Tuesday, May 27, 2008

First camping trip of the year

The weather forecast wasn't very promising but we decided to go anyway. Steve was camping in Jasper, Alberta, while over that way for work, so Brendan and I packed up and headed to Mactacquac on our own for a bit of nature and to soak up the springtime vibe. It really was beautiful weather on the first day and we enjoyed playing at the edge of the lake, exploring in the woods and running around in the grass. We met up with four other families, only one of which we'd met before. Caroline and Ian are a couple we met last year- from France and England respectively. They have two children, Amandine,5 and Louis, 19 months. We get on particularly well because we have similar ideas about raising children. Brendan and Louis spent much of the time running around without nappies on while the other 3 toddlers there were either strapped in their buggies or watched so closely they couldn't get more than a few feet away. It was a lot of fun and made easier because everyone watched each other's children as they ran around and occasionally got too close to the fire. At one point though, I decided to follow Brendan covertly, hiding behind trees, just to see how far he would walk before he turned to look. I wondered if he would realise he was a long way from home and how he would react. Well, we got at least 200 metres (no exaggeration- I paced the return journey) before he even looked around. Unfortunately my timing was off and he immediately spotted me running for a tree trunk, laughed at me, then turned away and started to run! So I still don't know if it would have upset him to find himself alone. All that little adventure showed him was that I'll always be right behind him- good and bad I suppose.

Just snapped this pic to show you the current hair situation. A proper hair cut has been due for weeks now but this morning I got fed up of seeing his hair sticking in his eyes so I took a pair of scissors to his fringe as he ate his breakfast. Well now we'll just HAVE to go to the hairdressers ASAP. He looks ridiculous! Sorry Brendan.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Right, so we're not very good at keeping up to date on this thing. Going to stick with it though and try to improve the frequency of posting.
First, a summary of the rest of our Cuba trip. The whole things was a great experience. Mostly fascinating but sometimes frustrating. We travelled around quite a lot. I'm going to attempt to stick a map in to show the ground we covered. We'll have to go back another time to explore the eastern half of the island.
Highlights included:
- Vinales is a village in a stunning valley with limestone scenery. We camped the first night but moved to the village because there was no water at the campismo. Went for a walk through fields to a large, deep cave with a place to swim a few hundred metres into it.
- Went to a beautiful, quiet beach at Cayo Juteus where we went snorkelling and swimming. The restaurant was a bit rubbish there though- only thing available was shrimp and chips.
- Crabs on the road to Maria La Gorda. Not pleasant but memorable. Our minibus must have squashed a thousand at least. Maria La Gorda too expensive so we didn't stay.
- Tried to get the ferry to Isla de la Juventud but had no luck. The taxi ride there squashed into one car and the bus trip back to Havana were probably our most memorable journeys. The bus was jam packed and the temperature must have been about 35C. A lady who had a seat took Brendan from me and he promptly went to sleep on her lap and missed the 2 hour trip. Lucky thing!
- Had a couple of relaxing days in Havana. Steve, Paddy, Jo and Jo went swimming in the sea off the rocks at the Malecon with the locals. Had my small bag stolen while we had a drink in a bar. Amazing they could snatch it from my chair while 4 people were facing me. Didn't get much so no worries. Swimming on a hotel rooftop for free. First man we asked said no, asked another who said yes. Pleasant afternoon.
- The Bay of Pigs and Playa Giron next. We stayed in an old resort straight out of the 70s. Hardly anyone there and the food was terrible but the little cabins were ok. Steve and Jo went for a dive and the rest of tagged along to go snorkelling at a good spot. Also went to a cenote- a flooded faultline. Very interesting- salt water below but the top metre or so was fresh. Lots of tropical fish in the salty bit but not near the surface. Jumping and diving in from some trees and rocks surrounding it. Everyone was showing off!
- Wanted to go on a trip into a national park but didn't. We'd have to hire our own guide, it was very very hot, siobhan was feeling sick, and we were told the flamingos had left which was my main reason for going. Hitched a lift on a tour bus back to Varadero with a tour group. Had to hang around at the most touristy attraction looking for a bus. Had some time to kill when we found one so we did a little boat trip to a replica pre-columbian village. It was the most tacky thing I have ever done! Still had fun though. At least the lake we went on was natural even if the canals weren't.
- Paddy and the girls went to cienfuegos and a beautiful waterfall. Shame we missed it but I was not up to it by then. Pregnancy nausea kicked in fully in Varadero and I couldn't wait to get home. Only the last three days were a bit difficult.

All in all a great experience. Cubans are friendly and welcoming. We loved the community spirit and the way everyone works and lives together. Having Brendan ensured more interaction with Cubans than we might otherwise have had. They would regularly play with him and take him off to show him to their friends and family, which sometimes made Steve a little jumpy!
The history and politics were also incredibly interesting. Paddy was our most knowledgeable so he kept us informed.
Only difficulty we experienced, apart from my nausea, was finding good food. There was very little in the way of fresh fruit and veggies and the usual 3 or 4 things on the menu in every government restaurant. Casa owners made good meals though so we survived. Only other thing was what Steve started calling the Cuban two-step. It was often hard to get a straight answer and the inflexibility was a little tiring. For example, you can't sleep three to a room anywhere, there is never the option of lower prices for the third person and "yes" might later mean "no".

I'm going to get the photos online soon and they will have detailed comments- diary-like.