A Travellerspoint blog

The end

Vancouver to England with just a little mishap on the way

all seasons in one day
View Brazil to Belize on awowchuk's travel map.

And finally our enormous adventure around south and central america was over. We flew very early in the morning from Cancun to Vancouver (very the annoyingly complicated Dallas airport and American immigration), very excited to speak English again and get some clean clothes. We caught up with my aunt and uncle in Vancouver before heading up to Whistler for the night. We had a great time catching up with friends from Whistler and heading out to Moe Joes for one last time. By the time we went to bed we had been up for over 24hrs and were absolutely exhausted.

In the morning we drove down to Victoria on Vancouver Island to see my aunt and cousins. It was so nice to see them again and tell them all our stories. The next day we were supposed to leave to head back to Vancouver for one night and then fly home to England. But Christian's appendix didn't like this plan and decided to burst early in the morning. We rushed him to hospital where he was to spend the next 2 and half days, having to have emergency surgery! Thankfully his dodgy appendix was removed and we then spent a couple of days in Vancouver with my cousins so Christian could recover before FINALLY flying home. Huge thanks to my family for looking after us!

It was with great relief and excitement that finally (5 days after we planned) we arrived in London!!!!! We spent our last week together in England doing a few touristy things - Buckingham Palace and seeing bits and pieces of London, going to the rugby at Twickenham, seeing friends in Oxford and London and visiting relatives in Bournemouth. I would of been disappointed if I came to England and it didn't rain but thankfully the weather didn't disappoint.
It was crazy when the day finally came to seperate and say goodbye (for 2 weeks).

It has been an amazing adventure, with so many wonderful experiences, sights and people. Don't know how we will top it off! Now back to real life!

To clear all the questions we will get asked here is a short list of favourite (and least favourite things!) although it is VERY hard to narrow it down!

Favourite place: El Calafate, Argentina
Best activity: snorkelling with sea lions in Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Best food: Steak in argentina, lobster in Caye Caulker, lasagne at the Irish pub in Cusco
Best hotel: Mango hostel, Tulum Mexico and America del sur, El Calafate Argentina
Best sight: Glaciers in El Calafate and Machu Pichu
Best travel trip: the amazing bus from Iguassu falls to Buenos Aires, being able to lay down for 18 hours in a bus was amazing!!!
Best beach: Lopez Mendes, Brazil and Tulum, Mexico

Worst place: tie between Turbo Colombia and Uyuni Bolivia
Worst food: the uncooked lasagne in Copacabana, almost everything in Cuba
Worst hotel: three way tie of Portunhul, Florinopoulos Brazil, Hotel Florida in Turbo Colombia and Ruby's in San Pedro, Belize
Worst travel trip: Stuck in Rurrenabaque Bolivia for 2 days and the freezing bus to Bocas del Toro, Panama

THE END

the patient

the patient

watching the logs on the fraser river, vancouver

watching the logs on the fraser river, vancouver

at buckingham palace

at buckingham palace

at cliveden gardens

at cliveden gardens

at the "beach" in bournemouth

at the "beach" in bournemouth

saying goodbye in england

saying goodbye in england

Posted by awowchuk 03:32 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Tulum

our final stop before heading back to Vancouver.

sunny 30 °C
View Brazil to Belize on awowchuk's travel map.

Our trip out of Caye Caulker to Tulum was excruiating to say the least. Firstly we had to go back to San Pedro so Christian could pick up his paperwork. Then it was back on the ferry, back through Caye Caulker to Belize City, 3 hours later. In Belize we bordered a chicken bus that would take us to the Mexican border. Chicken buses are the old american school buses that have been repainted and drive all over central america. Called chicken buses as they jamn you in like Chicken! This bus took 4 hours (instead of the 2.5hr it was meant to), was hot, and drove so slow, stopping constantly to pick and drop people off. We walked across the Mexican border and after immigration got another to the bus station in town and from there instantly jumped on a 4 hour bus to Tulum, Mexico. It's worth noting that because we had almost no time between connections, all we managed to eat was a packet of chips and some weird sugary ham and cheese pastry. 13 hours after we left we arrived at our hostel, smelly, extremely hungry and very tired.

