Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts

Sunday, June 18, 2017

The World Traveler























A little lightheaded from the tobacco I pretended I was able to puff on and we were taken over to the Mural de Prehistoria which, from afar looks like the gods came down and Pollack’d Tempura paint all over the side of a Jurassic Park rock wall but, upon further inspection one can see it is actually an enormous painting utilizing great skill and labor from the men-tee of Diego Rivera.

I exited through the gift shop and though tempted realized spending money for money's sake it not part of my personal mantra - regardless of the zip code or time zone.

Climbing up the hill we headed to our last destination - the vista. The beauty here is undeniable, majestic and indescribable - but more importantly there was a cow in the parking lot and I wanted to ride it.

Having to wait my turn, of course I allowed the 10 year-old girl on vacation to dismount before climbing up on that bad boy, Señor Miguel by my side. Nothing like riding an enormous cow around a parking lot like it’s a petting zoo on my 8th birthday. The adventure was brief but thrilling and my desire to own a cow, love a cow, know a cow remains strong.

Back down mountain we needed to re-up, finally finding a mulleted dealer offering one hour wifi cards on the corner, out of his nylon fanny pack, of course.

Starved for technology we devoured our minutes, not even leaving proper time for digestion before crossing the street from the main square to a dining establishment where we were really what was for dinner - as the rain brought out the mosquitoes and the cute waiter Frankie brought out gross food and drink.





















Running low on energy we wandered the darkened streets of this second city, I picked up a regalo for one of my nephews and fingered a few disappointing pairs of earrings before calling it quits.

Back home I discover every clever word I'd written the last two days has been deleted from my cell phone and now I've been forced to rewrite this entry in, I am quite certain, inferior prose.

Sigh.

Up again with the sun, the roosters made sure there was no need for Steve Jobs and his pesky cell phone alarm clock devices.

Two things hit me once my head leaves the pillow - I am terribly upset I lost 2 days’ worth of what I believe to be terribly good writing, and I am terribly sick.

My glands are the size of mangos and every joint in my body hurts. 4 or 5 climate zones in a week will sometimes do this - but it's no matter - because I have my last full day in Cuba to enjoy.

I've said this before, and I'm sure I'll say it again - but I have lived in San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles - major metropolises by anyone's standards - yet there is a comfort and beauty I find in a rural existence that tempts me more and more each time I engage.

Viñales has 26k people in 6k homes - so maybe this particular village isn't for me. But I have a feeling there is one out there that could suit me just fine. And I look forward to meeting it.

Joaquin Jr. arrived just in time, with a Dutchman riding shotgun, ensuring that my car sickness would join us today and Saturday would be spent mostly trying to recalibrate. The head rest was at my waist and the window was broken making the wind tunnel on my face a pleasant, consistent beating and my throat was basically swollen shut. I love to travel, I really do – but man transportation kicks my ass at least 3 times out of 5.

There was a brief 'restroom' break at which I climbed down into a ditch on the side of the Cuban highway and squatted, splashing my faithful Rainbow thongs with my own urine (sexy, I know).

JJ upped the price of our ride somewhere along the way and though it infuriated my partner I was far too ill to give a fuck. All I wanted to do was lay down.



















































Once back in Havana we were shown our adorable apartment for the night by it’s owner and my car sickness was overwhelming.

I barely made it through the presentation before I needed to lay down and take a moment. A long moment.
I had a good 30 minutes laying on the upholstered couch, French doors open to the life outside and the oscillating fan making sweet love to my kisser before I rallied and dragged myself up and down the 5 flights of stairs.
The walk was long, and slow. The heat was intense. I love the sounds and smells of a good third world stroll but I can now attest to the fact that these smells and sounds permeate the soul in a crushing way when you’re meandering them sick as a dog.
A friendly man who seemed to think Trump wasn’t so bad that we met on the street led us to a street side haberdashery to find my friend a replacement for the baseball cap lost somewhere along the way. I made myself at home here and haggled in Spanish which did lift my spirits.

