for breakfast and the beach. After a light lunch, Tallwolf, my brother, sister and I played some tennis (they only gave three tennis racks per court so we took turns resting while two players played against one person. Sir 236 did not want to play tennis so he stayed at the pool or beach. Eventually after we were done playing tennis we found him playing volleyball in the pool and he seemed to have a good number of drinks. My brother and I started giving the gardener cups of beer after my brother saw one of the tourists give another gardener four cups of beer and witnessed the gardener swallow all four cups in no more than three or four seconds.


Tallwolf joined up and gave more beer to the gardener beside the pool who also swallowed the beer in one gulp and eventually the gardener had two other co-workers come by the pool for drinks from us. He also told us he would be working in the garden again tomorrow (but we never saw him working there in the afternoon so we assume he finished the work in the morning).

We had dinner at the buffet place and I think by that time Sir 236 seemed to be obviously under the influence of alcohol and decided get a lot of food, bread and ice cream and at one point eating pork after my father warned him that meat was pork; resulting in my father wondering if he was just getting them to waste the food. He eventually erupted in a fix and asked him if he was going to finish his ice cream. He eventually finished his food and ice cream, here is the picture proving that he finished his ice cream.


Sir 236 also admitted that he was-25-on-throated after verifying the meat he ate was pork.



I had several drinks and hanged out by the stage for a short time before calling it a night.

Day Five - Monday
It rained this morning, I slept in while Tallwolf did his usual beach visit before sunrise and we met up for breakfast. After breakfast, Sir 236 did his usual showering and sleeping while we decided to try and borrow bikes to bike around town with my brother and father.

We decided to bike down in the direction where the kindergarten was and tried to go further down the road, but Tallwolf's bike broke and we had to stop often so he could try and tighten the pedal bolts.

We saw some vultures or eagles spreading out their wings (I assume they were doing that to dry up their wings or collect heat from the sun). When we got back, we spent time at the beach and pool like usual. We had dinner reservations at the Cuban restaurant next to the pool, but like the International place, the menu was very limited. I had another shrimp dish along with fruit salad and rice cake. The restaurant was located under an open gazebo covered with grape vines that had grapes hanging above us with a very nice light breeze. The light breeze was too light so the mosquitoes were annoying that night.

We relaxed after dinner before going to bed early again. We also knew we needed to get up early and have all the energy we needed for the full day taxi trip around the city of Camaguey and the taxi driver said he would take us to the Deaf school in the city so we were very excited.

Day Six - Tuesday
We got up early, rushed to the beach to catch the sunrise, rushed to the breakfast buffet and grabbed our breakfast. Sir 236 was slow like usual. Another wasted breakfast accomplished by 236.



So we had to give him some encouragement to be ready by 8h30 and be at the lobby to meet the taxi. The taxi driver greeted us, he was a nice man, who was probably in his 60's and well dressed, bald and drove a nice European van that was no older than two or three years.

The first thing he showed was his house. The houses in Cuba are not very fancy so his house was a very typical one that looked worn out. As we drove towards Camaguey, he realized that he forgot to pick up someone who's mother was sick and needed to go to the city so we had to go back to Santa Lucia to pick that guy up.

On the way to the city, the driver talked about all different kinds of crops that were being planted along the way. He explained that no fruits or vegetables could grow along eight to ten kilometers of the shore because of the salt water and mist. He talked about all the palm trees that grew in Cuba (more than 100 different kinds) and explained that the Royal Palm was used to build the palm roofs.

Our first tour was at a violin factory where the workers carved violins from wood and the work was all made by hand, no machines so everyone had work. Sadly violins were not my thing so I left with out buying anything from them.

We saw very tall Royal Palm trees after the violin factory and drove past a military base that was in the middle of land that lacked nutrition resulting in plants growing in unhealthy form. We passed the airport and the driver explained that the building in front of the airport was a prison for women, very interesting location for a prison eh? Wonder how often women tried to escape by running to the airport.

Deep in the city we stopped at the rum factory and it was very interesting going through the factory and seeing all the barrels filled with rum to age and to learn how they recycle and reuse rum bottles.



We got to watch the bottles get filled and inspected for quality.



The labels were also manually put onto the bottles.



We went to the store and bought some rum to bring home. I was tempted to buy 15-year old rum, but it was too expensive (80 peso @ CAD$1.32 = 1 Peso).

The rest of my family bought a variety of booze to bring back, my mother got a bottle of Cuban wine (which tastes more like Sherry or Port than wine) and my brother also bought a bottle of Vodka for no more than 3 pesos. After the rum factory tour, our taxi took us over to the school for the Deaf. It was located across the street from the rum factory!

When we got out of the cab, we were greeted by a hearing woman, probably the person who ran the school and she told us that the school was "closed" for the holidays, but there were still a good number of young children there. I suspect the young children were sent to school while their parents worked, while the older ones who are old enough to take care of themselves were not required to go to school.

