Sunday, 17 October 2010

The Cuban Pisshead Crisis

In June of 2002, I planned a trip to Cuba with my young reprobate of a brother.  Since he was living in London and I in New York (no direct flights permitted to Cuba) we decided we would rendezvous in the Bahamas where we could spend a few nights and continue the short hop, skip and a jump to Castro-land from there.

I arrived in the Bahamas first and junior was scheduled to arrive the following morning. When he was a no show 4 hours after his expected E.T.A, I bought some international phone cards and eventually tracked him down on his phone to hear his 'tale of woe' of how he 'left his jacket in a nightclub' (for the 65th time!) and said jacket had his feckin' passport in the inside pocket..........but not to worry he had already been to the Irish Embassy to get an emergency replacement passport which involved having to submit a police report.  But not to worry as he had already re-booked his flight and would arrive 24 hours later than originally planned.....or would he?!

When he was a no show 4 hours after his rescheduled E.T.A, I eventually tracked him down on his phone to hear yet another 'tale of woe' of how he was afraid he'd miss his flight if he went to bed so he stayed out on the town all night and in his frazzled state he could no longer recollect where he had left his replacement passport.......but not to worry he had already been to the Irish Embassy (where the warm Irish welcome was more like frost n' hail) to get another emergency replacement passport which involved having to submit another police report and likely getting him added as a suspect for selling passports.  But not to worry as he had already re-booked his flight and would arrive 24 hours later than the 24 hours later than originally planned.....or would he?!.....Well, yes, in fact he did finally arrive at our hotel where I hurled a torrent, nay a tsunami of verbal abuse that left an indelible impression on him ....for at least 3 minutes and was promptly forgotten / ignored.

The passport saga was not quite over just yet but I'll save that for the post script.

After a final night in the Bahamas we headed to the airport and boarded an ancient rattle n' rust bucket, propeller plane to Havana. I withdrew 800 dollars from an ATM just before takeoff.  The ATM only dispensed Bahamian dollars but these were 1 to 1 to the USD so not an issue as far as I was concerned.  Junior had forgotten to advise his bank he was out of the country so they had cancelled his card due to suspicious activity.  We were in a prepaid all-inclusive resort in Varadero, North West Cuba for the first 3 nights and the last 3 nights in Old Havana where again the hotel had been prepaid.

Cuba was cheap and it was only on our second last night I needed to tap into my reserve of Bahamian dollars. We must have tried 20 different money exchange places but nobody wanted anything to do with Bahamian dollars.  All my cards were issued out of the US and therefore not accepted in Castro-ville.  Shuttle to the airport was included with the hotel so we just needed booze tokens... oh yeah and food...maybe.  We were literally up socialist alley without a peso (almost).  Somehow we had to survive for 48 hours on about u$d15 each.  Easy for a local but not Irish tourists looking for craic!.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.  So for u$d8 each we availed of an 8am tour of Old Havana (one has to immerse oneself in the culture - doesn't one?) which included a tour of the Havana Rum distillery.  After abusing the samples table including a mint flavored rum (akin to mouthwash) we were eventually ushered out by security for being a tad over zealous breakfast imbibers.

On our last night in Cuba we felt the cold hard reality of socialism.  We had just enough money to buy 2 cans of beer and share a toasted sandwich before going to bed at 8pm. However, we had endured, we had overcome - Viva la Revolucion!    

....and what of the last detail of the passport saga? - I hear you ask.....Well when Junior finally arrived in the Bahamas after losing his passport twice, his bags had gone AWOL on route and when they showed up 24 hours later, there in his suitcase was the original 'lost' passport, where he had stashed it for safe keeping. (not in his misplaced jacket pocket as he had thought)

Tags: .The Cuban Pisshead Crisis..

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Baino October 18, 2010 11:57 pm  

YOu have no idea how good this tale of woe makes me feel. Having lost my passport in Florence via the theft of my camera bag, I feel a bit jipped,at least babybro had a shitload of fun in between!

Quickroute October 19, 2010 7:50 pm  

@ Baino: I know - some people seem to walk on feckin' water

nick October 21, 2010 4:28 am  

An unusual trip to Cuba to say the least. Joining the tour that included the rum distillery was a stroke of genius. But you must have eaten more than a toasted sandwich?

Fortunately I've never mislaid or forgotten my passport. My grim-faced serial-killer photograph is always ready for inspection.

Quickroute October 21, 2010 7:16 pm  

@ Nick: - We seriously ate no solids for a couple o' days - but isn't fasting next to Godliness or something like that...

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