Today we did another Airbnb experience with Alejandro. He took us to a protected region about forty minutes east of Havana. Wow. It was beautiful.
Along the drive we saw a community Cuba built to house and treat victims of the Chernobyl disaster. Cuba has done some really great things for others.
We arrived near a river that flowed to the sea and we had to walk across that water to get to our hiking path. Some of us were anxious about drowning, others were anxious about making sure they had their phone for photos. I’ll let you decide who was who.
It was a fairly easy hike to where we would snorkel. It was clear and we saw lots of sea life in the reef.
After our return hike we walked to a home, in the country, for lunch. The food was fabulous and the hosts were so friendly.
Our tour guide (left) was a doctor and our driver (right) was a lawyer. All Cubans make roughly the same amount of money from government jobs (pretty much all of their work because…communism) which equates to around $33 per month. They love USD since it has more value and those dollars come from tourists so many find side-gigs in the industry.
Let’s talk about money and the Cuban peso (CUP). American credit cards do not work in Cuba so you have to bring cash. It is stressful preparing a budget when you are not sure how much things will cost.
The CUP has very little value so Cubans want USD. You can exchange USD for CUP at the government rate of 110 ($10 = 0.09 CUP) or find someone to illegally exchange at a higher rate (from 150 to 170). CUP is accepted at government places and USD at private businesses. But how do you know which is which and how much to convert? You don’t. It is a constant game of “do I have enough money left” and “do I need to exchange more”. Thankfully we all worked together to maximize our exchange rates and make sure we didn’t leave Havana with CUP as it is useless in the US.
When I was at the gate Paradis texted “Parker and I forgot to ask if you could get any Cuban currency but it looks like you fly out this morning!” So I “did a deal” at the airport.
We ended the day with our tour group having dinner and going to the Buena Vista Social Club, which pays homage to the original club that was a blacks-only members-only club where Cuban music exploded.
We returned to our casa, which had a Restaurant below, to have pizza waiting for us thanks to the lovely Massiel who worked there. Did I say Cubans are lovely people?