We met three or four teachers, who seemed to be Deaf and were accepting instructions from the woman who ran the school, their sign language was very different and it took time for us to adapt and start understanding each other. The children appeared to be very excited to have us as visitors. The school building that we visited had one building that was mostly office rooms, then in the back of the campus, there were three buildings that were beside each other, there were two classrooms located at each end of each building. It was pretty much like an open school where you had to go outside to go to each building.

We showed the children our digital cameras and I do not think they ever saw one so they were very excited about seeing the cameras and wanted to try them out. They wanted their turns at taking pictures with them, but they kept on pushing the shutter button too fast that no pictures were taken. Only a few of them finally figured out how to take pictures, eventually they started fighting each other for their turns with the camera.

Since we had a "tight" schedule with the taxi's agenda, we could not stay at the school for long, my mother decided to donate the school supplies to the Deaf school instead of the hearing school near our resort, then our driver took us through the city and stopped at a restaurant to drop in our orders for lunch. We drove towards the center of Camaguey and the driver explained that he set up some bicycle drivers for the afternoon that would take us around the city on bicycle taxis.

He showed us the baseball stadium where the team played (their national baseball league has teams in each capital city of each provinces) and then explained to us the places where the bicycle taxis would take us to:
  • Farmer Market (supposed to be Cuba's largest one)
  • Theatre
  • Two churches (not sure what was important about them)
  • Centre Square (where Pope John Paul visited Cuba in 1996)
  • City Park (with a small zoo)
  • Stores (to find shoes for 236 to buy)
  • Plaza (where there were statues made by a famous Cuban artist)
  • More to add (cannot remember the names)
Then we headed back to the restaurant to eat our lunch. My mother, father and sister ordered whatever plate they were going to make while the rest of us ordered rice, fruit salad and sweet potato fries. The rice and beans ended up having pork in it, but it was delicious! We also were served with a bottle of beer (the driver also had beer, but did not drink it, I am guessing Cuba has laws against people who drink and drive too). The entire meal was only 5 peso (approximately $6.30 CDN)


After lunch, the driver explained to us that he would meet up with us down the street and told us to walk along the street to get some views of pre-Castro homes that were owned by wealthy people before Castro took over the country.

We saw three huge houses, they had beautiful flowers and gardens in their front yards, and the buildings seemed to have suffered several decades from lack of maintenance. One house that looked like it had 2 or 3 floors seemed to be converted to house two or three families on each floor. We met up with the driver and he took us to meet our bicycle taxis, they took us to all the places I listed.

Farmer Market (supposed to be Cuba's largest one): It was for sure the first "Farmer Market" I saw in Cuba and it was very different than what I expected. Even though it is considered one of the largest one in Cuba, it did not seem to be bigger than the Rochester Farmer Market. There was plenty of vegetables, fruits, herbs, and restaurant stands, I think there was only one or two stands that sold meat and fishes.


They did not have ice to keep the meat cold so it was a very different view, seeing all the uncovered meat lying on tables with flies crawling and flying around them. The bikers bought us some delicious juice smoothies, I never caught what kind of drink or juice it was. We saw some Cuban soldiers walking around and 236 wanted to get a picture of him with them so he asked them, they kept a flat face and shook their heads telling him "no". Theatre: I think they said it was the second largest in Cuba after Havana and also had ballet shows. The drivers explained that Camaguey had the best ballet school in Cuba so a lot of good ballet shows were done at that theatre. Two churches (not sure what was important about them): First one, dunno why they showed it, the second one I think started out as a church, then became a hospital, now it serves as a museum. Centre Square (where Pope John Paul visited CCuba in 1996): There was a statue of Cuba's first general or commander that fought against Spain for Cuba's independence. This was also where the Pope was when he visited Cuba.



City Park (with a small zoo): We stopped there to walk around, there were several statues, a man-made cave, and we were told that there were some trees that were more than three hundred years old. We also saw some teenagers drinking rum and getting drunk there. This is where Tallwolf and I got a chance to drive the bicycle taxis. It was very interesting driving them, my mother said the taxi drivers are required to get licenses to drive them, I was out of energy after "racing" Tallwolf around the park.



Stores (to find shoes for 236 to buy): The first store they took us to was near the plaza (see below) and it carried mostly summer shoes and sandals. 236 needed shoes that he could wear when he got back in Toronto so later we stopped at a store just before going to the City Park. The store had some good looking shoes, made by Ocean Pacific (I think), unfortunately they had a limited supply of sizes in nine and half that the only shoes they had were black shoes. They had to get the shoes from the back of the store and it was strange to find that they cost 50 pesos when the good looking styles cost 20 - 35 pesos so we suspect that they ripped 236 off, but who cares they need the money.

