Purely by luck, I managed to be in Cuba for the 50th Anniversary of the Revolution. So going round all the places connected to the Revolution made it all the more relevant and alive. I thought the trip was fantastic. Yes, there is a lot of travel, and some days the drives are long, but at the end of the day any trip is what you make it. I also think it is worth the effort to make it over to the east coast. When you return west and hit the rest of the tourists, you realise how great it was further east.
- What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?
There were quite a few. I think the highlight of the trip for me was being in the Sierra Maestra mountains and staying in Santa Domingo for 2 nights. The hike to Castro's command centre was fantastic following a drive on one of the steepest roads on the planet. Also a chance to jam with the band at the hotel - singing Dancing Queen at 1am was unexpected!!
Domino sessions with the guides and the coach driver were also fun - especially when we started beating them.
I really liked Baracoa and the chance to test out my, now know to be lacking, dancing skills.
- What did you think of your group leader?
We had a local guide, Elio, and a British guide, Roger.
Roger (Taylor) was fantastic. He clearly has a great love for Cuba which came through all his explanations and insights into the country. At night, he introduced us to local music clubs and bars which we might not have gone to otherwise, and in Cienfuegos took us to hang out local style.
Elio (Luis) was also brilliant and always went beyond the call of duty - especially when he managed to get a catamaran for just the Exodus group. Apparently, it is also never too early to have your first intake of Vitamin R.
Our driver, Esmildo, was also great. He couldn't speak much English but played a mean game of dominos.
I think that Exodus have now changed their local agent so you probably don't get to travel with Elio anymore.
- Do you have any advice for potential travellers?
The trip notes state that you should take snack food as there is little available in Cuba. The food was so plentiful and of better quality than I expected, that no snacks were required. However, make sure that you remember all toiletries are buying replacements especially sun block is quite difficult.
There are a couple of active days which involve walking but you don't have to be superfit, and there is the opportunity to opt out.
- Is there anything else you would like to add?
I've been on quite a few Exodus trips and this was definitely one of the best so far. But as always it's a combination of the people you are with, the guides, the country you're in and what you put in as well as take out of the trip. Don't expect to get a lot of sleep!!
If shopping is your thing opportunities are quite limited unless you want Che t-shirts, Che postcards, Che calendars, Che watches, Che books, Che berets, Che key rings.............. or CDs of the local bands (always 10 pesos!)