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Cuba PDF Print E-mail
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Friday, 24 December 2010 00:00


I didn't know what to think of Cuba at first. I still can't get used to the fact that I'm a walking dollar sign, and no more so than in Cuba. The government pays each person a salary of $12 CUC's (Cuban Convertible Currency, about 1 to 1 with the Australian dollar) a month. A stubby here costs one cuc. So if you don't eat, you get the pleasure of enjoying half a carton a month. For this reason everyone is chasing money, either in the form of tips, or just straight up asking for it. It is unfortunate as no one is actually interested in practising English, or where you are from, or your travels, or what you are doing. They are just buying their time as each encounter ends with the evadable "Can I have one CUC please."

Despite this Cuba was everything I hoped it would be. I came expecting cigars, music and salsa. And that is what I got. We started our journey of the island with a few days in the capital Habana. Even on a Wednesday night the club we went to was packed. Even here we were getting asked for money. Girls would constantly come up and start rubbing your chest or arm while offering to make a party with you tonight." I put up with the rubbing, while Clev's bubbled around in Spanish trying to tell each one that we were happy just watching the dancing girls on stage.

From Habana we made our way 1000 kilometers to Baracoa on the far Eastern point of Cuba. This time the music got a bit more local with your typical guitar and bongo band. Clev's and I still managed to find a show with dancing girls though. During the day we wandered the beach, swam in a pool at the bottom of a cave and observed Cubans at their favourite pastime of baseball.

Getting around on horse back or horse and cart is still a popular form of transport. Despite this and due to our time restraints, Clev's I opted for a slightly quicker form of transport and hired a car. Then we tested it out on Cuba's steepest road. 45 degrees in some places, the poor thing was boiling by the time we got to the top. We were in the Sierra Madre mountains where Castro based his headquarters for 6 months while leading the rebellion. He certainly knew how to pick his spots. A short hike led us to huts nestled on the side of mountains that looked out over the valleys below. If you are going to be hunted down by a 20,000 strong government army, here was as good as place any to hide out.

Following Castro's hideout was one the highlights of the Cuban trip. In Santa Lucia we dove with bull sharks while our guide hand fed them not more than 2 meters away. On the first attempt we saw a shark in the distance but he wouldn't come in to fed. So our instructor told Clev's and I to come back the next day. This time we gave him money to buy a big barracuda on our way to the dive. Our pre-dive briefing consisted of: "I'll go down. You wait 5 minutes then come down behind me." By the time we got to the bottom there were already 4 sharks swimming around. We settled down 2 meters from the guide and watched as the sharks would circle around and then eat right from our guides hand.

This was an experience that I had missed out on 9 years previously. I was scheduled to observe reef sharks being fed during a live-aboard trip off of Cairns, but it was cancelled due to bad weather. It was great to have finally ticked the box.

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  • Habana
  • Habana
  • Habana
  • Habana
  • Habana
  • Habana
  • Baracoa
  • Baracoa
  • Baracoa
  • Sierre Madre
  • Sierre Madre
  • Playa Santa Lucia
  • Cayo Santa Maria

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Comfort Zone PDF Print E-mail
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Friday, 01 October 2010 00:00


After 2 and a half months of pastries with a smashed up pig inside and bread that you could play baseball with, I landed in Romania. Where the bread is soft and the pastries are tasty. One of the best things about getting outside your comfort zone, is entering back into it. Its like getting up to go to work only to realise that its Saturday, so climbing back into an already warm doona for a sleep in.

Not that I've had the getting up for work problem recently.

Our border crossing bus landed us in the town of Suceava, which we had initially planned to catch the next train/bus out of. But the owner of our hostel for the night, Monica, was so friendly we decided to take one of her guided tours of the local painted churches. The church's are unique in that they are painted with brutally honest murals both inside and out. On the outside the murals normally tell of the continual struggle between heaven and hell and then also some stories form the bible. The inside is painted with a calendar. Each day depicts the death of a saint that died on that date. They weren't afraid to show a bit of blood and guts Kill Bill style.

Following an enjoyable stay we followed Monica's suggestion and made our way to the town of Sighetu Marmetai. The surrounding region was famous for wooden church's. Church's aren't normally my thing but I'm stupid enough to try anything twice. But my church quota for the trip is well and truly full.

A cemetery just outside Sighetu Marmetai is famous for its painted headstones (made of wood). The memorials and poems on on the stones depict a very honest description of how the person lived and died. If the person was killed in a car crash then this is exactly what is drawn. The one I liked the most was written for a mother-in-law. A rough translation reads:

"Here lies my nagging mother-in-law. If she had lived just 3 days more then it would have been me laying here. May this heavy stone keep her here and may all who read this live a life without nagging."
It amazes me that they have been building huge castles and church's in Europe for a thousand years. Yet when it comes to their farming methods very little seems to have changed in the last 10 centuries. There is very little machinery in use. The hay is still cut and collected by hand, the produce is still picked by hand, the flour is still crushed by a water wheel and someone still sits and stir the vat while the apple brandy is fermenting. When it comes to farming, Australia is centuries in front.

 

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  • Romania
  • Romania
  • Romania
  • Romania
  • Romania
  • Romania
  • Romania
  • Romania
  • Romania
  • Romania
  • Romania
  • Romania
  • Romania
  • Romania
  • Romania

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