A grand storm in the city

“Ooooooooo! Un aguacero grande esta afuera!!!” Captain Cool calledwith excitement from the cockpit. It means that a big thunderstorm is coming. I was in our cabin reading and I popped my head out the hatch to have a look. The sky in the east was black as night. I put my sarong on and went outside to watch the storm approach. 

True sailors know about the weather. We live on our boats full time therefore we are constantly aware of the clouds and what they may bring. We often have an unobstructed view as we wander off to places far from buildings, allowing us to see what’s coming from afar. It’s also a safety factor. If we’re sailing and a big storm cloud is approaching, it’s time to reef the sails and baton down the hatches. If you’re on anchor, time to get to your boat if you aren’t already on it and make sure your boat doesn’t drag or another boat doesn’t drag and hit yours. 

I’ve always been fascinated by storms. I remember the magnificent Wisconsin storms of my childhood. When they happened in the middle of the night, I used to throw the covers over my head and wait for my Mom to come in and close the window. Meanwhile I would poke my head out to watch the brilliant flash of light as it illuminated my room. The roar of thunder used to scare me into a giggle. When I learned how to calculate how close a storm was by the delay in between lightening and thunder, I would sit and count. I was scared, but in the watching a scary movie kind of way. 

Last July our boat was struck by lightening. Luckily no one was hurt. I’m still not scared by lightening. I find this marvel of Mother Nature a great cleansing and re-energiser. For there is an incredible amount of energy needed to create that wonderful light and drum show. 

When we were sure the storm was coming, CC rode over to a friend’s boat, who was in the city, to close his hatches. I went around ours and closed all the hatches. Just before CC came back, the rain approached. On the east side of the boat, the rain was beating hard and on the west side an intense light show was happening. CC went in to turn off the electrics. The rain came pouring down and I shouted at with him excitement to quick come out to the cockpit. He stripped down to his boxer shorts and we hugged each other for some warmth. The rain was cold against our bare hot skin and as we looked at each other, we giggled like small children. 

The marina in Cartagena is in a bay with sky rises on either side. This offers some protection from lightening and creates a beautiful sound environment. The thunder rumbled deep and loud, so much I could feel the vibrations through my body. The claps of thunder lasted maybe 15 seconds and when they stopped, the city played it’s own symphony of security and car alarms. I smiled and soaked in the beauty of the orchestra of thunder, the light display of the lightening and the cleansing cold beat of the rain on my skin. The sky was giving me a beautiful display!

The rain came harder and as I looked in the marina, the wind gusts and rain were making white shapes in the form of sheets. It looked as though they were floating over the bay. The boats 100 meters from us could barely be seen as they swung around in all directions from the strong winds. 

I looked at all the boats around us. The boat next to ours is someone we’ve known for a while, he too was enjoying the storm outside. We all put our arms up to the sky and shouted “Woo hoo!” and laughed. There was a guy on another boat in his speedos taking a shower in the rain. Another boat had a clear rain cover around the cockpit and three guys were inside watching the show warm and dry. A couple of other boats had people in their rain gear scooping the water out from their dinghy’s to prevent them from sinking. It was so great to see so many people out in the rain. 

As I stood with a huge grin shivering in the cold beating of the rain, I couldn’t help but enjoy this moment. I thought how great it was to have this privilege to act like a child even though my childhood is so far gone. I was in disbelief in how a community like this exists. Where people embrace the rain, not complain or hide from it because god forbid their hair gets ruined. I have chosen a lifestyle where we take advantage of everything nature gives us, challenging or beautiful. Mostly I was grateful that I have chosen a lifestyle where I can play like a child because I know that when I am ready to go, I will sit back, close my eyes, remember my life and enter a new plane with a satisfactory giggle. How beautifu life is when you focus on the good of every situation!



Settling back home

My blog entries aren’t in real time because I didn’t publish anything in Cuba, but I kept writing. I’ve been back for two weeks now and they have been action packed!

I returned to trusty old Trade Wins (still don’t like the name!) and despite Captain Cool telling me he hadn’t lived there in the last two and a half months, I was still shocked to see the state it was in. It was like a ghost town! There was no life, the salt of the sea had helped itself to our home as it does when there is no one to keep up maintenance. CC had packed away all the books and homely items that we had out. He had even taken all of the spices with him to the new boat. I was anxious to make it feel occupied again, so I took out a few of my things, including the picture my cousin’s daughter drew for me, and put them in their usual place. 

CC and I had a very happy, enthusiastic and romantic reunion. I was so happy to be back home that I said no to any suggestions of going out to the city. It had been three months since I felt relaxed and like I had a home. I wasn’t going to leave so soon!

