Cuba is very much like the land that time forgot. Our memories will be that of people who are humble and content yet yearn for a chance to move on.
Surprisingly Cubans enjoy excellent health and have the 2nd highest literacy rate in the world. By contrast, Canada, USA, and 22 other countries are tied @ 18th place.
The political system has to rank as one of the most confusing that I have encountered in my travels. Cuba is certainly a socialist country but quite different from the “traditional” Soviet style of communism that most of us are familiar with.
While it is true that the Government owns almost everything (including businesses) and everyone is employed by the Government, Cubans are encouraged to excel and no limits are placed on ability to earn extra income in the “free market”. Essentially, if you produce more than your quota you can sell the surplus for cash. Farmers (especially tobacco farmers) appear to be in the 2nd best position to do so. We learned that the quotas are reasonable and can easily be exceeded with determined effort. The most financially rewarding occupation, by far, is the tourism/hospitality (tips) profession. Cubans can, and do, own land and houses.
Of special interest during the time of our visit (January 2008) was that Cubans were expecting to hear that Fidel Castro would be formally announcing his retirement any moment. Tour Highlights An in-depth exploration of Cuba, past and present. We travel the length of the island, taking time to visit magnificent colonial towns and explore the beautiful countryside on foot to appreciate the glorious mountain and coastal scenery. On the way we'll learn about Cuba's history, and feel the pulse of Cuba today.
Old Havana & the Caribbean Havana, the Cuban capital and a World Heritage site, boasts some of the most impressive architecture in the Caribbean. We'll explore the colonial quarter, wander its narrow streets and have time to visit the Museum of the Revolution. Then we drive to the Zapata Peninsula, before visiting the infamous Bay of Pigs. There's time to enjoy the sleepy town of Trinidad where faded, painted houses and quiet streets reflect the laid-back atmosphere, and take a boat out to Cayo Blanco, to explore the reef.
Topes de Collantes National Park Next we head into the mountains to Topes de Collantes National Park, where we camp within the walls of two haciendas. Time is spent walking and exploring this wild area, enjoying the remoteness and highland views of this hidden corner of Cuba. We'll swim in waterfalls and walk forest trails, hoping to catch a glimpse of tiny hummingbirds and perhaps the Tocororo - the national bird of Cuba.
Che Guevara's Mountain Retreat After exploring colonial Camaguey, we make an exciting journey by bus and jeeps into the wild terrain of the high Sierra Maestra, where Fidel Castro and Che Guevara took refuge at La Comandancia de la Plata before mounting the Revolution. Heading towards Santiago de Cuba, there is time perhaps to take in the lively local music scene and try the famous rum in one of the roof-top bars! Finally we head back east to Viñales via Santa Clara; the site of Ché's Mausoleum. In Viñales we admire the dramatic scenery of steep limestone peaks rising from the valley floor - a fitting finale to our Cuban adventure.