Mary Miro (Casa Mary), the lady who had helped arrange my stay with Loly, met me this morning – to go through my itinerary for the rest of Cuba. This is not my usual style of travelling; I prefer spontaneity and flexibility. However, Mary had warned me that seats with the bus company that tourists can use (Viazul) get booked up quickly, as do good Casa Particulares. She strongly recommended that I book things in advance as much as possible. The volume of tourists now visiting Cuba is outstripping the country’s ability to deal with them!
Trying to carry out research in Cuba is difficult. Internet access is extremely limited. Sure, top-notch hotels offer access. But for your average Cuban (and me) the only place you’re normally going to get access is in a Plaza. It’s easy to find out when there is internet access – just check out the number of people looking at their phones.
Prior to arriving in Cuba, I agonised for days about the places I wanted to visit. I scoured the internet, looked at the recommendations of my guidebook, and checked out the itinerary of various tour companies. In the end a plan came together. My original plan had been to travel the breadth of the country from west to east. After careful consideration I decided that this would mean my visit to Cuba would mainly consist of sitting on a bus. Better to focus on a smaller area and take my time.
Mary arrived at precisley 9am with a bag full of maps, and two A4 pages of hand written notes: the names of casa particulares, in each of the places I was planning to visit, which incidently she had pre booked, contact names, addresses, and telephone numbers.
The next thing to do was to buy my bus tickets. There is only one Viazul office in Havana and thankfully it was within walking distance of Casa de Loly. The que was relatively small when I arrived – only about 4 people. But I had to stand there for an hour – everybody appeared to have the same idea as me – to book their tickets in advance to guarantee a seat. It took about half an-hour to sort out my tickets – 6 separate journeys costing £75.00 in total.
Next stage: Day three in Havana.