Surf to city

Trip Start Jan 16, 2007
Trip End Mar 01, 2007

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Flag of Cuba  ,
Sunday, February 18, 2007

Sunday, we squeeze our way into mom and dad's cab to Havana. With 7 of us stuffed in, it means only my dad and the driver have seatbelts on. It's certainly not the most comfortable two hours of the trip, but we save over $50 and an hour doing this. :) The cramped quarters are more than compensated for by our great driver, who has good English and tells us about the north of Matanzas we're passing through.

On the trip to Varadero, I was on the ocean side of the bus, so missed all the views inland, the green valleys and sudden rivers, with industry cropping up occasionally -- the last Russian electrical plant here, the Havana Club distillery there. I'm intrigued again by the city of Matanzas, with its many bridges and its colonial buildings grimed over by neglect and industrial pollutants. This was once the "Athens of Cuba," and one of my regrets of the trip is not taking the Hershey electric train here to do some exploring in a place clearly down on its luck. You never know what you might find. Our driver confirms that the towers with the flying-saucer-shaped tops are for water storage, which is then gravity-fed to the surrounding area.

They call the area between Havana province and Matanzas "Little Alberta" because of all the Canadian oil and gas work going on (in fact Varadero is supposed to be on top of the biggest reserve in Cuba). One of my second cousins is among the many Albertans alternating work between Canada and here every 28 days -- and many Chinese are doing the same rotations.

Cuba has negotiated significant deals with China lately, now its second-largest trade partner. As part of the Energy Revolution currently underway, every light in the country has been converted to a low-energy fluorescent coil from China, and all the huge buses on Havana streets are from the Far East. A major replacement of the electricity-sucking, freon-filled fridges from the 1950s by energy-efficient Chinese models is underway (although returning to Canada I read an article about issues with water containment in these units). Finally, Cuba's underutilized rail system more than doubled its transportation of food in one year after bringing in 100 new locomotives and 1000 railcars from China.

Back in Havana, Dad's cold is at its apex, so we leave my folks to settle in at the Hotel Nacional and trudge to our digs across the street... to discover they're not expecting us until tomorrow night. It sounds a bit too familiar (gotta remember to confirm these things a third time). Arecelys's husband Manuel finds a usable place (for two) a block away, where we freeze with only one blanket and sheet to share amongst all of us. The two little Air Canada blankets pay for themselves again. This place wins the hotly contested Worst Mattress of the Trip award.


Final thoughts for Varadero
- playgroup is an interesting affair with a beautiful child-minder whom you beheld shaking her basically naked butt in a cabaret the night before.
- there are nicer locations than Campbell River for playing garbage sports.
- Russians can't aim.
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