Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Every year, as soon as it gets marginally cold outside, I start frantically planning summer vacations. Camping trips, Hillside trips, cottage trips, whatever I can plan that reminds me warm whether is on the way. About this time last year, all I really wanted was a really really warm trip in the middle of the winter, but it wasn't exactly financially feasible at the time. So I saved up and in December, Doug and I along with our friends Sean and Amy booked a trip to Cuba for this past week.
Obligatory water romance shot.
Weather wise, Cuba was everything I wanted in my winter vacation: hot and sunny with a nice comfortable breeze at night. Scenery wise, it was perfect. I spent little to no time lying on the beautiful white sand beaches, but I can attest to their beauty. The water was crystal clear, super warm, and perfect for lots of swimming, snorkeling, paddle boat picnics, and the occasional wave surfing.
Bonus: there was a crew of 3 resort cats who hung around the restaurants and snack bars waiting to be fed. This guy was especially cavalier about scoring himself a leftover hamburger.
We split our time in Cuba doing the usual run of the mill free resort offering type things, but also trying to get off the beaten track a little bit with some trips to Havana, meals at local Cuban restaurants, and by generally making our own fun. I have to save the Havana photos for a separate post, because it was an experience in itself. Amy quickly discovered she was super down with the resort-offered Cabaret shows, so we saw a few more of these than I actually care to admit. Butts!
One of the things we knew we wanted to do on arrival was some deep sea fishing. Scheduling it was a little bit harder than you would think though, because our resort didn't have a single working phone. It wasn't one of the regular excursions they offer, so we had to take a taxi down to the marina, find a Cuban named Vladimir who hooked us up, and just cross our fingers that there would actually be someone waiting to take us fishing three days later when we arrived.
Success! We went out for five hours and spent most of the time trying to casually dump our Cuba Libres (Rum and Coke) into the ocean when our guide wasn't looking. Ok, that wasn't everyone. That was mostly me and Amy. I know that sounds like a terrible waste, but I kept refusing them and he kept filling up my glass with 95% rum and then a splash of coke. It was also 9am. Every time this guy made poured a round of five drinks, he emptied one entire bottle of rum. He also always poured the first bit of a new bottle into the ocean, in honor of those who had been lost at sea.
Anyway, fishing. We hoped to catch some Wahoo or Marlin, but there wasn't much success on that front. We did catch three barracudas, and when the first one bit my line I promptly starting screaming, almost threw my camera overboard, and basically freaked out until I had reeled the guy in and he was in the boat. Our guide wanted me to take a picture holding it, but I wouldn't go near that thing (those teeth!!!) until it was dead. Doug is much braver than I am.
This day was one of the best of the trip. Not only did we catch those fish above, but while we were out in the shallow waters I thought I spotted some dolphins off in the distance. As we slowly drove the boat in that direction, we all spotted them again and realized they weren't dolphins, but MANATEES. We saw at least 4 of them grazing along, descending to the bottom of the shallow waters, eating some sea grass, and then popping back up to say hello. We all stopped fishing to follow them for a good 10-20 minutes, and I never stopped being ridiculously amazed. Even our guide, someone who has been fishing those waters for 20+ years, had never seen a manatee before. Sea Cows for life.
You know what else happened that day? I got stung by a Portuguese Man O War in the ocean. Lucky for me it wasn't a serious sting. I probably just got hit by one stray tentacle or something as it was washing up to shore, so it only got my knee and it just stung enough to be uncomfortable for a few hours, but not enough to hurt. Basically, it stung enough to be awesome.
Truth be told, I actually saw the thing in the shallow waters, mistook it for some lovely sea anemone, and tried to follow it. Please make your awards for brilliance out to Jane LaBatte.
This, combined with the barracudas and the manatees made this day one of the most amazing ones of my life. MAN O WAR, YO.
(Public service announcement: Don't pee on Jelly Fish or Man O War stings. For some reason everybody, including me, thought this was the solution, AND IT AINT)
(Disclaimer: no one peed on me)