Cuba: HOW ERNESTO ESCAPED ME (10)

The news these days were so disturbing. Reports on Irma hurricane 10 days ago rushing through Cuba glued me to TV screen for hours. The monster storm was tearing off roofs, wrecking the power grid and damaging crops for couple of days on the island, leaving Cuba in need for assistance. More than 10 people were killed, some of those beautiful old facades in Havana have collapsed, towns are left with no electricity and drinking water. Such a loss for this vibrant island!

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Here are some of the beautiful places in Cuba – Cienfuegos town

Irma is now gone and I hope that Cuban people will find the way once again to go through these harsh times. I have stumbled upon videos from Havana these days where people dance in the street surrounded by floods. Don’t you just admire the attitude! It’s like they have found the will to celebrate life once again, even in such conditions. It makes me so humble.

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Adorable architecture in Havana

These tragic events made me think of my trip to Cuba, made me remember all those wonderful things I have seen and friendly people I have encountered, and made me pleased that I was able to share the experience for the past few weeks. It reminded me that I have actually traveled to Cuba during the hurricane season, even though I was lucky enough not to witness anything close to Irma. Nowadays the story is even funny, having in mind that it ended well. This is my homage to Cuba after Irma, sharing few more photos of wonderful sites around the country, and hoping that life on the island will go back to normal soon!

And here’s the story.

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View of the Sancti Spiritus province

Strange weather

So, my plan was to go around the whole island while I was in Cuba few years ago. It’s not that close to head to the most eastern part of the island from Varadero, but I was willing to try and put couple of days into the trip. Already visited the central part of the island, Trinidad and Santa Clara, went to Havana few times (read more about those places in previous Glimpses), had few days left and I was eager to see if it was possible to go to Santiago de Cuba.

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Charming balconies in Santa Clara

The weather was strange with a lot of humidity, it was raining from time to time, but still hot (just as it usually is in August). Planned to stay in that evening and to go through the guide book I bought in Havana, left the TV on. Turned to English speaking channels to see the forecast.

And I didn’t move for another hour or so!

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Everyday life in Havana…

Hurricane, really?!

“The latest news”, the voice said: “Cuba is hit by the hurricane!” Excuse me?! The hurricane, really? Coming from central Europe, the only hurricane I have seen was the one in Hollywood movies! And it’s always devastating there, the worst it can get. Come again, the real hurricane?!

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…And in Cienfuegos

“Half of million Cubans were evacuated from the east part of the island”, it said again. It was one of those US news channels that you think the world will end right then and there, after seeing their reports. And I didn’t have any alternatives, didn’t understand Spanish! So, I was glued to the screen for most part of the night. Reports said the name of the hurricane was Ernesto, it did a lot of damage to Dominican Republic and it now came to Cuba. There was a footage on crushed houses, ripped out trees… “Will the Katrina disaster happen again, the one that took more than 1,200 lives…”

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Vibrant colors of the Old Town

What?! Katrina, really! For those of you who don’t remember, it was one tragic category 5 hurricane that hit the US in August 2005 and we all watched for a long time how devastating it was and how hard it was for people to go back to their lives afterwards. I did somewhat understand the panic on the news channel.

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Beautiful tower in central Cuba

“Call the embassy”

Didn’t sleep very well that night. Went to the lobby for a coffee and it seemed like a lot of people were leaving the hotel. “Can it be…”, I thought, “could it be related to Ernesto”. Went back to my room, listen to more news. “500.000 people left their homes in Cuba, hoping that Ernesto would weaken…” Turned off the TV, it’s better to go to the beach, “I’ll probably forget about it”.

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The pier of Havana was peaceful

The weather was nice, around 28 degrees, but a bit cloudy. I kept staring at those clouds. “Don’t know why I do that, I don’t even know how that hurricane leech forms”, it crossed my mind. But I was still staring. And it seemed that people were a bit nervous, leaving the beach.

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Looking up all the time

Okay, so I have decided not to leave the hotel that day, to follow the news reports and see what will happen with that Ernesto. I have remembered a lady with whom I have booked the trip back in Serbia, saying that “there is no need to be worried, but the hurricane season has begun”. (The season lasts from June to November, with the highest possibility for hurricanes in September and October.) She even gave me the phone number to Serbian embassy in Havana, but in Mexico City as well?!

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Spending time at the hotel

“Why Mexico City?”, I asked. “Well, you never know”, she said. What did she think, that I would swim to Mexico if Cuba was hit by hurricane, across the whole gulf! And then I might find the phone booth coming out of the water and just call the embassy?! Well, why not just swim back home instead, right!

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Strange looking clouds

People leaving…

Another night went by. My eyes got a bit red. Hesitated in the lobby, since I am not the person that panics that easily. Besides, I’m a journalist (even though in print media), I know how things are done is these situations and why those TV reports are so disturbing. But a lot of people were leaving, I was looking at them pulling their suitcases out. Still, Cubans who worked at the hotel were casual, calm as always. “Oh, who cares, just go there and ask!”

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It was all normal at the beach

So, I went up to a Cuban lady at the counter. “Why are all those people leaving?” “Their holiday is over.” “It doesn’t have anything to do with the hurricane?” “Oh, no, it’s fine, it’s still too weak.” (“Too weak and half of a million people were evacuated?”, I wanted to ask, but kept quite instead.) After a ton of questions, she explained that there is the regular evacuation plan in case of a hurricane and that all the guests would be transferred to Havana.

