Before the getaway, the sights, a new culture and my first real mojito, there was one name that really stood out: Ernest Hemingway. And in as little as one week, it became apparent why the author fell in love with Cuba and spent years of his life there.
In a way, my first experiences with the country were like a of rights of passage. And perhaps too cheekily, my copy of The Sun Also Rises went everywhere I did during my time in Santa Maria. But a part from losing myself in some light reading , escapism was a large aspect of my vacation. Here is a summary of the special highlights while I got away from it all:
Day 1- Making new friends has already begun to set in. At breakfast, I sat next to my new companion Avril, a woman I met on the plane and later, we were on a bus to the same resort. Today, she told me all about the latest to join our group, which was the crab scratching on her hotel room door. Affectionately, we took it upon ourselves to name them 'crabby.' Later, we spent the rest of the day lazing around the beach. It is gorgeous and the people and climate are even warmer. But before dinner, Crabby made another appearance. This time, we crossed paths on the road to the restaurant. They scurried away before I could bid them a good evening.
Today was also orientation day at the Royal Hideaway and the three (or should I say four of us?) are booked for an excursion to spend a day on the catamaran later this week. Can't wait for it, or to try the snorkeling here. I'm also told we will get to interact with dolphins during a visit to the aquarium.
Day 2- I woke up a few times in the middle of the night and picturing myself back home. Then, it dawned on me, in mid-sleep just how real my time is here. I'm here, it's actually happening. I continued repeating it in my head, almost like a mantra. Not too much else happened today. Mainly enjoyed spending some time on my own by the pool.
Day 3- Found yet another visitor right outside my room. A male cat, this time. I've been referring to him as 'Rodrigo' ever since. Don't know why, except I think it is a Cuban name. Tonight, I walked down to the beach after sun set and gazed at the stars. Never have I witnessed something so striking in my entire life, or felt so small. Tried to see some shooting stars, but it was too cloudy. And then, cue the rain (which was also followed by thunder). The sight was well worth getting soaked for and to catch a glimpse of the lightning (as I ran back), making its streaks across the sky and on the water.
Days 4, 5, 6- At sea today (in a manner of speaking). Our first stop on the catamaran was to pay the dolphins a visit. What gracious animals they were, as I stole a kiss on the cheek from them. Later, we enjoyed a lobster lunch, followed by some snorkeling. The guide explained to us that Cuba boasts one of the world's largest barrier reefs, next to Australia. In a single day, I am amazed at how many once in a lifetime experiences I was able to participate in. The rest of my days in Cuba were spent chatting up salsa dancers, failing at attempting to dance the salsa and getting to know some of the staff who made my stay an unforgettable one. And in a flash, it was time to leave. But this is the beauty of travel. No matter how much you want to stay, you may always resolve to come back.
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