Exhausted from the brief excursion I had to take a break and today that was an overpriced lemonade in the marble floored patio at some fancy hotel. The reprieve from the sun and the consumption of something that seemed vaguely vitamin c related offered siesta. We were enjoying our time when a man with a camera phone took it upon himself to try to take photos of us, namely up my dress interrupted our chat. Once again, too sick to care, my compatriot did not feel the same.
We were slated to meet our driver from 2 days prior, Raoul (way more fun to say than write) at 2pm so we went to the park to wait and keep an eye out for our homie. While waiting we got some real life Jerry Spring entertainment as a man and a woman got into a very heated argument that became vaguely physical, yet no one interceded. They calmed for reasons as unknown to me as theirs for being angry in the first place and then, shortly thereafter a young man seemed to take pleasure in taunting an older man carrying a big cloth bag until the older man pulled out a lead pipe which didn’t seem to scare the young man as much as encourage him to douche it up even more.
This sort of behavior, especially in public makes no sense to me in English either, but this was most certainly a confusing case.

Finally I spot Raoul’s fedora and after a bit of a bargain being struck (we were down to $50 and 24 hours) we devised a plan not to go to Hemingway’s home, which I wanted to see, or Che’s house, which I wanted to see, or the Christ on the hill, which I wanted to see, but the art neighborhood known as Fusterlandia.
It was a significant drive and we decided given our discount price is was an acceptable sight to see.
One again, proving one is never really in control of their own life, Mother Nature spanked us hard as flash flooding took place across the city with the major influx of perspiration. Though our view of the Parc Guell of Cuba was majorly impeded we did have an adventure of another . Sure, Fidel’s compound was pointed out and we got to see an entirely different part of town which is always fun. But the most fun was driving in a leaky convertible that’s brakes went out when submerged in the watery roadways.
Not one to panic easily we literally rode it out until Raoul deposited us safely back in front of our building and I, wanting to save my shoes more than my feet, padded barefoot across the surprisingly clean roadway and up the marble steps to our penthouse.


Needed to just shut my eye for a moment, I rose over an hour later to my starving sidekick who had been extraordinarily patient and understanding of my condition and who I agreed with when they said it was time to eat.


























Out on the streets we are looking for the Lotus Flower. The eatery that offered us nourishment and air-conditioning our first night and the one we are hoping can do the same on our last. I am such a mess that a kind man to whom I request direction actually offers me water in his home because it is clear that I look like 40 miles of bad road and am in need of help.

He points out that the Lotus isn’t far and we make our way North, across the crowded avenue to China town where that illuminated neon sign once again beckons us in.
The waiter confirms it ain’t easy being green, for me or Kermit, as he repeatedly asks if I am ok. At this point I am feeling super beautiful! We know better by now to share most meals and do so happily in the table for two tucked back in the corner of the darkened restaurant.
I eat a bit and, compassionately my companion asks if I need to go back home.
I do.

We have come full circle with our visit to Lotus Flower and tonight had been our red lipstick night (I never travel with makeup), but first I need to just close my eyes a moment more.
My eyes close at 8pm and don’t open again until my fever breaks around 4.
I feel awful. I did not reunite with my graffiti artist friend Dennis, I did not bring it as I had promised to my crony and I did not get to experience another night of salsa dancing and stairwell secrets in Havana.

When I finally rise the sun is just peeking out from behind the horizon and my tonsils are literally touching one another.

The time is here, on Father’s Day 2017 for me to do what has become a travel tradition.
I grab my camera bag that now pretty much full time houses a tiny urn and I walk down to the water alone, Moro on my right, morning fisherman on my left.

I had been hoping for some privacy, but everyone seems to be wanting to have early morning moments on the sea this morning. I stop at a part of Malecon marked 180 where the rock formations are covered in trash and move slightly further down to clearer coasts.

I take a moment.

I drop a smattering of ashes into the blue Caribbean Sea just as a father and happy child walk by and it seems fitting.

It makes me sad, and a little angry, but seems appropriate none the less.

All of the places my father should have gone. Could have gone. Would have gone - words I am generally want to use.

But now, forever, he rests at the turtle sanctuary in Grand Cayman, a secluded river in Thailand, on top of an ancient temple in Burma, by the mermaid statue in Uruguay, in the cool crisp waters of the Nile in Egypt, at Angkor Wat in Cambodia and now, in the undulating Caribbean just outside of Habana Vieja in Cuba.

Now he is the world traveler he was always meant to be.

As I write these words a lone Cuban woman to my right does the station of the cross. And it's time to go back to the apartment and enjoy the last hours I have in Cuba.

Feeling just a smidge better we make our way back down to old town with, sadly no help from my directionally challenged colleague and look for a gift for my most difficult to buy for nephew.


After a little window shopping we stopped at Café La Luz for some people watching and some café for my crony. When the rain comes again we head inside and on their flat screen behind the bar Chris Brown is gyrating and singing the hell out of some song or another. Its nice to know that even at ALMOST 36 a pop star can illicit girl like giggle and lady like desires. Don’t judge!

