Getting Back to Havana

Normally, sitting in a car for over ten hours would be very boring, but the day we drove from Holguin to Havana seemed eventful enough!

Packing it up in Holguin.

The van arrived to pick us up early in the morning. It was a mini van. There were five of us and five bicycles, so the van looked awfully small. Especially since it was staffed with two drivers. It took some creative maneuvering to fit everything and everyone in.


Of course, this wasn’t the first time in Cuba when I thought to myself: “Yeah…  This will never work,” only to be proven wrong. To be Cuban is to find a solution. I could argue at length about how the embargo has created the most creative and problem solving nation on the planet. Trust me. It’s true. If there is a problem, Cubans will figure it out and hardly break a sweat over it too.


Of course, we were able to fit everyone (the bicycles included) into the van and get out on the road by 8:30 am. The ride was going smoothly for a while, until we came across stand still traffic. This is not something you encounter often (or ever, as far as I knew) on the Cuban roads, so it was an obvious emergency. We stopped, got out (just as everyone else) and checked out the scene.


An accident involving a semi-truck was holding back traffic. Luckily, no one was was hurt, but the truck wasn’t going anywhere, so it had to be cleared by a crane. Surprisingly, this didn’t take too long. We may have arrived there late after the accident, but it seemed like the whole operation ran smoothly. We stood on the side of the road for a while and watched the people spill out of their cars to admire the wreckage.


I saw this tree in one of the yards by the road. It had this weird fruit on it, but no leaves. If anyone is able to identify it, I would be very grateful. We were all puzzled by how unique it looked.


While we were stopped, it became apparent that our own van was having mechanical issues. It didn’t look good when one of our drivers pulled out a repair kit.


The traffic from the opposite direction started to move, but it didn’t seem like we’d be moving anytime soon. Apparently we were having electrical issues. It was either the battery or the alternator. One was malfunctioning and we had to get a jump start.


When we stopped at a gas station to fuel up, the driver left the car running while filling up the tank. Oh boy, that was exciting!

I took this opportunity to get away from the pump as far as I could and went into the station to buy some cookies and water. A woman, presumably the manager, was sitting at the table reconciling the books, while drinking a beer and smoking a cigarette. Oh how I love this country! 🙂


Soon, the drivers decided that we had to stop and get the car fixed. Even after the jumpstart and the car running the whole time, our headlights weren’t working and by the time we’d be getting into Havana it’d be dark. So we had to find a garage that could service our van. No, there’s no AAA in Cuba.


It was hot and it was the middle of the day and soon we grew tired of standing under a little awning of the garage. So we headed across the street and sat down on a porch of a little house that looked to me like it was empty. But then a woman came out and I thought she’d yell at us for trespassing, but actually she was just taking our the trash. She waved away our apologies and told us to stay put.


Eventually the headlights came on and we were able to hit the road again. The rest of the eleven or so hours spent in the van went smoothly. Stuart kept us entertained by telling us lawyer jokes (he was a lawyer in his former life) and we enjoyed the scenery outside our windows until it grew dark outside.


We arrived in Havana safe and sound, just in time for me to feed the neighborhood cats.


2 thoughts on “Getting Back to Havana

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