I haven’t been blogging out of sheer laziness and being in countries where internet was not only expensive but the risk of taking my MacAir out was just a little too much (Cuba and Senegal).
So what has been happening in the last few weeks:
First I flew to Senegal and meet the most amazing little boy… my sponsor child. I was so completely humbled by this tiny boy who didn’t speak a word too me as he was so overwhelmed but that while sitting next to me played with the beads on my bracelet and hugged me with such force when I left that I wanted to take him with me. I can’t reveal much to you about what happened there so that I can protect my boy but what I will say is that if you don’t think you can make a difference check out World Vision’s programs. A little goes a very long way!
I then spent a few days in Madrid; which is so beautiful, before catching a high speed train to Ignasi (whom you may remember I meet on the Camino de Santiago). If I hadn’t fallen completely head over heals in love with Ignasi on the Camino I certainly did while at his home. He also took me to Andorra so that I ticked off another country. Now this will make you laugh – I love geography but I honestly thought Andorra was in Africa. Not this amazing little ‘shopping’ country. Its mountains for me where more magical than the shopping but tragically I left Mutt at Igansi’s so he was most upset that he didn’t get to a new country. I do think we will be back in Andorra one day so he will tick that one off too. After spending a few magical weeks with Ignasi and meeting his wonderful family I reluctantly left for Cuba.
Now how to explain how I felt about Cuba. Having lived in the conservative Middle East for long enough to become quiet sheltered in how Latin men behave I was shocked and completely annoyed by the Cuban men. Everyone from old men to young boys would whistle and make comments as you walked past. There is something horrendous about having a man make kissing, sucking and other vulgar noises at you as you walk about. I ended up having my iPod turned on and just basically ignored them. This tainted my trip whenever I was by myself but at least when I was walking with groups they seemed to leave the women alone though not always.
I was also a little disappointed at the two currency system. While Cuba shuns materialism its primary focus seems to be to rip off the traveler. Casa particular owners could be super helpful (Ronaldo from Ronaldo’s Backpackers is one of these) or the nasty money grabbing overcharging creatures (Santiago de Cuba…..I lost the card with the name of this place but 4 days later I found their key in my bag – Karma for being horrible maybe!).
After the men, the biggest complaint after the men was how horrible the food was. Now I crazily imaged that a country who’s food is mostly organic that they would be able to whip up some delicious meals. I only had one meal that was brilliant (the chef had lived in Spain for 20 years before returning to Cuba to open a restaurant) and some great but most were horrible leaving me to actually not eat much and lose a little weight. Ronaldo’s were great in terms of three courses for 4 or 5 CUC (same conversion rate as US Dollar) and they did taste pretty good. Other places charged 10 CUC for what can only be described as over cooked, cold and completely bland food. I really don’t know how you can take fish, coconut, spices, beans and banana and make something that is tasteless but the Cubans managed too on more than one occasion.
However in 18 days I did manage to see a lot of Cuba: East coast – Playa de Toa and Baracoa; West coast – Cayo Jutías and Viñales; South Coast – Playa Ancon and Trinadad; and North Coast – La Habana. So I did manage to reach the 4 corners of Cuba which was my original objective.
I was happy to leave Cuba for Playa del Carmen in Mexico but had a backpacker novice mistake hit my hip pocket. I didn’t book the hostel and arrived at the one that I thought would be suitable. Paying for seven nights only to realise later the place was horrendous. Door falling off the room, bed like laying on springs, shower that didn’t work and there was no aircon let alone a fan that worked! So the next day I tried to check out but they won’t give me my money back saying this was policy. After a small argument they agreed to pay it the next day (citing they didn’t have the funds on hand). I was seen later that day by the girl at my new hostel (Hostel Che – the best hostel in Playa del Carmen) and when I returned the next day to get my money I was told they wouldn’t be paying as I went to a different hostel. Needless to say I wasn’t impressed but left without money and a lesson learnt – read reviews of hostels better and don’t pay upfront for week!!
Though even with all this I am extremely happy! I am learning more about myself as I travel and I also have a killer tan after spending a couple of hours every few days at the beach (I am using 50+ but still looking like a brown berry). But the best news that I can hardly contain myself about (the heat however makes me not jump for joy as I am sweating standing still) is that my lovely Catalonian charmer, Ignasi is coming to travel with me.
I feel so blessed and completely overwhelmed that such a lovely guy is coming to spend his life with me! Hopefully too this means my Spanish gets better! Lessons will resume! To share this journey is something I never imaged but now couldn’t image continuing by myself!
So while I have been tanning it up, what have you all been up too?