I went to Cuba in November, a 9-day photography group tour. Our itinerary took us to Havana, Viñales and Trinidad. I flew from Perth to Sydney, Sydney to Miami (entering the US via San Francisco), spent four days in Miami, then joined the group at Miami International Airport to catch our American Airlines flight to Havana, Cuba.
I had been on a number of photography tours before, but this one proved somewhat challenging; the group dynamic never really got comfortable, thanks to the constant clash of incompatible personalities. I suppose that’s the risk you take when you don’t choose your travel companions. I didn’t let that spoil my trip though; I enjoyed the photography and food, and our local Cuban guides were excellent. I had paid the single supplement to ensure I had my own room and relished my time alone at the end of each day.
In Havana, we stayed at the four-star 25-floor Hotel Tryp Habana Libre, in a neighbourhood called Vedado. The most memorable aspect of my stay at the Habana Libre was the shonky lifts/elevators. Although there were six lifts, it seemed only one would ever be functioning at any time. This proved problematic every morning when guests needed to use the lift to go for breakfast at the restaurant on the second floor. By the time the single working lift reached me on the 16th floor, it would be full, and I’d have to wait for another (well, that very same lift making its way back through all the floors where more people were waiting to get down to the restaurant). No joke, one morning it took me half an hour to get down to breakfast – that’s because I waited much too long for the lift to have sufficient space for me to squeeze on, and then gave up and took the stairs so I wouldn’t miss having breakfast before our group’s first scheduled activity.
Hilariously, the numbering of floors was not consistent across all the lifts, so on my first morning, I pressed the button in the lift for ‘2’ – only to realise too late that ‘2’ in that particular lift did not represent the second floor (I took the stairs the rest of the way). On another occasion, even though I’d pressed the button marked 16, the lift stopped at the 15th floor – which I again realised too late (yep, I took the stairs).
Checking out was another ordeal. Lugging my suitcase down the stairs from the 16th floor was not an option – so just imagine multiple hotel guests, all with luggage, competing for the space in one lift that stops at every floor going down from level 25. And of course, we’d all had the same idea to check out well ahead of time… disaster!
I must also mention that at certain times of the day, not usually at breakfast traffic time, there would be a lovely lady sitting on a chair in the lift – an old-fashioned lift operator who would greet you, ask “What floor, please?” and press the button for you.
We were in Havana for three nights. In Old Havana, the decaying, crumbling buildings were striking subjects to photograph. I enjoyed the time we spent walking around and would’ve happily done this for a few more days. I felt like there was so much more I could’ve photographed. Below are my favourite shots from Havana.
Since returning home, friends and family have asked if I was in Cuba when Fidel Castro died. I missed it by a day – I found out about Castro’s death when I switched on the TV in my room at the Hilton Miami Airport Hotel where I spent one last night before starting my journey back to Australia.
My Cuba series
I went to Cuba in November 2016, on a photography group tour.