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Archive for February 3, 2010

Wednesday 3 February, 2010 – Amesbury to Havana, Cuba

Just three weeks after coming home, we’re off again to sunnier climes. During these three weeks I had seen and felt snow, rain and strong winds with very little sun light. The mercury in the outside thermometer had occasionally strayed above the 0 C (32 F) mark, known as freezing. All in all a great reminder of why I try to be out of this part of the universe at this time of the year.

Peter was so kind to as to give me a lift to Gatwick Airport where I would meet up with my compadres for this trip, Cliff Thompson and Mike Harvey.

Days before our departure we had read scary reports on the world wide web that Cuba is still ruled with an iron fist with strict controls over what comes into the country. Amongst the items listed were laptops and GPS equipment. What a blow! Regular readers of these pages will know that they can only be delivered to your computer via the wonders of technology that includes the Internet. We also take a ridiculous amount of pictures that are best down loaded from camera cards to the laptop and we also rely on GPS equipment to guide us to the more difficult to find locations.

If such equipment was found at the point of entry into the country, it will be confiscated and held until your departure.

Various internet forums suggested that it was not as bad as that and that you were allowed to take this equipment into Cuba after completing numerous forms stating the you were importing the equipment for your own personal use and that you would be taking it with you again when you left the country.

Fortunately our experience was that the reception in Cuba was no worse than chaotic, when a small numbers of officials in an equally small number of immigration gates where faced by two jumbo jet landing almost together. There were insufficient landing forms available during the flight but we were told that these would be handed out by Cuban Officials on our arrival. And indeed, several officials were handing out forms. As 460 people looked for pens and something to write on, the semi automated luggage handling system chocked.  Passengers were three rows deep and then a helpful soul started to remove bags as soon as they came around, so that most of the bags never reached their waiting owners. Fortunately all our luggage was retrieved relatively quickly.

We had wandered about transit arrangements to the pre-booked hotel. We turned out to be correct with our worst case scenario assumption: ‘No arrangements – get a taxi’ Again, no problem. The hotel used to be the Havana Hilton before Fidel Castro took it over has a military HQ during the Revolution. It is clean and comfortable enough with nice views over Havana from our 7th floor balcony.

We already saw a large number of 1950’s cars on the road – can’t wait until we go sight seeing tomorrow!

Sorry – no pictures today.