I especially like islands in the sun. I’ve just come back from Crete, where I love the warmth of the local people, the sunshine, swimming in turquoise seas, fresh figs from the trees, and relaxing in good company over simple food and wine in a country taverna. Have I forgotten to mention that I love the walking, too? A hidden mulepath leading to a hermit’s cave, a stony path down a splendid gorge, or a gentle stroll through olive groves or along the coast.
Right now I’m off to another island in the sun, Cuba, another of my very favourite places. I look forward to waking up on the very first morning with a breathtaking view of Vinales valley, then meeting our local guide Rolando or Julio for a walk through this strange landscape where oxen plough the fields and men ride horseback, as motor vehicles are scarce. If we are lucky we may be invited into a farmer’s house to eat fresh pineapple or grapefruit, or try home-grown coffee.
Another highlight for me is a riverside walk near the heritage city Trinidad. The walk ends at a waterfall, and the greatest thrill of all is to swim upriver behind the waterfall into a huge cavern, where staligtites and cascading water catch the sunlight from outside. Higher up in the Escambray mountains I’m looking forward to a slightly more strenuous walk, ending at the atmospheric plantation house and garden of Finca Codina.
I enjoy the variety of our tour in Cuba. Baracoa in the far east is by far the poorest place, and can look rundown and shabby, but the music is a real treat, and the people, however young or old, can outdance even other Cubans. Then, at the end of the trip, Havana amazes me every time. Just wandering through the streets of Old Havana gives countless glimpses into the lives of people living in a very different world from our own.
I have learned to enjoy the unexpected in Cuba. I have done the tour so many times, and it’s never the same twice. The surprises are part of the attraction.