Plaza (where there were statues mmade by a famous Cuban artist): After the first shoe store, we came to the plaza where there were several statues made out of stucco or mocias (sp?). The first set of statues portrayed an old man carrying a wheel barrow with jugs full of water, which was supposed to represent water of life. It is said that if you drink water from the jugs, you will live to an old age (the man who was used to make the statue is still alive and is approximately 95 years old). The second set was a group of three women talking. It was originally supposed to represent female African-American slaves, but now represents the daily lifestyle of women sharing gossips.



The third set was of a couple sitting on a bench kissing, which obviously represents love. The last one was of a man reading newspaper (I missed what it represented, but I am guessing it represented literature). After the bike ride, we paid the bike drivers 12 pesos, then met with our taxi driver and we headed back to our resort. On the way back, he stopped at a place where an old sugar factory laid in ruins.



At the old factory, we ordered beer at the place and a nice woman came by and offered us some cookies. I think it was peanut or "sugar" cookies because they were very sweet.



When we got back to the resort, we headed to the restaurant for dinner, played some card games while having some drinks then called it a night.

Day Seven - Wednesday
In the morning we had breakfast, spent some of the morning laying around the beach before walking over to the other resort to see what their store offered for souvenirs and gifts for us to bring back home. 236 bought some shirts and we got some beer to drink while walking around. The other resort had peacocks which 236 feed them fries (hope they have not died from heart attacks yet) and flamingos. On the way back, 236 bought a horse jaw with art carved in it. We had lunch and spent the whole afternoon at the pool like usual. We also played volleyball in the pool too after giving up on waiting for the sport cage to open up to borrow tennis racks. The volleyball was much better, there were not as many little kids as usual, but eventually later more kids came in the pool.



We had dinner, and tried to see if we could catch the moon rise, but nothing and I was too tired and there was nothing much to do so I went to bed. 236 ended up staying up late and getting loaded with alcohol with his friend that he met who was from Quebec.


Day Eight - Thursday
We got up early, went to have breakfast (236 had a bit of hang over so he was late joining us for breakfast). We grabbed our Knights' photo under Cuba's patriotic Red, White and Blue flag!



We got there at 7h15 in and tried to eat our breakfast before 7h30 so we could catch the last sunrise before we left Cuba. The sunrise turned out to be a beautiful one.





We then rushed back to our room to get our bags and stuff out in the lobby by 8h and waited for the bus to arrive. We left the resort around 9h and arrived at the airport around 10h15.



Our flight was supposed to depart five minutes after noon, but ended up being delayed for one hour. It took us one hour to finally get our boarding tickets, and get through the check point. There is also a 25 peso "departure tax" everyone has to pay to leave Cuba (just so those who plan on visiting Cuba know in advance about the departure tax).

236 spent more time buying souvenirs before our departure, we had beer while watching our airplane get prepared for us to board. We all sat in different seats so I pretty much spent the whole flight reading my Earth Science book and watched a weird movie (I eventually found out that it was called "Polar Express" from FreckelsFly's blog), however I might have to watch it again with closed caption to judge the movie better. We arrived in Toronto around 15h30 (I think) and it turned out that my sister had a doctor appointment that prevented us from having dinner together before I headed home, Tallwolf staying for his flight to California the next day and 236 heading back to Rochester later this evening.



I miss Cuba, hopefully will have another chance to go to Cuba again soon.
--
oneninefive
http://oneninefive.blogspot.com

P.S. Wow this is probably my longest blog post ever!

8 comments:

FrecklesFly said...

Guess you are Southern Guy afterall despite your love for coldness,hehe :D I miss Europe more :P

Brandon said...

Hey...

Glad to see that you had fun in Cuba. From what you described, i felt like I was there again :) (for those who didnt know, I stayed at the exact same resort Laing stayed in about 8 months ago)...

Post the pictures, wanna see it :) and whats the story between the Quebec dude and 236 ? :)

And, since I went there in May, there was almost NO kids around, at least no highschool teenagers,... I guess since u went during the holidays, theres always kids on vacation :p...

Next trip, Ibiza Spain! :)..

bg0ur3

Buzzair said...

Finally an update! :)

No I guess no broken ironing boards in the hotel eh TallWolf?

No big surprise that JB was making the trip more interesting. heh

Good boy for going to bed early everynight.

Glad you guys had a great time..looking forward to the pics!

TallWolf said...

Wow, that was well written about our trip! I can't match your ability of writing that long, well, maybe for school project. ;-)

oneninefive said...

If you notice any errors, please let me know. Adding the pictures kept on scrambling and facking up my post.

Enjoy!
--
oneninefive

Buzzair said...

Where is JB's Kappa Phi Theta shirt??!!!!

Unloyal!!

oneninefive said...

Hehe... I think he lost his shirt, he will have to order another one and go back to Cuba to make sure he becomes an official knight of Kappa Phi Theta who went to Cuba.
--
oneninefive

MACanadian227 said...

you guys are failed for wearing...RED-WHITE-BLUE!!!!