Our hostel, Mango, was an absolutely beautiful place run by an expat english couple, with a swimming pool, beautiful garden and lovely rooms. Indeed it had only been open 2 weeks! We got ourselves some mexican for dinner - enchilladas and fajitas and then happily went back to the hostel to sleep.

Our first day in Tulum we actually planned to go on a day trip to Chichen Itza, a mayan site but the bus was full so instead after a swim in the pool, we hired bikes and visited the beach. Tulum has a beautiful stretch of beach with fine white sand and clear blue surf. We spent several hours at two different parts of the beach. One of them was at a beach club. These beach clubs stretch the whole way down the coast and basically it has a restaurant and bar, maybe a massage table and lots of beach chairs and umbrellas for rent. It kind of frustrates me that the beach is not a public place. We did get to sit at the swings set up at the bar which was cool. Afterwards we went back and had a swim in the hotel pool and a nap - we still hadn't recovered from the travel day.

On our second day we got to go to Chichen Itza, 3 hours away by bus. It was incredibly hot when we got there and we stood under the trees for shade whenever we could. Chichen Itza was a mayan city, built between 900 - 1200AD. The complex of ruins that are left include many temples and public buildings, a sporting arena, the observatory, the marketplace and dominating the whole site, El Castillo - the castle. A huge pyrimad structture that was the centre of the city and used for religious purposes. The stone steps up this castle was enormous! Also in the site was two cenote, one where many skeletons have been discovered. A cenote is a large underground water cave where the roof has collapsed in and opened up to the sky. The sad part about Chichen Itza is that everywhere you go there are stalls set up selling souviners. The whole time you are walking round there are people touting. We didn't really like the exploitation of the culture or the harrassing we recieved. We only had a few ruins left to look at when the sky's opened up and it absolutely poured for 45mins. We stood hiding under a stalls tarpulin for a bit of it before giving in and just accepting we would get wet and walked around the last of the sites. After that we headed back to the entrance building to dry off and wait around for our bus back to Tulum.
We enjoyed another swim before heading out for dinner in Tulum. This time enjoying tacos and corona's - all we needed really. The tacos are quite different to how we have them at home, with chopped meat, not mince, soft tortillas not hard shells and no sour cream or other ingredients, just meat and guacamole.

On our last day, indeed the last travel day of our entire trip before we would start the long journey home, we had a lazy morning in then hired bikes to go to a cenote. It was quite surreal that this was the last day we would be travelling, doing activities in a foriegn land, but happily the last day we would have to speak Spanish and the last day we would have to put used toilet paper in the bin instead of the toilet!

We cycled a few kilometres out of Tulum to the Grand Cenote, a large cave lagoon where we got to go swimming in the clear refreshing water into 2 huge caves. Inside the caves were bats flying around and tiny fish swimming but most impressively there was stalicmites and stalictights that we got to swim around. It was absolutely beautiful. People were snorkelling and also diving down into some of the underwater caverns. The landscape all across the Yucatan peninsula is covered with these cenotes.

After this we rode to the Tulum ruins. This is another mayan complex but it sits beautiful on the coast edge overlooking the ocean. Although the ruins weren't as big or important in the mayan world we actually preferred it as the setting was lovely and we were able to go for a swim at the beach and there were no souvenir stalls.
After this we went for a quick swim at the beach and then headed back and caught the bus to Cancun.

We didn't really want to stay in Cancun but as we had a ridiculously early flight we had to. We had our last meal at a mexican pub, enjoying some mexican for the last time! Can't believe our adventure was over (or so we thought!)

