|We have a few hours to spend looking aorund Havana till our transport picks us up to take us to the island of Cayo Levisa. We decide to leave a proper exploration of the city for the return leg of our trip. The capital seems ghostly as most people are probably recovering from last night's festivities. We recall Mario's directions to a tall-ish building called the Edificio Bacardi. Bacardi was a rich family in the mid 19th century who began a distillery in Cuba brewing rum. Rum of course is one of Cuba's most famous exports (along with Cigars). Bacardi today is a multi-billion pound empire but no longer operates out of Cuba for obvious reasons. We pay a small fee and arrive at the top of the buidling where an open-air "viewing gallery" allows panoramic views of the city. Some pictures are taken and a helpful guide at the viewing gallery tells us about various landmarks. He also talks about his friend in India who had visited Cuba some years ago. My enthusiastic photography continues unabated.
We have a light lunch at the hotel before checking out and wait for our transport in the lobby while admiring the colonial furniture pieces, wall mosaic and assorted statues that make up the seating area. We recall Mario's words "If they are a few minutes late please do not get desperate". As it turns out the transport is only a few minutes late. We pile ourselves and our bags into the transport van. There are some others in there as well but we're not sure if they are headed for the same destination as us. Ally and I get different rows. She strikes up a conversation with an English couple while I look out of the window. Eventually we leave Havana behind and the landscape becomes dotted with palm trees, grass and shrubs. I catch up with some siesta.
Turns out we are dropping off the English couple on the way so we drive into an interesting part of the country. The Sierra Del Rosario mountains (hills some would say) constitute a biosphere reserve created by the government as a reforestation program to introduce several indigenous as well as imported species of flora. We see bamboo and palm happily coexisting in abundance. We then arrive at the Las Terrazas community - created by the Cuban government with the aim of sustainable rural economy based on the rational use of its natural resources for eco-tourism. We drop the Brits off at the Hotel La Moka. We are due to stay at the same hotel after our island trip and are pleased with the green surroundings of the hotel and the little lake nestling in the valley below the hotel.
The drive to the coast takes another hour and a half at the end of which we finally arive at the Pier from where we are to take our ferry to the island. There is a reception of sorts at the Pier and everyone is busy watching a dubbed version of a Hollywood film. We wait till the proprietor manages to drag his gaze from the screen on to us. He grumpily informs us that the ferry is not due to leave till 6pm. Not great considering it is only half past four. We walk to the pier and climb aboard the ferry which in this case is a smallish yacht bearing the same name as the island and the hotel on the island. Yes sir - I can see a pettern here. Surprisingly the ferry gets going as soon as we are aboard. We note the weather, which has been hot and dry since we arrived, has turned slightly overcast and a few degrees colder. The ferry driver asks us if we would like a mojito. We agree although the ferry driver is added to the list of those who have been shocked by our requests to exclude the alcohol ( you can see them thinking - what is the world coming to - come to Cuba and drink Mojito's without the rum - ai ai ai). The island of Cayo Levisa is soon within touching distance and we dock at a pier jutting out of a mangrove forest on one side of the island.
Cayo Levisa is probably best known for its diving facilities although we are just interested in relaxing, exploring the island and enjoying the beach. We make our way through the Mangove forest and out on to an open area containing the reastaurant, Manager's office and the tienda (souvenir shop). The island is not more than 300m wide at this point. The man at the Manager's office informs us that he is not the receptionist or the manager. I refrain from asking him who he is then. He decides to start the checking in process and takes our hotel accommodation booking vouchers and our passports into the manager's office. We wait in front of the restaurant which borders the beach. SOme tables are placed in the outdoor verandah and we gaze fascinated at the white sand and blue sea. This is the stuff of travel brochures and news paper supplements. While we look around, the manager's sidekick as we have decided to call him, appears with our passports and informs us that we will be occupying room 28 for the duration of our stay. The rooms are in fact bungalow-type buildings each with their own shower and toilet, air conditioning and even Satellite TV (Hallelujah). We walk excitedly to number 28 and it looks lovely amidst the sand and pine trees.
The room is clean and everything seems perfect. Outside however the wind seems to have picked up and in the fading light we can see shrubs getting bent by the force. We head to the restaurant for dinner. We find that there is little in the menu for us. We manage to convey our predicament to the waitress who informs us that she can get the spaghetti prepared without any meat. We gratefully agree to this suggestion and the food is served quickly and while it isn't gourmet it is perfectly adequate accompanied by some tropical fruit juice. We have some tasty rice pudding to round the meal off. The bill is for around $8. We pay $10 and return to the room.
The air con is switched off as it has become cool enough outside. Oh and yes we have our mosquito repellant working to protect us from the little beasts although I suspect the strong wind has blown some of them of course accounting for their lower than expected numbers. We go to bed thinking about the what our first full day on the island would be like.