Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Cuba. Cruising along the Malecon, Havana

Cruising along the Malecon in the back of a red V8 cadillac.  Ok, so it's a bit like taking a gondola ride in Venice (except gondolas have been cruising the canals for centuries): it's a very touristy thing to do!  But, hey, it's fun.  Yes, you're going to feel like you've been fleeced but once the haggling over price is done, sit back and enjoy the ride because you'll probably only do it once in your life. Unlike this cool guy who owns the car with his brother and knows every inch of pothole and tarmac along the Malecon like the back of his hand.
El Malecon is Havana's face to the sea, a long esplanade that calls to Havanans and tourists alike to come stroll, dream and watch the ships drift by into port.  This morning a one-legged man is doing his daily press ups on the sea wall, and a turkey vulture is scavenging along the coastline.  The early morning sun is warm, the cream leather seats cool.  The sky is the colour of my favourite delphinium and a group of pelicans is gliding through its cloudless expanse.  It's a moment of sheer privilege.

This is one of the car 'pimps': the guys who sell the rides in these beautiful cars.  They are stationed on Parque Central which is, in many ways, the tourist hub of Havana with its suite of large, expensive hotels.  The price of the ride depends on the type of car you want, the circuit you want to drive, and, probably, how brisk business is.  It is always possible to negotiate on price and you don't have to choose one of the fixed circuits on offer.  You can make up your own. We drove along the Malecon and over to 'El Morro', the Old Fort on the other side of the harbour.

At present, it will cost you at least 25 CUCs to spend an hour in the company of one of these 1950s supermodels.  It's difficult to begrudge the money.  Cubans have kept all of these 1950s cars on the road with what little money they had and a vast investment of energy, ingenuity and sheer determination when parts -  any parts, let alone the right ones - were virtually impossible to find.

There are cheaper ways to cruise the Malecon: in the open-topped red tourist bus, in a 1950s 'ordinary' taxi, either shared or as a private hire, in a cocotaxi, on a bicitaxi, or, - always a great option -, on your own two feet.  Then you can stop and look at everything you fancy.      

Looking back at the Malecon from 'El Morro', the Old Fort (Castillo de los tres Reyes del Morro)  
Kelly x

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