At some point trying to wait out the rain was a clear impossibility so I wrapped up my camera and bathed in the midday downpour. A brief injection of confidence en espanol as a man at a shop at which we took cover part way continued to ask where I was from because I had a beautiful body… like a Cubana! It was hopeless and we were set to walk – all the way – in full drench mode.

Walking through the streets of Havana soaked to the bone and barefoot had it’s own poetry and I welcomed it.


At this point it was a race against time. We grabbed our bags and searched for a cab. We found luck with a lady cab driver who’s nail art was inspired by SWV and who’s attitude was inspired by Phyllis Diller.
We made it to Gate 2 just in time for a last TuKola, some wifi and enough ignorance to almost miss our flight while lounging at the gate.
And then, it was back to the USA.

Never before have I been so certain I will return to a place.

And soon.





Friday, June 16, 2017

Rain Rain Go Away...


































Up at dawn. Again.

We had a quick breakfast in the vaulted ceiling private dining room at Casa Ivis before what I would soon discover was the ride from hell.
Having been spoiled by our coches privados prior to this morning I was not expecting a big, steel contraption in way of a station wagon of sorts that was slowly filling to the brim with young travelers.

10 people in one car should just be against the law unless its big and yellow.

It is becoming evident that this 2 hour car ride will be much closer to 4.
A couple hours in we pull off on a dirt road that is only marked by a low hanging billboard with a Fidel quote and I figure we’re being recruited for some guerilla warfare or murdered and buried in a ditch. When I discover that instead we are at a farm I light up like a fucking Christmas tree and while the other travelers seem to be obediently following some sort of tour, I take the opportunity to commune with nature. Chat with pigs, communicate with kitties and have moments with some goats.
A quick snap of an old man with his pants down – I asked permission – he agreed – and we’re back in the dungeon of doom through the windy roads (did I mention I get car sick?) to Vinales.

We enter an idyllic little town and moments later we’re dropped off at Garaje de Joaquin where we will be bunking for the evening.

Joaquin greeted us warmly and immediately showed of his ride in none other than… his garaje!
Our room is large and airy and decorated just as you would expect an elderly Hispanic couple would and once our bags are dropped and passport numbers recorded, the skies open up entirely and pours down on us. You can see by looking at plant life around Vinales that rain is frequent here and has created beautiful shapes, colors and scents all over the place. It has also allowed for the beauty of the cornucopia of beautiful umbrellas here in this tiny hamlet.


































The rain ruins our hiking plans, but not our eating plans – especially once the abuela of the house tells us she knows just the place and takes us on a little walk through the neighborhood to her fellow granny’s spot where we walk into the backyard and are met with the original rainforest café.
A bamboo platform encases us as we are surrounded by big green leaves and mango trees. The air is fresh and the food is delicious and, being the only customers here, the service is second to none. Chicken and TuKola is consumed and, once the rain lightens a bit, we walk home to our grandparents.
Grandpa Joaquin is anxiously awaiting our return and pulls his white walled wheels out of the garage to take us on an adventure for the day. Without hiking as a viable options we headed into Vinales Valley National Park to visit the Cueva de Indio where you pay $5 to enter into the cave and then take a Pirates of the Caribbean ride through the tunnels. We did climb down into the center of the mountain but, after several minutes of impatiently waiting for the boat to arrive we were informed that the rain had made the water levels rise so much that a boat ride was no longer a safe option. Bummer.
We climbed our way back and  let Jesus take the wheel. And by Jesus, I mean Joaquin.
It seems like tobacco is a major cash crop here in Cuba and I am quite certain many a tourist wants to see where the famous Cuban cigars are made. Joaquin must have had this in mind when bringing us to a tobacco farm where we got a brief lesson on seeds and farming and then were ushered into the smoking section just as the clouds parted and the sun shone down warmly upon us.
Part Jabba, part Soprano the proprietor of the farm sat behind a wooden table and effortlessly rolled cigars. To my surprise no paper was used as is the case in my native country of above 175th street, but here its literally tobacco torn inside of tobacco rolled and then for some unforeseen and inherently sexual reason dipped in honey and then popped in your mouth.

Clearly a photo opp, my travel partner tried to snap just the right shot of me doing my best Che, but I looked far more Mamma June than Che Guevara.

After buying a single cigar to bring home I made my way back to the animals – duh – where I thought this horse was really feeling me, until it attempted to give me a single mastectomy and I decided he was no longer my friend.