CUBA EXCURSION // HAVANA & VINALES, CUBA
CUBA EXCURSION // HAVANA & VINALES, CUBA
What an incredible place!! Jason held a six-day excursion workshop in Cuba and boy was it a memorable experience. Jason and I met the group in Miami and as a group we took a short 55 minute flight to Cuba. After landing in Cuba, we navigated through the airport and met the cab driver who took us to the airbnb. The streets were absolutely beautiful. It’s almost like urbex photography oasis! The mixture of old architecture and American cars from the fifties had me in awe. The smell of gasoline filled the air. The streets were full of people. I was engulfed in a sense of community.
As we drove to the airbnb, the cab driver pulled over on the side of the road to pick up a package up from his friend. We all giggled because in the States, it’s pretty atypical to do something for yourself on the job, but the lifestyle in Cuba is much different; there’s not much of a sense of urgency. Another interesting component is that everyone is a taxi. The moment you walk outside, you hop in the car with a random civilian and they take you where you need to go. It’s super important to ask “how much” before going anywhere because the prices may vary! Believe it or not, there’s no Google or Apple Maps in Cuba. Drivers would take you to a general area and then pull over and ask for directions. Could you imagine not having access to a navigation system on your phone? There are offline maps you can download beforehand, but to actually live there and pull over and ask for directions.. very mind blowing.
Throughout Havana, there are wifi parks. A wifi park is a small area where people can use their phones. To use wifi or “wee-fee” as pronounced over there, you buy a wifi card which is about a peso/ hour. A lot of school kids would hang out around the parks. When watching the kids, I noticed that they wore uniforms and I believe the uniforms were color-coded by grade (i.e. maroon bottoms for kids in elementary school, mustard yellow bottoms for kids in middle school, and kids who appeared to be in high-school wore navy bottoms). All uniforms were accompanied with a white top. It was nice to see children in clean, well kept uniforms.
Once we made it to the airbnb, we brought our luggage up about five flights of stairs. The landlord shared that the generator wasn’t working and as a result we could not use the elevator. Fortunately, this only happened once.
Mornings in Cuba were absolutely amazing. Every sunrise was surreal. The colors were rich, the air was warm, the city was still. Every morning, the landlords would enter the airbnb and cook breakfast. Breakfast consisted of: eggs, rice, salad, papaya, pineapple, guava, coffee, rich warm milk, co-co to mix in the milk, fruit smoothies, fresh juice, and bread. It was so sweet and kind; I really enjoyed every start to my day there.
As the days progressed there’s no way you could be bored. Entertainment was everywhere. The streets were filled with people looking to chat, entertain, and assist tourists. Business owners would stand outside holding menus to their restaurants, or items from their shops to bring in business. I ate quite a bit of ropa vieja accompanied with free mojitos. It was really fun.
After spending a couple days in Havana, we took a 2-3 hr scenic bus ride to Vinales. Vinales is a much smaller and rural area where you could walk most places. But don’t be fooled, just as much action occurred in this little area; every Saturday people would party and dance in the street until 3:00AM. I didn’t dance until 3:00AM but I did take salsa lessons and feed a bunch of dogs! There are SOOO many dogs in Cuba. They roam free; however, they are malnourished. It was either a dog heaven or dog hell!
In Vinales, we had opportunity to ride horses throughout a tobacco farm. At the tobacco farm, I watched the entire process of how the tobacco leaves were grown, stored, and used to roll cigars. A gentleman who worked on the farm gave us a demo and then provided us with some to taste. Interestingly, they soak the tip of the cigar in honey before lighting for flavor. Of course Jason and I did a neat shoot in the field. We hopped back on the horses and ventured around more parts of the farm. The second stop of the farm, we were introduced to guava that was used to make rum and had opportunity to smell fresh coffee beans. I was extremely impressed with the amount of crops harvested on the farm. During our final stop we replenished with food and beverages. After the sun sat, we rode off on the horses with our backs silhouetted into the night. It was absolutely beautiful… what a memory.
The next day we went back to Havana, did some shopping at the local market and had a fantastic shoot inside a Cuban Garage, where I posed along side a 1951 Chevy Belair and got a guayabera absolutely filthy! The shoots will be released! Cuba is a very special place and has been my absolute favorite trip thus far!
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Thanks so much for reading everyone.
Click here to see images taken with the A7Riii
Peace and love,