Tulum beach

Tulum beach

Jumping time

Jumping time

jumping

jumping

sitting on swings at the bar

sitting on swings at the bar

At chichen itza

At chichen itza

chichen itza in the pouring rain

chichen itza in the pouring rain

having a corona in mexico

having a corona in mexico

swimming in the cenote

swimming in the cenote

chilling in the cenote

chilling in the cenote

anna in the cenote

anna in the cenote

Christian at the tulum ruins

Christian at the tulum ruins

The beach at tulum ruins where we went swimming

The beach at tulum ruins where we went swimming

Posted by awowchuk 17:06 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

Caye Caulker

diving, snorkelling, fishing and a hyperbaric chamber

sunny 28 °C
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Belize was one place we had been really looking forward too. I mean it's in our blog name, we were always intending to visit, we weren't sure how much of, but we were going to make it there. When we got off the bus early in the morning in Belize City we made our way quickly through to the boat terminal as Belize City was not nice at all. We caught the one hour taxi boat through bad weather to an island called Caye Caulker. We had organised no accomodation, just doing our turn up and sort it out solution and we walked up and down the sandy road in the spitting rain to check out a few places. We settled on one and happily lay down and had a morning nap. When we woke up the sun was coming out and we went for an explore. Caye Caulker is a brilliant island; it has no cars, everyone either rides bikes, drives golf carts or walks very very slowly. Indeed the motto of the island is 'Go Slow'. They truely get angry at you if you walk fast, no matter the reason. We had some lunch and then went to inquire about all sorts of trips you can do in Caye Caulker - diving, snorkelling, fishing, kayaking and paddleboarding. We were quite excited with all the possibilities and so firstly signed up for diving for the next day. I have done my open-water certificate and needed to do a refresher but Anna has never done any of it at all, well except for the trial pool dive in Cuba.

That evening we strolled around looking for a place to eat dinner and started to gather how much this island loves lobster. Every restaurant seemed to offer it in some way or other and so I got a barbequed whole lobster for the very first time! He was incredibly impressed and thought he could eat this every day!

The next morning I woke up very excited and Anna woke up very nervous and a little bit excited. We had an enormous pancake breakfast to calm my nerves and then went diving. We started with a talk about all the equipment, the exercises we would do, and certain situations we might face such as what to do when your regulator has an issue or your mask fills with water. Before we knew it though, we were off on the boat to do it. The first dive was a very shallow learner dive. We had a bit of time to familiarise ourselves with the equipment and then began to go through some of the skills that had been mentioned earlier. We knelt on the bottom and practised finding the regulator, buddy breathing and a bit of buoyancy control. Then it was time for the bit Anna was least looking forward to - clearing the mask. We practised a variety of situations, half filling the mask with water, completely filling the mask with water and finally removing the mask entirely (all whilst underwater). Anna went through all of the skills brilliantly. I was quite proud! After the skills we set off for a little swim. We never went deeper than about 5m but it gave Anna a great insight into what was to come.

Soon it was time to get back on the boat. We both got back onto the boat, very much looking forward to our next dive. We made a quick stop for snorkelling at a place called Shark-Ray alley, where as the name suggests there we lots of sharks and stingrays. We snorkelled with them for a while and were even able to stroke one of the nurse sharks, before moving on to our second dive site. Our second dive site was outside the reef in deeper water. We gradually descended far deeper this time, to a depth of about 65 feet, and began to explore some of the underwater canyons. We saw an amazing array of coral and fish, a hawksbill turtle, a very evil looking moray eel, and even a lion fish. Soon though my air began to run low so we signalled our dive master and he signalled to go to the surface. Sadly on the way up we didn't do a safety stop. I completely forgot about this as it was only my refresher dive, Anna had never heard that you had to do one and the divemaster hadn't mentioned it. As we ascended I gradually got faster and faster because of some air trapped in my buoyancy control device, and I arrived at the surface much faster than I should have, about 15 seconds ahead of Anna and the divemaster. As soon as I reached the surface I felt really rough. I felt naucious and headachey, and just a bit out of it. Anna didnt feel great either, but we headed back to the island, very positive about the dive and all the animals we'd seen. After a lie down back at the accomodation we still didnt feel well so we returned to the dive school. They dismissed our concerns, and suggested we get some lunch so we got some food and spent the afternoon relaxing. By the evening I felt even worse, so we went back to the dive school but again they showed complete disregard for our symptoms and suggested we take some painkillers and have a beer. We went for dinner at this grill right on the beach where we both had lobster.
That night I woke up at about 4am, with a terrible headache. The pressure behind my eyes had got much worse and whenever I moved my head, it sent shooting pains through my head. We waited until about 8am and then caught the first boat to San Pedro, a nearby island, because the doctor on Caye Caulker was closed. The hospital thought I had decompression sickness and sent me to the hyperbaric chamber. Unfortunately the dive doctor was on his day off, so I didn't go into the chamber.

