We can’t believe it’s our last day in Cuba already, the time has flown by! We said goodbye to Kylie after breakfast, as she had another week so was heading further south, and then the Danes and us hopped in the taxi we had booked to take us to Havana. Although the car which arrived to pick us up bore no resemblance in the slightest to the one on the card we saw the previous day. We should have learnt by now that nothing is ever as it seems!

All of the motorways in Cuba are big, 6 lane, dead straight highways similar to the ones you see in the USA. Most of them are still in a pretty good condition, largely I presume because of the lack of private car ownership over the last 50 years. Despite this, I spent most of the ride back to Havana wishing our driver would keep his eyes on the road, and not on the dvd screen that he folded away whenever we drove past a highway checkpoint.

Before we left the UK, Ty watched a couple of documentaries about the state of things within the socialist country. He was led to believe that due to the trade embargos the country was in gross short supply of everything, however the reality is somewhat a different picture. While there are dilapidated buildings on every street, and a thriving black market trade for beef and lobster; stores in Havana are stocked with whiteware and appliances and we were shocked to see an  Adidas and a Puma shop on the main street of Old Town. There may not be a wide range of choices when it comes to the brand (1 type of Ketchup for example) but provided you have the income things are definitely available.

One thing that was hard to get used as a female was being blatantly ogled at as you walked along the street. Men would openly stare, profess their love, wolf whistle, blow kisses and one time a guy even applauded. I’m not sure how far things would go if you responded favourably to their advances but most of the time it was more amusing than seedy and I couldn’t help but laugh.

With a population of 11.5 million and a literacy rate of 99.8%, there is a lot to be said for universal provision of education. Cuban medics are some of the best in the world and the Cuban government has provided a lot of medical support to other countries. When Cholera broke out in Haiti post the earthquake, over 40% of the 30,000 victims were treated by 1200 Cuban doctors. The government has sent doctors to help out in over 70 developing nations and a programme which works in Bolivia and Honduras has restored the sight of 1.8 million people.

The Cuba of the last 50 years is definilty changing. It began with Raul taking power from his ailing brother Fidel and making concessions that amendments to the regime were required. The Cubans are an entrepreneurial people who have adapted quickly to the changes that came into force 2 years ago allowing private ownership of farming rights, cellphones and certain amounts of private enterprise; such as the casa particulars, and hole in the wall pizza and icecream shops. The dual currency, originally designed to exploit the tourists who do come to raise the country’s income, combined with the regime changes is however creating a new division of “have’s” and “have not’s”, as those working within the tourism industry have access to the CUC, meaning substantially more buying power for their families. When you consider that the average salary for a doctor is the equivalent of 35CUC a month, and a taxi ride from the airport into Havana Old Town is 25CUC, its no wonder that people are giving up their careers to tend to the tourists needs. The sad part about it is that this is exactly what the regime was installed to prevent. The idea of equality for all unfortunately works better in theory than it does in practice due to the greedy nature of humans, but it will be interesting to see whether the government tightens the reigns again (as it has done in the past). If not I envisage that in 5 years Cuba will be a very different place to that it is today, but I hope that the essence of the spirit of the Cuban people finds a way to remain in the face of westernisation. 

Next stop: Cancun