Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Cuba Trip 3/19 Day 2

In Toronto airport we had about a 2 hour wait to get on the next flight to Varadero, Cuba. Here we met up with Dave and Carmen (yep my daugther Carmen's friend is named Carmen too) who are the best man and maid of honor for the wedding. They had flown in from Saskatoon, having driven from Grande Prairie with their 3 year old daughter. The grand parents were babysitting while they joined the Cuba trip. 

I took a long walk around the huge airport gates area, did a couple of crossword puzzles and we soon proceeded onto the plane.

In the breezeway just before getting on the plane, you could see into the cockpit and the co-pilot was reading some sort of manual. I joked with Janet that he was reading the instructions. Janet is a nervous flier and always grips my hand really tight during the take offs.

Once on the plane, the steward said "Papers" and I joked with him saying in a German accent " Papers, you have papers" , just like they do in the WWII movies. The pilot was standing right there behind the steward and he couldn't help chuckling and turning away.

We took our seats and and had this view out the window.

Just as we were taking off the sun starting peeking over the horizon.

We were now heading due south across quite a bit of city and part of the Great Lakes. Next was some really rough looking country with next to no development. A while later there was a really interesting looking 3 large mountain ridges that ran parallel as far as you could see angling out to the west. I think this is part of the Appalachian mountains. Most unusal terrain.

Being that this is the eastern US, I was surprised that such little development could be seen from the air. Next we were over Florida and a lot more development here with lots of potholes scattered around on the flat land. It looked like there had been a big meteor shower that made these holes all over. Quite a few looked perfectly round from our 35,000 feet.

Then everglades and the islands and bridges of Key West. Finally nothing but water and maybe 200 miles to get to Cuba.

Here is our first view of Cuba.

Landed in Varadero at this tiny airport terminal painted a bright kind of yellow orange color. Now off the plane down onto the tarmac and about 20 steps to get onto the most unusual bus you've ever seen. This thing was ancient, about 12 feet wide with no seats, just poles and railings to hang onto. This bus was so rusty and beat up it was unbelievable and the terminal was only about 300 feet away. We had to stand in this bus and wait for the whole plane to unload. Finally we moved towards the terminal and half way there the guy in the little tractor pulling the baggage carts pulled right in front of the bus and the driver had to brake fairly hard putting everyone standing in the bus off balance.

The driver was yelling at the other guy and this was a great example of culture shock. We weren't in Canada anymore !

Next, the baggage guy turns sharp and some luggage falls off the carts, so he has to stop and pick it up right in front of the bus. Some woman on the bus exclaims "Thats my new hard luggage". What a gong show.

The decrepid bus can finally proceed to the terminal entrance and we file off. We could have walked to the terminal maybe 20 times by now and the whole procedure was just so bizarre.

Once inside, we wait for the passport check in long lines of passengers from other planes as well. Less that half an hour and we are through the buzzer door into the baggage pick up area. We get our bags and thankfully they all are there because the suits and wedding dress, etc. might come in handy.

No security or customs/duty check of any kind. Outside we met the Air Canada rep. who directs us to walk to the resort buses around some construction area for the ride to the resort. I'm hoping for a better bus than the last one.

This walk now with all our luggage over the shoulders and in tow is considerably longer than the bus ride to the terminal. I still can't get over this one.

The resort buses are ultra modern with the big bug like mirrors out front with a wild paint job. Such a contrast to the airport bus you have a hard time believing this is all side by side. The haves and the have nots.

Here's Steve getting the baggage aboard.

Now we are in for a nice drive along the coast to the resort town of Varadero and the Zona Tourista, the hotels on a spit of land 11 km long out into the ocean.

The old cars on the road are so cool, mixed in with horse drawn carts. The area seems quite clean though and lots of people standing by the roadway waiting for rides or buses to come along I guess.

We got to the resort, the Breezes Bella Costa without drama  and check in was fairly quick. Only 1 of the 4 rooms was ready though so we put all the luggage into one room and headed for the buffet. We had been awake now about 30 hours. The foods are different and seem a little oily. I think they use a lot of olive oil in most things they cook. The bread and the beer is good, so no problem, eh !

Had a glass of wine with lunch also and this was really quite good. Janet and I took our Thermos brand stainless steel water bottles which keeps drinks cool for up to 12 hours, and headed for the beach. They mix a pretty stiff drink in these bottles and we exlore the resort and several types of rum drinks. A few glasses of beer and pretty soon life is good !

We get our room key and unload the luggage. King size bed and a towel sculpture.

We head back to the beach. I'm walking straight for the water and the lifeguard stops me. No one allowed in the water. Seems there is jelly fish and the ocean is closed all day. Bummer !

I go back to the pool and wade in, seems cold at first but refreshing and sobering. I take a quick swim and get another drink and sit down to relax.

I hear some shouting and go over to investigate. Seems they are having a combination sing-a-long and darts contest. We get in on it and after maybe half an hour of singing dancing and throwing darts, I end up with the high score. High 5's from everybody and I win a whole bottle of Havana Club - the rum of choice. I'll take it home because all the rum I can drink here is free anyways.

We start heading to the room to put the rum away and I can't find my prescription sun glasses. Oh no, I think they must have fallen off when I went for a swim in the pool. Back to the pool. Not in the pool, but I find them sitting on a poolside table. Someone had found them and put them in a safe place for me. Thank you whoever you are. I am reminded that bad things can happen when you drink too much. Go swimming with glasses and you'll find out this to be true !

After supper we are strolling the resort and find a laptop in a leather bag that someone has forgotten  on a sofa. We wait aroung for a while hoping to see some frantic face but no one shows up. We call security and they place it behind the check in counter and log it into their lost and found book. We got our chance to pay it forward for our good fortune of getting my sunglasses back. One good turn deserves another don't you think. Maybe they were drinking too much and making bad decisions too.

It's been a long 2 days without sleep so bye for now.

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