The following day we had booked to go fishing. I had been wanting to go fishing all trip so I was incredibly excited and took some painkillers to control the headaches. We met the two guys who would be taking us fishing at the shop and then walked down to the boat. They took us out to an area of reef about 5-10 minutes off the coast, for our first stop. The guys cut up pieces of sardines for us to use as bait and no sooner had we cast out into the water, than we both felt bites on our line. We both reeled in little snappers. It was brilliant. We spent a while fishing at the first spot, and caught lots and lots of snappers. I was absolutely loving it! We then moved to another spot where Anna caught some big snapper. I only caught some babies but it was still fun. For the last part of the trip we went trawler fishing, where you drop your line out and the boat moves along slowly. We began trawling, but did not feel any bites for the first little while. Then all of a sudden Anna felt a huge bite on her line. As she began to reel it in we were able to see a barracuda on her line running from side to side. We were both really excited. It was very hard for her to reel in, so the guys on the boat had to give her backup, but gradually she reeled it in, giggling as she did so. She hauled it into the boat. It looked very big and very vicious! Anna caught another barracuda on her side of the boat, before we switched sides. No sooner had we switched though, and Anna caught another barracuda on my side. I couldn't believe it! I really wanted to catch one! Anna got her line tangled but even then something bit her bait. I couldn't believe my luck! Then all of a sudden I felt a bite on my line. I finally had a fish. It fought really hard but eventually I managed to reel it in. It wasn't a barracuda but it was a type bonefish that was similar in size to the barracudas so I was happy. We didn't catch anything more but we were very satisfied with our morning's fishing. The guys cleaned our fish and cut up the barracudas into steaks. We went to a couple of restaurants to ask whether they could cook the fish for us. Luckily the place where I'd had my amazing lobster on the first night said they would cook it for free if we bought some side dishes. We left the fish with them and went to get ice cream (as we did every day). Anna got butter pecan and I had chunky monkey. It was great! Later that afternoon we went up to the split (the island was split in half by a hurricane in the 60's), where there was a bar, sun deck and sheltered swimming area. Lots of people spent the day there jumping into the water, sunbathing and having drinks. After a fun afternoon of diving into the water and sunbathing, we went for dinner. We had a snapper each and two barracuda steaks. They were absolutely delicious, but it was very surreal to think that we had caught the fish ourselves only a handful of hours earlier.

The next day we had booked to go on a snorkelling trip. We met our guide early and went down to the beach to wait for the rest of the group. We boarded onto the boat and set off towards our first stop, the Hol Chan Reserve. There were lots of boats when we arrived at the reserve but as soon as we dived into the water we could see why! The boat was moored in a sandy bottomed area, but even there we could see all kinds of fish. There were loads of fish right under the boat and a few metres away we saw a couple of turtles. It was amazing! We then swam away from the boat towards the reef. Is we entered the reef we could see even more wildlife. We saw moray eels and lots of different types of snapper. We swam through the reef and were able to dive down to about 5 or 6 metres in places and even saw a school of barracuda as we returned to the boat. It was brilliant! After we'd all got back on to the boat, we zoomed off to our lunch stop on the island of San Pedro. This was the same island that the dive chamber and dive doctor was on, so we took the opportunity to pay him a quick visit. By this stage I felt noticeably better than I had on Saturday, so I was really just wanting him to give me the all clear so I could fly. Unfortunately though after a few tests he diagnosed me with decompression sickness (the bends) and told me I had to go to the chamber. We asked if we could finish the snorkelling trip, but he told me that I had to go to the chamber immediately. So with a heavy heart, gutted that I couldn't do the rest of the trip and potentially see manatees, I walked back to the chamber for my first 6 hours session in the hyperbarric chamber.
I for the first time in almost 4 months went off and did something by myself. I went back on the boat and continued on the snorkelling tour. It was really fun and saw some amazing things but was pretty sad that Christian couldn't be here. Firstly I got to snorkel with and touch a huge collection of Nurse sharks and stingrays. Afterwards the boat headed to a place called Coral Gardens and saw lots of beautiful fish swimming among beautiful coral. I also saw a lobster hiding amongst the coral. The best part of the day was when we came upon 5 manatees moving through the water in a group. They were beautiful delicate moving creatures. We couldn't touch them but we swam alongside them for quite a while. On the way back to Caye Caulker in the boat we stopped to watch a group of Dolphins playing off the coast.

After the tour ended back in Caye Caulker I rushed back to our hotel, put together a bag of clothes and rushed back to the ferry dock to get the ferry to San Pedro to meet Christian and unfortunately stay for the night.

