Maria La Gorda, Havana, Cancun and Chicago!

Trip Start Feb 24, 2006
Trip End Feb 24, 2007

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Saturday, May 13, 2006

Hello everyone!
Firstly, apologies for my laziness in blogging lately!
After Varadero, Dani and I headed to Maria La Gorda in the South West of Cuba. We had to get the bus back through Havana and conveniently ended up with 3 hours in the city which was a great chance for some photos and Coco Taxi-ing!!
There is no bus all the way to Maria la Gorda so we got a bus to a place called Pinar del Rio and had to get a 2 1/2 taxi ride from there to the hotel. Some guys we met in Havana had suggested a taxi driver called Lydia to take us but our request for her caused a small arguement between the taxi drivers which resulted in us being taken by a guy called Orlando. The taxi drivers are all really competitive as they make $50 Convertible Pesos off every trip they make to Maria but only get to do it once or twice a week. So Orlando spent the whole trip trying to talk us into arranging our return trip with him (and including a tour of the surrounding area for a bargain price!) and left us with his details. The next morning however, Lydia did a sneaky thing and called us at 7am the next morning to apologise for not being able to take us and to offer to take us back to Pinar the following day. We took her up on her offer and also got free bananas from the local banana man on the way! Score!!
Maria la Gorda was absolutely beautiful. It is named after a woman who was abandoned by a pirate ship and ended up setting up business as a prostitute servicing all the pirates who stopped in the area. The whole area is actually closed off to cubans as it is apparently really easy to get from there to Florida (I think maybe the waters are not patrolled or something because its not that close on the map?) so it was really quiet and peaceful and the beaches are empty. We spent our time sunbaking and snorkelling and Im seriously thinking about becoming an outdoorsy person! An Aussie guy who was also there was totally convinced he had seen a shark in the water (what is with all Aussies being so paranoid about sharks??) so we were a little on edge the whole time! (We later found out it was actually a Barracuda!)
After arriving back in Pinar del Rio we ended up getting a taxi all the way back to our casa particular in Havana for the same price as the bus. We were a bit confused as to why it was so cheap but we got back alive and early so it was just fine with us!!
We had a crazy last day in Havana trying to fit in everything we hadn't done. This included buying Cuban cigars, going to the Havana rum factory (although a very very sleazy tour guide with his eye on Dani ruined that a little bit!), buying art, buying some cuban cds and visiting chinatown for dinner. We planned to go out to a salsa club that night but we were absolutely buggered by the time we got home (plus we had spent a little more than we originally planned so couldn't afford a big night). So instead we decided to try some of our Cuban cigars on the terrace of our casa which was great. It was a beautiful night in Havana (as all nights in Havana are!!) and it was just the perfect way to end our trip and say goodbye to Monica. (Although, a point of advice, when people tell you smoking cigars will make you vomit, listen to them and dont try to fit them in on top of a hell of a lot of Chinese food and ice cream!!).
On Tuesday we all left Havana, Monica headed back to Australia (with a hell of a cuban souvenirs!) and Dani and I flew over to Cancun on our way into the USA (we couldn't fly directly, as you probably all know so had no choice but to have a stopover). We planned to visit a place called Isla de Mujeres but after discovering Cancun had a Zara store AND a Bershka, we decided to just go shopping (and eat lots of Maccas!) instead!!
We flew into Chicago on Wednesday and arrived at our Hostel at about 7pm. It took the very useless receptionist (she was lovely but oh so very dumb!) 3 whole hours to get us into an acceptable room. my first room had no locker for me and Dan couldn't get into her room (we were being separated because they screwed up our booking and apparently had no rooms with 2 beds!!) then we changed into the same room and our beds were already occupied and the whole room stank of stale food! Then finally, after spending an hour looking up other hotels on the net and calling every hotel we could find (they were all too expensive) the receptionist finally managed to pull herself together long enough to find us a new room (which, I might add, was the best room we had seen all night)! We stupidly took her advice for a restaurant for dinner and got lost following her dodgy directions. Oh, and right when we walked out of the hotel it started pouring rain! Great!
Yesterday we tried to find somewhere to get our laundry done but apparently there is no laundry service in the whole Chicago downtown area!! So we went walking. It was still raining so we ended up shopping all day. The shopping here is absolutely amazing! They have absolutely everything and I just keep finding myself buying things! Oh, and the electronics are just so cheap (so I had to buy ipod speakers and a new memory card!) and the clothes are so so nice (so I got some of them too)! We also now have a US sim card so are finally contactable!! Yay!
Last night we went to a club called Blue Chicago which was really good, although we ate a hell of a lot of Maccas in between clubs! Maccas is crazy here, the Cheeseburger meal comes with 2 cheeseburgers!!!! 2!!!! Madness!
Today we woke up early(ish) to do our washing (because we apparently have no choice but to do it ourselves!!) It took us 3 hours to get it done (no change, broken machine, no washing powder, blah blah blah!!) and then we went out shopping again!! We also went into the John Hancock Building for a hot chocolate looking out over the whole city which was beautiful and cheap as we sat in the bar so didn't have to pay to go into the observatory!
Tomorrow we fly out of Chicago and into LA hopefully for some warmer weather! And Disneyland on Monday! Cant wait!!
Lots of love,
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