With a fascinating history, provocative architecture, dazzling beaches, tropical landscapes, a colourful culture and impassioned people, Cuba is one of those exotic countries that has all the vital ingredients for exciting travel. Throw in some Spanish colonial charm and some cool 1950’s cars and you have one very alluring destination. There is so much to see on this Caribbean island you would need months to really engross yourself in it. We only had three weeks to explore after Havana and made the most of it by visiting a combination of towns, beaches and rural areas to understand the essence of the real Cuba.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to jump back in time? Look no further than Cuba, the mysterious and controversial country where in 1959 the clock literally stopped. While the world progressed into a sophisticated hi-tech future, Cuba came to a halt. Technology, architecture, business, and infrastructure ceased to develop, the people almost virtually shut out from the rest of the world. As one of the last remaining Socialist States in the world, Cuba is a curious country with stringent living conditions and oppressive regulations under the rigorous totalitarian rule of their omnipotent leaders Fidel and Raul Castro. No where else in the world will you find predominantly original 1950’s cars on the road, antiquated stores to shop in, and an an eclectic array of pre-1960’s architecture slowly decaying as the world moves forward and Cuba stands still. Havana is the pulsating political and cultural capital of this extraordinary country, and a haven for absorbing and learning about this unusual communist world.
If you hadn’t already noticed we love boats. During our journey around South America we caught a whopping sixteen, six of which were long distance. It would be no surprise then that when we realized we were venturing to Panama we would jump on the opportunity to watch ginormous hulks of floating steel navigate their way through a very narrow canal. The Panama Canal is one of the world’s most enduring engineering feats. Masses of earth were exhumed from the jungle to form this 80km transit channel linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. There is more concrete and steel in this thing than you can begin to imagine, and the logistics that are required to run this operation are astounding. And what made our visit to the Canal even more exciting was that Mickey and Minnie Mouse were there!
A seed had been sown in our brains many months back to sail between the South American and North American continents through the Caribbean Sea from Cartagena in Colombia to Portobelo in Panama, stopping at picture-postcard islands along the way. An opportunity we just could not pass up. Our trip was to be made on the majestic Mintaka, a German sailing yacht. The Mintaka set sail from it’s homeland of Germany 21 years ago and has been sailing the oceans ever since. The owners of the yacht, Manfred and Petra, were to be our Captain, crew and guides for the next four days of sailing through paradise. As we hoisted the main sheet and rolled out the jib, our last sight of South America slipped out of view with the flickering lights of Cartagena fading in the distance in the dark of night.