Cuba: The Lost WorldPosted: January 21, 2014
Michael J. Totten writes: I needed to go on a road trip in a country where hardly anyone can go on a road trip.
“Don’t even think about driving in Cuba.”
That’s what I was told by an American man and travel industry pro who has visited the Caribbean people’s republic more times than I’ve left my home country combined.
“But I’ve driven in Lebanon,” I said. “And Albania.” No one drives as badly as the Lebanese and Albanians, bless their hearts. Even the Iraqis and Israelis drive like Canadians by comparison. “Besides, Cuba hardly has any cars. How bad could the traffic possibly be?”
“The roads are dark at night and filled with pedestrians, bicycles, and animals,” he said. “There are no signs and you’ll be arrested if you get in an accident.”
Getting arrested in a communist police state ranks on my to-do list alongside being stricken with cancer and getting snatched off a Middle Eastern street by Al Qaeda.
I wanted to rent one of Cuba’s classic American Chevys from the 1950s and roam at will through the countryside, but who would I call if the car broke down or I got a flat tire? My cell phone does not work in Cuba. I can’t fix a Cuban car by myself—that’s for damn sure. Cubans improvise with all kinds of random things under the hood, including, as one resident told me, parts from old Russian washing machines.
Capital cities are bubbles. And much of Havana is in ruins after decades of hostile neglect by Fidel Castro. Most of it looks like a war zone minus the bullet holes. What does the rest of the country look like? Is it better? Or is it somehow evenworse?
I had to get out of town. Renting a car wasn’t advisable, so I took a bus. I don’t like traveling that way, but it seemed like the best option. First stop: Bay of Pigs.
The warning to eschew renting a car, I have to say, was a bit overblown. I could have driven myself where I wanted to go without too much trouble. Traffic outside the city was miniscule, including pedestrian, bicycle, and animal traffic. The roads are smooth and wide open. Just ten minutes outside the Havana metro area, my bus had the road to itself. And the bus came with a guide, so I didn’t have to just guess what I was looking at.
It was an easy road, too. Most of Cuba is more or less flat. I could see off in the distance outside the window because the landscape is not forested. It consists mostly of grass, stray palm trees, sad little agricultural plots, and unused fields gone to the weeds…
- Life after Fidel (undeleted.wordpress.com)
- Hundreds of Cubans turn up for rumor of mass exodus (miamiherald.com)
- Havana Photowalk; Random Encounters (mikeprattphotography.com)
- Spain says EU considering closer ties with Cuba (miamiherald.com)
- Welcome to Mariel, Cuba – the new port giving berth to hope (theguardian.com)
- Spain Says EU Considering Closer Ties With Cuba (theolivepress.es)
- In Cuba, clock ticking just a bit faster for some (news.yahoo.com)
- Spain says EU considering closer ties with Cuba (kansascity.com)
- Cuba, Key West art exchange bridges strait (nzherald.co.nz)