Cuba · 12 Days · 12 Moments · December 2015

Giovanni Barbi

Backpacking around Cuba

10 January 2016

Day 12 - Our last day in this magical island. It feels like yesterday when the taxi driver dropped us off at Placa Vieja in La Habana and we started our journey around this island full of contrasts. I've read somewhere that Cuba is like a prince in a poor man's coat: behind the sometimes shabby facades, gold dust lingers. I think that this trip happened in a special moment of our lives, or at least mine, where I needed to escape from the hustle and bustle of my chaotic routine in Milan and took some time off to seat down and think about my future objectives. Trapped in a time warp and reeling from an economic embargo, Cuba revealed the perfect place to forget about silly "problems" and let us transport by its vibes. I want to thanks my travel companions with whom I shared unforgettable experiences and lots of laughs. Only them can understand what our eyes have witnessed. Now I'm chilling on my sofa, letting myself drag by Cuban music and thinking to our next adventure.

9 January 2016

Day 11 - After a crazy night out at Havana Club, surrounded by a huge crowd of drunk Canadians, we went to bed ready to recover our energies for another day at the beach. We've been wake up by the usual hangover headache and a nice chilly breeze. We hence decided to lay down all day at the beach, alternating extreme sunbathing (turning us into lobsters🦀🦀🦀) with frequent refreshing swims in the crystalline Caribbean Sea of Varadero. Around 5pm we said goodbye to our chaotic resort and returned to La Habana. When the driver dropped us off at Placa San Francisco we felt like coming back home. We spent the rest of the night jumping from club to club with a night walk around Havana Vieja surrounded by a surreal mist.

8 January 2016

Day 10 - After a funny night out getting drunk with crazy Torontonians (which basically invaded the rest of the resort) we went to bed happy of the relaxing day. We woke up excited of the sunny tropical weather which greeted us good morning at the Cayo and decided to spent the whole day at the beach to get the most of this paradise. At 4pm our driver was ready to pick us up and brought us to Varadero, the last stop of our trip before returning to La Habana. No need to say what was passing though my head when leaving that natural paradise, where I relaxed my 5th senses and spirit. Ciao Cayo Santa Maria ☀️🏝👋🏻

7 January 2016

Day 9 - The day of our departure from Trinidad we woke up pretty early as we knew we had a long trip ahead of us. Around 8.30 we left behind us Trinidad's colorful houses and green hills for the white sandy beaches of Cayo Santa Maria. After a 4h drive, passing through Santa Clara (famous for Ernesto Che Guevara's mausoleum), Camajuani, Remedios and Calibarién, we crossed El Pedraplén, a "highway" built over the sea to connect the Cayos to the rest of the island. Here we notice how the road was crossing through a lagoon of green mangroves providing a nice landscape before the arrivals to the islands. Once arrived at our resort (Sol Cayo Santa Maria) we get rid of the boring check in procedures to rush on the beach and lay down on the soft sand for hours, pampered by warm sun rays on our skins and waves crushing in the background.

6 January 2016

Day 8 - The alarm pushed us out of bed at 8.30am, accompanied by a hammering headache and an awful hangover. We got ready for our 3rd horseback-riding in the Valle de Los Igenios (or Valle de San Luis) a verdant valley 8km to the east that still contains the ruins of dozens of 19th century sugar mills. We got explained that most of the mills were destroyed Turing the War of Independence and the Spanish-Cuban-American War, when the focus of sugar-growing in Cuba shifted west to Matanzas. Though some sugar is still gown here, the valley is more famous today for its status as the Unesco World Heritage Site. We continued our ride through the valley, with a quick stop at a tiny wooded stall where a Cuban guy prepared us local coffee. We ended up at Cascada El Cubano, a nice waterfall where we enjoyed its crystal waters and a diving competition between Cubans (few excited westerns also wanted to crash their heads on rocks). On our way back to Trinidad we enjoyed a fresh sugarcane juice.

5 January 2016

Day 7 - We kicked off our 1st day in Trinidad with a trekking on Topes de Collantes, a section of the 90km/long Sierra del Escambray (Cuba's second largest mountain range). This place is also known because in late 1958 Che Guevara set up camp in these hills on his way to Santa Clara. After a quick stop at a viewpoint looking over Trinidad's vast valley and coastline we started a 1h trekking down into the woods to reach the famous Salto del Caburní, a 62m waterfall that cascades over rocks into cool swimming holes before plunging into a chasm. After regenerating our spirits in the cold fresh water of Caburní we spent the rest of the afternoon exploring Trinidad's colorful cobbled alleys and meeting locals' sights, which treasured stories and experiences of a lifetime. We ended up sipping mojitos at Casa de la Musica, transported by Salsa music in the background and spent the rest of the night dancing in La Cueva, a club built inside a cave.

