Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Cuba through my lens...a guest posting by Carolyn Fedler

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Good quality tobacco leaves ready for rolling up into a cigar

A cigar making and smoking demonstration

I did try one puff .. can't say I am hooked.
It is an acquired taste.

A house I came across during my walk in the tobacco fields

 I found a few doll heads as a quirky feature  in the Jardin  Botanico, Vinales Village.
This  spectacular botanical garden had been started in the early century
 by 2 sisters of mixed origin ( Chinese and African).
The garden is maintained by the current generation .
I saw my first Emerald Hummingbird here.

A fitting end to our spectacular Vinales valley trip - inside the  Cueva del Indio.
The only way out of this cave is by boat on the underground lake.

My lovely hostess and great cook Mailidy.
I had to learn a few words of Spanish to get by.

By day Edal is a taxi driver of this 1957 Hillman Minx.
At night he cooked us a great dinner during our home stay in Trinidad.
 I had  stayed with his mother Nilda Ponce for 2 nights.
She has a wonderful and has character filled home (Casa).

This is Omar and Mailidy's house in Vinales.
A characteristic feature of these homes are the really comfortable rocking chairs
Where am I going to find them in SA?

A typical Cuban toilet. Luxury is simply not an option.
Loo paper is unavailable unless you are willing to tip
the lady who keeps the ablutions clean.
I had brought my own toilet paper, but still tipped whenever I could,

Baby crocodiles at the breeding farm Criadero de Crocodrilos, Zapata Peninsula.
Breeding aims to stop them from becoming extinct
as well as to use them for their skins
 ( The teeth are sold as souvenirs).
I even got to hold a little medium size one ( mouth tied up of course),
and it felt like holding an ice block.

The stunning Villa Guama , Zapata Peninsulawhere we stayed for one very cold night.
 ( grateful as it  meant less mozzies!) .
The only way to get there is by boat though a canal to Laguna Del Tesoro ( Treasure Lagoon).
It is state run and is in need of maintenance but that did not distract from the abundant bird life.
There is also  a mock Taino village on the site with statues of the indigenous Tainos people
(Wiped out by the Spaniards )

That is how they dry rice - on the road!
The left lane is covered with rice. Oncoming traffic simply drives over it,
or moves to opposite lane when there is no oncoming traffic.
The highways in Cuba have to be the quietest I have ever come across,
as transport not easily accessible to locals due to fuel shortages.

I saw this sign on the road ...

A mode of transport especially for the locals- bici-taxis.

Inside a Santeria Church
 A mix of African cultures from the slave period and Spanish Catholicism.
I came across this Black Madonna with a White child in  Trinidad

This street sweeper was prepared to stop and pose...
for a few coins.

A typical scene in Trinidad- cobbled street and horse carriages.
Trinidad is a UNESCO heritage site

Goat  anyone?

I  love this picture of this little girl and the cats in Old Havana

One of the many convincing mimes in Old Havana

Pelican over Atlantic Ocean.
The Vardero area 140km from Havana  is exclusive to tourists.
20kms of  stunning  beach and sea with around 60 hotels!
Totally un-affordable for locals to stay at any of these hotels.

I got to see the sunset at the Caribbean sea as it is not far from Trinidad.
Crystal clear water and coral beach

El Rocio waterfall at Parque Nacional Topes de Collantes.
We hiked through this beautiful area and came across a variety of birds,
including  the Cuban Trogon (national bird of Cuba ) and the Cuban Tody.
I swam in one of the rock pools !

Che Guevara memorial in Santa Clara.
Photography was not allowed in the museum or mausoleum underneath.
It took Cuba 30 years to bring back his remains from Bolivia.
There is an eternal flame nearby lit by Fidel Castro.
It is a moving place, and a fitting way to honour this icon.

This could be anywhere - Mauritius, Seychelles...
This is the beach facing Melia Vardero where I stayed for the final 2 nights.
There are holiday packages for this area and
tourists fly directly to Vardero and never leave the area.
Hence they are not always  aware of the real Cuba

I have seen in my husband's postings how he is "in love" with his Samsonite suitcases.
I could not understand this relationship...
Until I borrowed them for this trip
Now, I too, am smitten by the Samsonite luggage and all that it offers.
Ease of use, no keys necessary and more over, it offers plenty of packing space.
On my return it was hard to hand them back to him...I foresee problems on our next joint trip.
I feel that a "hijacking" might be the only option.
I am a convert to the modern Samsonite technology.

These were the two home stays I enjoyed,
as well as one of the restaurants our group ate at.

The tour was organized by Master Travel Ltd, specialists in escorted tours worldwide.
To find out more about the company and what they offer.
visit the web site:

All images are the copyright property of CAROLYN BATZOFIN and may not be used without permission

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