Anna was there when I got out of the chamber. It hadn't been a very fun afternoon. The chamber replicated the effect on your body of diving back down to 20m, using pressure. I then had to breath oxygen to flush out all the nitrogen before the chamber brought me back to the surface. The downside was the whole process took about 6 hours and the increase in pressure also led to an increase in temperature, so I basically spent 6 hours sitting in a tiny sauna! So much better than swimming with manatees... We had an early dinner after my chamber ride before returning to our hastily booked hotel for the night.

The following morning I had to go back to the chamber for another 2 hour ride. When I was finally discharged we caught the ferry back to Caye Caulker and spent the afternoon relaxing by the split and eating ice cream. That night we returned to our BBQ restaurant to have the other half of our catch from our fishing trip, which was equally delicious.

The following morning we woke up early so we had time to go for a swim in the split before breakfast. There was no one there and it was absolutely gorgeous. We then went back to our favourite breakfast place for banana pancakes with maple syrup and a sausage bagel. It was yummy. We then returned to our hotel and picked up our bags because we were finally leaving the island. We had originally planned to catch the boat straight back to the mainland and from there begin our journey back up to Mexico but the chamber had not been able to get all my paperwork finished the day before so we had to backtrack and make a stop on the island of San Pedro first. After a mad dash to the chamber and back to the ferry dock, we made it onto our boat and began our journey to Mexico. We sat up on the top deck of the ferry, from where we had a great view of the islands and were able to enjoy the sea breeze in our hair. After about an hour journey we arrived back in Belize City. We walked from the ferry dock to the main bus station in the seering heat. At the bus station we boarded a brightly coloured chicken bus for the journey to the border. The journey was only meant to take 2 hours but our bus stopped constantly to drop people off and pick people up and after a quick stop to refuel, we arrived at the border about 4 and a half hours later. The border crossing was pretty painless, we didn't have to open our bags and were able to catch a bus from right outside the border to the nearby town. From there we caught a much more speedy bus to Tulum.

eating lobster for the first time

eating lobster for the first time

getting ready for our dive

getting ready for our dive

In his wetsuit after the first dive

In his wetsuit after the first dive

one of the beautiful views from the island

one of the beautiful views from the island

having lobster for the first time too

having lobster for the first time too

Fishing

Fishing

Chilling while fishing

Chilling while fishing

getting help to fight a barracuda

getting help to fight a barracuda

With the first of 3 barracudas

With the first of 3 barracudas

Catching something that is not a barracuda

Catching something that is not a barracuda

with his catch

with his catch

Enjoying our catch

Enjoying our catch

Going snorkelling

Going snorkelling

the town of caye caulker

the town of caye caulker

The split

The split

At the split

At the split

diving off

diving off

Caye caulker beautiful building

Caye caulker beautiful building

having breakfast every morning

having breakfast every morning

it's so pretty here

it's so pretty here

enjoying the split

enjoying the split

hyperbaric chamber

hyperbaric chamber

happy to be fixed

happy to be fixed

turtle

turtle

us snorkelling

us snorkelling

sting ray hidding in sand

sting ray hidding in sand

moray eel

moray eel

Dog snapper

Dog snapper

schools of fish

schools of fish

Barracuda

Barracuda

Nurse sharks

Nurse sharks

Anna touching a nurse shark

Anna touching a nurse shark

sting ray and shark

sting ray and shark

lobster

lobster

coral

coral

konch shell

konch shell

more coral

more coral

manatee

manatee

manatee

manatee

manatee

manatee

angel fish

angel fish

chilling on the boat

chilling on the boat

Posted by awowchuk 04:06 Archived in Belize Comments (0)

Varadero

Beach birthday

sunny 30 °C
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We arrived in Varadero with no accomodation booked. Everywhere in Cuba so far had a plethora of empty rooms but Varadero was the complete opposite. We walked around in the intense heat going to so many casas until we came to a place that although it was full the man went out of his way to help us find an empty room. It was the cuban summer holiday and everyone was here. We didn't care what it was as long as we could put our bags down and get into the water at the beach.

We headed to Varadero beach next and it was perfect. Fine white sand and warm clear water. We spent a few hours enjoying the water with the thousands of cubans cooling off on their holiday. The only reason we had to leave was as a storm rolled in and we had to take shelter at a beachside bar enjoying a cuban beer (not too bad).