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Couldn’t take my eyes of the clouds

I thought about it for a minute and then said: “Okay, thank you for the info. May I just please ask one more thing? I understand that ‘women and children’, families come first. But could you just be so kind not to forget about me, since I am here alone?”

She smiled, I smiled back, blushed a bit.

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It will be fine after all

Cheers, Ernesto!

This was the second day I was spending entirely at the hotel. I had two more days left before going back home. There was no way to go to Santiago one way or another… Went to the room, turned that TV on again.

“Ernesto just got reduced to tropical storm, it got weakened while on the Cuban soil”, the voice stated. “You know what?”, I said out loud, turned off that TV and rushed out to the beach!

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Serene sunset after Ernesto was gone

Had a blast for those last few days, having mojitos by the pool, going to a beach party I was invited to by some crowd from Spain, swimming like crazy and trying to learn few rumba steps. Didn’t take another look at the TV screen! I have just danced away my last hours in Cuba, this wonderfully vibrant country.

Cheers to you, Ernesto, and farewell!

The End

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40 thoughts on “Cuba: HOW ERNESTO ESCAPED ME (10)

  1. Feeling sad about the hurricane Irma’s destruction in Cuba. it is a beautiful country. People are very bold and confident. The hurricane can’t destroy their attitude towards life.Thanks for sharing your experiences from Cuba.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Horrible what happened with hurricane Irma rushing over the Caribbean. Reminds me of my trip to Mexico years ago. You have this amazing time, everything is great, and than a massive hurricane ruins everything. It makes you go back to when you were there and hope everything is ok with the lovely people you met. Been to Cuba in 2009, absolutely loved it. Such a special country

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Glad your experience was not to bad. Hurricane season is scary. I live in Florida and we have the threat every year. Had to evacuate this year wth Irma. It is very sad to see how Mother Nature can totally devastate a region or country. Fortunately as you said the Cuban people have good spirit and they will survive yet and have stories to tell. Hoping everyone stayed safe.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, I’m so sorry that you had to evacuate because of Irma. Hope you and your family are okay! ❤
      It must be stressful to live in a range of the hurricane, to actually have the hurricane season. I can't even imagine. You must be so courageous!

      Like

  4. I smiled at this – it’s funny how locals always see these events differently having lived through it a lot. I’m glad you got to enjoy Cuba for another couple of days and avoided a hurricane! It’s so sad about the devastation of Irma – I hope all the islands can recover and persevere!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It’s funny how we sometimes get attached to the places we visit as a tourist, when something bad happens there we feel directly touched even if it all happens on the other side of the world. I felt the same when the big 2007 earthquake hit Peru. Unfortunately it’s not the first nor the last hurricane to hit the West Indies but I know that humans are always brave enough to stand up, rebuild everything and get their life back to normal. I have never been to Cuba but it seems really special, I hope to find this special atmosphere when I eventually visit it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can only imagine what it was like to watch the earthquake damage in Peru on TV and to wonder what happened with all the people you’ve met…
      But I guess it says a lot about the country and its people when you take such memories and worry as if they were your own family, right! You’ll have the same feeling when you get to Cuba. 🙂

      Like

  6. What a wonderful love story of Cuba. I’m glad you could dance your troubles away, and that your ordeal turned out to be a false alarm, but I feel so devastated about all the recent destruction and clearly so do you. It is a fascinating country.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. My heart broke as I followed the devastation that Irma caused, everything in me wanted to tell everyone to secure their homes and get out. I live in the Whitsundays in Queensland, Australia and we copped a direct hit from a cat 4 cyclone earlier this year. It was one of the most awful experiences of my life. And absolutely nothing could be done because storms like that, well they are so unpredictable, we kind of just had to take it.

    Anyways, I am super pleased your adventure worked out well for you and you had a great time. I know it will always hold a special place in your heart. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, I’m so sorry that you had to go through those cyclones! ❤
      Carola said it, it's easy for us foreigners to come and go. The hard part is to endure all the trouble the storm brings. And to stay safe, and sane!
      Thanks, Anna, take care!

      Like

  8. Lucky! But I think your experience shows one thing: as foreigners we usually have to worry a lot less as hotels are providing help to get through storms and embassies are there to help you get out. I guess most locals are less lucky.

    Happy continued travels!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hehehe, you’re so right. This funny experience did change my perspective. The best thing is definitely to travel and learn, not to be that susceptible to screen influences, whether it’s the news or the movies. 😀

      Like

  9. It’s so sad what has happened to Cuba and many countries recently due to the hurricanes. Very scary. I enjoyed reading your story 🙂 Glad Ernesto dialed it back and you were able to enjoy the rest of your trip. You’re right, the US news channels do make it feel like the world is ending!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. This is a heartening homage Daniella 🙂 To the vibrant island, to its brave people and in their indomitable spirit! 🙂 It is so colourful, its architecture, streets, a carnival like attitude and those beaches!! Stunning. Great pictures and I love your account 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I had a similar situation last year when I was traveling to the Caribbean during Hurricane Matthew. I was so panicked, but it ended up being fine (at least where I was). However, I feel for those it did hit and I am more apprehensive about traveling during hurricane season now.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. It is really sad that a country as beautiful as Cuba is constantly sent back in self repair mode due to Atlantic hurricanes. I come from a regular storm hit area of India and I totally feel the plight of people there. Good for you that the hurricane weakened and you were safe. Hope Cuba is able to come out of the doomed days Irma has caused recently.
    BTW Beautiful pictures 🙂

    -Vaisakhi

    Liked by 1 person

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