Or more to the point, are you right for Cuba?
Cuba isn’t easy. Things break. Things don’t exist. Things don’t always make sense and things can go very, very slowly. We are increasingly playing host to visitors who haven’t done their cultural research before their experience with us and so wanted to put together this blog post to tell you guys about the reality of this barmy island to help prepare you – mentally and physically!
Cuba doesn’t have smooth roads, fact. The people may pay their taxes but the government doesn’t put the money back into the public roads. The majority of the cars date back to the 40’s and 50’s, and many only still running thanks to the incredible innovation of the Cuban people. Expect bumps, expect breakdowns. It happens, it’s normal, there’s nothing we can do about it.
Whilst we always work with ‘high quality’ classic cars (and they are truly the best you’ll find), I guarantee that it won’t be as comfortable as your new BMW with heated seats. You won’t glide elegantly around the island but instead will weave in and out of the potholes as you share the ‘motorway’ with horses and carts. When you arrive in Viñales after your three hour journey from Havana and we ask ‘how was your journey?’, please don’t blame or penalise us for for your sore bottoms. Expect it, embrace it and enjoy it – it’s part of the experience of Cuba!
If you’re in the middle of the countryside in the middle of rural Cuba, you might imagine that the plumbing system may not be so strong. Whilst we always try to provide toilet paper, a clean floor, a toilet basin and a full-length lockable door, be aware that these things are considered luxury in the middle of the countryside, in a country where these things are generally hard to come by and very expensive.
So before you ask us “how do I flush the toilet?” – you just don’t, and you don’t have to worry about it either! Do your business, without shame, and we’ll come along and throw some water down there every so often. You’re traveling rural Cuba – it’s time to lose your inhibitions and go with the flow.
Too many times people have arrived to the farm in the middle of the national park, where there isn’t even electricity, and asked us what the WiFi password is. This is wrong on two levels: firstly, did you know Cuba doesn’t have much accessible internet connection? Secondly, do you know that internet would require electricity?
FYI Viñales actually has much stronger and more common internet connections than Havana, which is another reason why you should come for a couple of days if you need to do your daily post on Instagram. Almost every bar and even many casa particulares now have Wifi connection. You won’t find that so easily in Havana, yet.
Food & drink
Our farm is 5km deep into the national park. Every day, sometimes twice, the workers do a trip in the horse & cart to bring in the food and drink. When things run out, they run out. This means that even bottled water can sometimes run out. Whilst everyone sincerely does their very best, sometimes there just isn’t even bottled water to bring. If tourism has been high that particular week, even the shops can sell out of water. It’s one of those delights of Cuba, and it just can’t be helped. You can either go thirsty, drink a coconut water, a natural fruit juice, or whatever we have (we’ll definitely have something!), but please think about our surroundings before writing us a bad review.
That being said, only a handful of times in three years have we been left waiting for water. The team are organised and efficient – which you won’t always find in Cuba – so don’t go thinking you’ll go hungry. Nine times out of ten you won’t be able to finish the food put out in front of you, and you’ll go away baffled by why everyone says the food in Cuba is bad.
Cuba’s dry season is usually between November and April. The wet season is generally May to August. Hurricane season is September and October. This is not set in stone: it can still rain in the dry months and won’t rain 24/7 in the rainy months.
If it does rain during your excursion with us, the national park will be muddy. You might get mud on your clothes. You might get wet. BUT we have shelters and rum and food and good people, so if you embrace the adventure, you’ll have a better time than if it were sunny.
If you’re on foot during the rainstorm, we might even have to commandeer a battered old horse & cart to help you out of the valley, because frankly you won’t make it out on two legs. The dirt tracks are uneven and the cart isn’t comfortable, but we’ll all be laughing and having fun – so relax, Susan, and embrace it. You’re not on a horse & cart ride in the stylish streets of Paris, you’re roughing it with the farmers and having a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
We may well add to this blog post as new ideas crop up. We hope you take on board the idea we wanted to get across: you’re not at a 5* resort when you come to visit us, and you’ll be guaranteed the most fun if you go with the flow of Cuba and its people. We know how to have a good time, despite the hurdles that we sometimes face. Embrace it; enjoy it.