As we walked back to our casa we accidently walked through a freshly tarred road that had not been blocked off and we got tar everywhere over our shoes and feet. We tried to be careful but we (especially Anna) managed to get tar everywhere. It was quite a situation as we got it all over the shower tiles and it just spreads like crazy. We spent hours depressingly scrubing our bodies, and frustratingly trying to work out how on earth we would get it off the shower floor. It turns out that spreading tooth paste and then a little bit of bleech over the tar, leaving it for a while and then scrubbing like crazy will lift tar. We went to bed happy we were able to lift the tar but also exhausted and deflated that it had happened at all. We resolved to wake up super early and make our way to our all inclusive resort we had booked for 4 days for Christian's birthday as early as possible.

In the morning we took a scooter taxi to the resort. The poor people were arriving! We checked in, although weren't able to get our room straight away and spent the day lounging around the two pools with the pool bar, eating buffet breakfast and lunch. Christian played some beach volleyball and we also lounged on the deck chairs on the beach and swum in the warm clear water. It was pretty special. We enjoyed lots of cocktails and really enjoyed eating as much food as we could. Christian loved the all you can eat ice-cream stand and over the next few days got the most out of it. The resort has 5 a la carte restaurants and vistied 4 of them over our time at the resort. The first night we visited the steakhouse in the pool courtyard. It was pretty nice to pretend we belonged here!

The second day involved basically all the same activities, lots of pool time, relaxing reading books, having cocktails, swimming at the beach. The biggest issue of the day was that we had no toothpaste and there is nowhere to get toothpaste. Cuba apparently has a nationwide shortage of toothpaste. We went to our hotels chemist, the neighbouring shopping malls chemist, supermarket and beauty shop and even the neighbouring hotels chemist. It was quite disheartening to not be able to get something so common and normal. In the end Christian stole a half used tube of toothpaste off the maids trolley. For dinner on the second night we went to the mexican restaurant which was pretty nice.

It was Christian's birthday on the third day and unfortunately it was raining through the morning. We pressed on and did as many activities as we could. The first we did was a trial dive. We put on scuba tank, jacket, regulator and mask and went diving in the pool. I was quite nervous about the idea of breathing under water but actually it was ok, but it was in a pool so it was really easy. We then stayed in the pool and played shooting basketballs into a hoop. Afterwards we relaxed inside, away from the rain, enjoying a huge lunch in the buffet restaurant. The sun came out gloriously in the afternoon and we were able to enjoy the pool and the beach again and had a little go shooting pellet guns. Christian went off to talk to his family, while I sat around the pool and enjoyed quite a few cocktails. For dinner that evening we went to the Chinese restaurant which was really nice, with all the classic chinese dishes. The staff were so lovely too, bringing out some champagne and ice-cream with candles in it for desert.

On the last day we enjoyed playing some archery, although we didn't get very many goes, and also enjoyed a beach party spontaneously thrown on the beach. They had music, water jets and bubble machines blasting on a section of the beach for people to dance around. It was hilarious. Christian was able to take a little sunfish, one person sail boat, out for a play which he really enjoyed. We also did the standard sitting by the pool relaxing. For dinner that night we went to the Italian restaurant which although had a brilliant anti-pasta bar, only had ok dinner. The whole time though was brilliant, being able to eat anything and as much as we wanted. It was quite a change from the trip.

Every night there was a sort of show for the guests, we only went to one of them - the Aqua ballet. It was possibly one of the most hilarious things we'd seen. It was basically very tacky synchronised swimming, crossed with acrobatics. Some of the tricks were quite impressive, but the dancing and the 'stories' were hilarious. Watching the men was like watching Christian attempting to do professional tango dancing! The highlight (hilariously) was the Titanic routine, complete with the woman saved on the side of the pool and a man drowing in the pool!

