21 Degrees North travel blog









Friday, February 22, 2013

Today Peggy, Barb M. and I launched another successful hunt to bag the elusive accessible internet connection. It was amazingly (sadly, and ultimately predictably) comforting to be able to check e-mail and peruse headlines for news of home and the outside world. It seems the world is still turning without my help, which continues to surprise me. Using the Spanish keyboard was also an adventure, as what is embossed on the keys is not necessarily what shows up in the typescript. I never did figure out how to type in a question mark, which may be perplexing to anyone who received an e-mail from me.

Upon out return, the winds began to rise and ominous grey clouds announced an early evening rain shower. Peggy and I went out for a walk just before the skies opened, revealing our skilled weather capabilities. Actually, the rain was warm and quite pleasant. We ate our dinner under the palm thatched roof of our outdoor dining table, snug and cozy. The food here has been fabulous; very fresh and organic.The chickens are the ultimate in free range, as I think people just nab one off the street when the mood strikes, and the pork and chicken are likewise fresh and range fed. The fruits and vegetables are all ripe and in season. Barbara G.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Snorkeling today out on the reef outside our front door proved to be a fantastic experience. The coral here is truly amazing in variety of form and color. There are the moose antler like clumps and delicate fans, staghorns and twisted cerebral shapes, along with hundreds more besides. The fish are likewise varied and at times familiar yet strange. Schools of tiny tetras, larger parrot fish and thousands more. One simply needs to float over the reef and watch the sea life swirl past. We went out early in the day and again around 4:30, and each experience was uniquely beautiful. I wish I had a means of capturing the pageantry, but for now am content to just experience it. The fish seem particularly unused to “tourists”. No converging on the snorkeling in expectation of food, which I have experienced in other snorkeling areas. It was rather refreshing to see them in what at least seemed to be their normal activities. Barbara G.

Bravo Barb, your description of our snorkeling experience is so descriptive. In front of our casa you see color changes in the water indicating white sand and volcanic rock formations where the corals and other sea life grow. In the water you can follow the white pathways and then veer off to explore therocks. Some formations have huge caves at the bottom. I wonder if that is where our dinner lobster comesfrom. The colors are so vivid; the fan corals with a vivid purple base, mounding white brain corals and bright yellow masses with the fish swimming in and around them. There is a lot of grass between the coral masses and what looks like a clump of slender cactus(really). I wish that I had the skill of diving down and clearing my snorkel but am content to float on the surface. I am content to float and observe rather than document. We do keep an eye out for jelly fish after finding them on the beach. Barb, Peg and Rick saw and successfully avoided them yesterday.

We are the only Gringos that we know of in the village with the exception of Dave and his wife from Canada who live here. As we sit on the porch and watch the sea, people pass by on foot, horse carriage, old/new car or motorbike and always have a Buenos Dias or Ola with a wave. There is a collection of dogs, cats, goats, chickens, churkeys, cows and horses that pass on a regular basis. It has been really warm during the day and humid in the evening when the breeze dies down. It’s so refreshing to swim. Starting to think about home in a few days. It’s going to be a shock on so many levels. BarbM

There is a surprising disparity between the “regular” people and the rising middle class of entrepreneurs who can get hard currency from working with tourists. We see it in small luxuries. Everywhere we meet professionals who have left their jobs to become taxi drivers, tourist guides, open independent restaurants and the small bed and breakfasts where we have been staying. On the other hand, there seems to be a pretty good base system. Everyone has free education, health care, and a minimal amount of food. From what we have been told, instead of ending one’s education with lots of debt, everyone puts in three years of compulsory service. Men serve one year in the military and two years wherever the government needs them to be after their education is complete. Women serve three years serving where they are needed.

I see a lot when we are out on the highways. Besides the slogans that I have mentioned in other posts, the other day I saw a “don’t drive if you drink” sign. In some places there are some pretty good roads, kind of a freeway system but without much motorized traffic. In other places the main road to a town is at best two lanes. Most of the cars are old but some are newer even some of the cars from the US get here through Canada or Panama, at least that is what we are told. We see quite a few old motorcycles with sidecars ala Motorcycle Diaries.When we go out on the highways we see lots of horse carts, and oxen, as we do in the towns.The Chinese made buses for foreigners are nice and air conditioned. The buses for locals are old. The two tiered money system helps keep us all in our places. We see people along side the road selling bananas and home made cheese to the passing cars. While there is quite a police presence, the people do not seem afraid of the police. I did see a motorcycle cop with radar. Most cars can’t go that fast because they are old and because of the obstacles in the road, but there is some speeding beyond the maximum 100k (60 miles) per hour. Peggy

Can’t believe it’s Feb 24th, We’ve seen so much and yet, in some ways, done so little. The last few days have been so ideal that I have little to write. We are staying in a lovely home on the water in a village that I still do not know the name. Our hosts are Oresti and Idelma and they are taking such wonderful care of us, none of us want to leave. We have been snorkeling (this time I kept Rick and Barbara between me and the open water and shore) a much safer experience. Oresti arranged for us to travel to Varadero where the all inclusive resorts are located. We spent a wonderful afternoon there on the sandy white beaches, playing in the blue water and so grateful we were NOT a part of that scene. It was made even more enjoyable when we realized what a great deal Barb had found for us just by asking the “beach hotel man” if we could rent a few chairs and buy a few beers. So great a lesson: ask and see what happens often times good things! Anyway, for the last 4-5 days we have been eating, walking, swimming, snorkeling, reading, talking, relaxing. Just a wonderful way to end our stay in Cuba. Peggy thinks I should describe the food we have been eating as Idelma is an AMAZING cook, but that would take way to long, maybe next time. Now, we are off to the Hershey Gardens. JanQ

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