4 January 2016

Day 6 - We left Viñales really early in the morning because we knew we would have had a long trip ahead of us to reach Trinidad (6 hours on shitty Google Maps - 13 hours in real life). This road-trip definitely revealed the weirdest and most exhausting one. After changing our driver in the middle of the highway close to La Habana we diverted to Baia de Los Cochinos (Pigs Bay), know for a massive US attack failure to Cuban coastline. Here we stopped to visit the Criadero de Cocodrilos a highly successful breeding facility where you can explore the growing process of a crocodile life and even taste one. We did it and tasted like chicken. Afterwards we dived in the Cueva de Los Peces a flooded tectonic fault (cenote) and snorkeled in the beach on the other side of the road. After a scary 120km rest of the drive under a rainstorm we finally arrived in Trinidad where we have been welcomed by a blackout around the whole city. I like to remember of this trip as the "hope rod trip".

3 January 2016

Day 5- We kicked off our 5th day of the new year with an unforgettable day trip to the wild and isolated Cayo Jutias. When we reached the beach our jaws dropped in front of a string of white sand, crystal blue sea and green mangroves growing trough the sand. We spent the rest of the afternoon sun bathing and swimming in this paradise. Return home with our hair full of salt and our hearts full of happiness. We fell asleep like babies that night, with double combo of lobsters in our stomachs.

2 January 2016

Day 4 - After a 9h sleep, we were ready to start the day with an amazing and funny horse riding through tobacco plantations. Few minutes after we started, our 3 horses (Tequila, Mojito and Lasan) felt like being in a competition and started galloping like there was no tomorrow. I never felt such an adrenaline before while doing a sport!! Soon after this exciting experience we arrived at Cava del Palmarito, an inner cave in the granite mountains were we swam in a natural pool in complete darkness. We stopped for lunch at a local campesino where we were shown the process of producing cigars and even tried smoking one with honey, like Che Guevara used to. We spent the rest of the afternoon galloping with our 3 new horses, though Valle del Silencio and Mural de la Prehistoria. We ended up at the top of a mountain where we discovered this ancient local community (composed of 2 people) called Los Aquaticos, who used to cure wound and illnesses with water and enjoyed the hypnotic landscape

1 January 2016

Day 3 - After a nice breakfast we said bye to the nice Casa Daisy and left La Habana with a old American Dodge from 1956 direction --> Viñales. After an hour and half drive singing 60s songs with our Cuban driver, we realized we were approaching our destination when we saw the landscape evolving into limitless green mountains and canyons a pleasure for our eyes. We arrived at a mirador overlooking on top of jaw dropping Valle de Viñales and enjoyed a light biological lunch with a refreshing pina and rum. We finally reached our Casa Particular, Toty y Migdalia, which revealed one of the best stay of our vacation. The whole family was super nice and friendly and prepared a delicious dinner of grilled lobsters, closing this day full of emotions.

31 December 2015

Day 2 - It's the 31st of December, the last day of this challenging and tough year. We are pretty excited to celebrate New Year's Eve at Havana, leaving the past behind and look at the future with flourishing expectations. After a whole day walk around Havana Centro, Vedado and Havana Vieja we ended up our afternoon sipping mojitos at Boteguita de Medio, a bar where Ernst Hemingway used to go for some inspiration. We later celebrated midnight at this cool place called Los Naranjos in Vedado: a 1920s colonial Villa where we enjoyed fresh pescado and a bottle of champagne. We ended up the night at Cecilia club ;)

30 December 2015

Day 1 - After a traumatic 11 hours flight, with screaming kids and chaotic families we arrived in Havana airport in the early afternoon and were welcomed by a 30 degrees summer climate. This was a clear satisfaction for us, thinking at our families and friends experiencing the freezing winter in Milan. After reaching our Casa particular in Havana Vieja we spent the rest of the afternoon wondering around the area and sipping mojitos in Placa de la Catedral. After a delicious dinner at Paladar Los Mercaderes where we enjoyed traditional "ropa vieja" (shredded beef) we spent the rest of the night in two cool clubs in Miramar, Espacio and Bolabana.