The next morning we started our epic day, to travel from Cuba to Belize via Mexico. We had to take a taxi from Varadero, two and a half hours to the Havana airport. We had hoped to get a bus transfer to the airport, but the silly system they operate in Cuba for tourist buses meant we weren't able to and so we took the taxi. At the airport the air-con was not working and we spent a few hours waiting in a sweat box. We flew the hour and a half to Cancun where we were strangely happy to see advertising and normal western sights again. We had to spend the day waiting around Cancun, which is a horrible place, with no real town centre, huge utes everywhere and lots of american fast food chains. We waited here for 10 hours to then took a night bus through from Cancun to Belize City. It was a long bus ride, with a bit of an annoying border crossing at 4am but we arrived safe and sound and looking forward to our Belize adventure.

the gorgeous Varadero beach

the gorgeous Varadero beach

chilling with beers during the storm

chilling with beers during the storm

The pool and pool bar

The pool and pool bar

Christian playing volleyball

Christian playing volleyball

Enjoying a cocktail

Enjoying a cocktail

Sunset on the beach

Sunset on the beach

Relaxing

Relaxing

the lovely beach

the lovely beach

More beach

More beach

having fun in the sun

having fun in the sun

enjoying his birthday dinner

enjoying his birthday dinner

crazy foam party on the beach

crazy foam party on the beach

Sailing

Sailing

chilling in the lobby

chilling in the lobby

the lower level of the hotel lobby

the lower level of the hotel lobby

Posted by awowchuk 15:32 Archived in Cuba Comments (0)

Santa Clara

Che che che che che

sunny 25 °C
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We weren't really looking forward to Santa Clara, we were heading there primarily out of there was no where else we could go - we didn't have enough money or time to head further along the island or visit some of the exclusive islands so we headed to Santa Clara, half way between Trinidad and Varadero, our destination after Santa Clara.

When we arrived we were instantly hassled for taxi's and casas for rent - a standard thing that happens at bus stations in Cuba (and lots of south and central america) - we did our standard ignore them and started walking towards town although very very quickly realised it was too far and so crazily jumped in a pedi-taxi. Our bags were strapped to the back and rested on our laps and then the bike guy rode us all the way over hills into town. (We felt quite guilty as he was sweating so badly in the heat and with our ridiculously heavy luggage!)

We went for a walk around Santa Clara and weren't really impressed. There was not really anything there and it didn't have the charm of Trinidad or the vibe of Havana. We had a horrible early dinner at the only place we could find to eat - a cheap restaurant with meh food. Oh well.

We had a horrific sleep as we were woken up at 5am by the sound of noisy hot water pipes under our bed resonating through the building. Angrily we arranged a new room with our casa but we were not happy. just another reason why we weren't fond of Santa Clara.
In the morning we had to walk out to the bus station to buy our onward ticket. (In the distraction of the taxi drivers we had forgotten to buy it) It was such a hot day (again) that we would cross the street back and forth just to get the shade. At the bus station we met with a very strange situation. Cubans go and buy their tickets at the regular counter, there is no sense of personal space or queueing and so they are all just hanging around the counters. Tourists meanwhile have to go into a special office, there is no signs, you just eventually get pointed to it. Inside you sit down and put your name down on a sheet for the relevant bus. Basically they run tourist and locals buses and tourists are not allowed on the locals buses and must pay the inflated fare.

We then walked to the Che Guevara memorial. Che was an argentian doctor that met Fidel Castro in Mexico while he was exiled and together with a band of men they invaded Cuba and caused the revolution. Che was a strong army general, controlling many battles, including the apparently famous battle of Santa Clara. Here they love him. The memorial has an enormous statue of him plus a musuem about his life. He died being executed by the Americans in Bolivia for trying to inspire a Cuban style revolution in Bolivia.

We had dinner at the only fast food chain in Cuba - el rapido, which wasn't so rapid, but still definitely the standard of fast food. We walked around the main square of Santa Clara but nothing was really happening so we headed off to bed.
We had an early bus out of Santa Clara, we couldn't wait to leave and get to Varadero. Excitingly though we took a 1951 Chevrolet taxi to the bus station. The car was truely falling apart and lots of things like upholstery for the doors and back of the seat were missing, the windscreen was a mess too. It was one of the coolest things! This car had been driving around before our parents were even born!

In the bicycle taxi

In the bicycle taxi


A public bus in Santa Clara

A public bus in Santa Clara

At the Che museum

At the Che museum

At lunch

At lunch

Our 1951 Chevrolet taxi

Our 1951 Chevrolet taxi

Inside the taxi

Inside the taxi

Posted by awowchuk 15:45 Archived in Cuba Comments (0)

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