I won’t go into detail because our relationship isn’t the subject of this blog, but we talked for days about lots of things. Lots of things changed internally for both of us and we both commented on the new and clean energy that the other brought. I was relieved. All doubts I had in Panama about how things would go, were swept away to the sea (pun intended!). 

One thing we talked about was the new boat that we were going to be working on. CC told me before I came that things weren’t going as planned. Then the owner made a decision for us and said the boat had been sold so CC should get all of his stuff. We were relieved. For one second I was disappointed that the yoga/sail charters were going to be put off again, but I know now to trust the universe. I’ve called out my intentions and so far they have always been listened to, even if it’s years later. I know they will be answered when the time is right. There’s no need to stress and be disappointed. It only wastes energy and shortens my healthy life span!

The second day, I got my much anticipated haircut by Cecilia, the best hairdresser in the world! She recognised me and asked where I had been. In fact, the marina staff gave me a warm smiling welcome which shocked me since they never even did that once in the year I lived here! I guess CC wasn’t the only person to realise what he had until it was gone…

I was quickly approached to do some work with another charter company. I went without asking the pay first as I didn’t think they could possibly pay as low as they did. I did two overnight charters with them and refused their next offer of a three night charter. I found the pay insulting for what they asked me to do (deckhand, chef and translator). I believe I should respect myself enough to be valued for my work. Well, of course, what do I know? Water coming up from the bottom of the floor while we’re sailing, surely couldn’t signify that something was wrong. Being shouted at like I was some stupid idiot when I reported this really wasn’t worth the $2 I made that hour. I only gloated on the inside when we got to the anchorage and he discovered there was a leak in the fresh water system. A shame he didn’t listen to me when I first reported the leak. We would still have had water for our guests who paid a fortune to take the charter! 

I said hello to all my friends that were in port and reported a short summary of my sailing adventures. It felt good to see familiar faces and converse in Spanish again. They were surprised my Spanish was still so good after living with English speakers for so long!

I could go on and on, but really the whole point of this entry is how wonderfully things can change and stay the same at the same time. You know which change made the most impact? Me and my attitude. I made myself a promise that wherever I chose to go, I go to settle. I go to enjoy the moment and take in the opportunities that are around me. Those opportunities may take me away again, but I no longer live as though there is something better out there I desperately need to find. I know there is, it will come when I’m ready and not when I’m stressing out about finding it. 

I came with a warm relaxed open heart and CC received me with the same. We have both done some deep soul searching and made meaningful life changes. Some people may argue this can’t happen in three months, that’s fine. I’ve spent nearly my whole life soul searching and am well practiced. Maybe things will change again, that’s great. A static life is a forced life because in my opinion, it was never meant to be lived that way. The ebb and flow of nature demonstrates this daily. 

As so many spiritual figures say, yesterday and tomorrow don’t exist. The only thing that exists is this moment. That’s exactly what I’m doing this time around. I am enjoying the new relationship CC and I have. I am enjoying the community of Cartagena that I have chosen to make my new home for as long as it lasts. I am grateful I don’t have a big ego to make me too proud to give it another chance. I am open and excited to see what beautiful challenges and opportunities the universe is going to show me. After all, it directed me back here again. 

Reflections while crossing the Panama Canal 

It’s 6.30 in the morning and I’m sitting in a hammock on Kapowai inside the Panama Canal. No one on the boat is awake yet and I have some “quiet” time to reflect on life. The dredgers have been working all night long, which is why I haven’t slept very well. I’m watching all the cars line up and go across the one way bridge as the shift change happens on the other side of the canal. 

I can’t help but think how incredible it is I’m here. I’m inside the Panama Canal! To some it means nothing, to others they would kill for this experience. In fact, a lot of people died and risked their health to build this canal. It’s an incredibly impressive piece of work and as we entered, I took a minute to thank all of those who survived and didn’t, for building this. It really is in the middle of the jungle and far from anything. In the early 1900’s, they didn’t have all the fancy machines we have now. As Captain Mom said, “Just imagine back in the day, all the men who had shovels digging out the edges along here.” It really is in the middle of nowhere, it really is huge, it is incredibly hot and humid and there is definitely a presence of mosquitos!! How amazing the human race can be, when we set our minds to something… 

I remember learning about the Panama Canal in school and thinking what a monstrosity it was. I remember thinking how one day, I would like to buy myself a Panama hat and stroll along the canal. I’m without the hat, but in complete disbelief I’m here. In February 2015, I visited the Panama Canal museum and thought, that would be sweet to go through. It probably won’t happen. Just 17 months later, I did it. My intentions ARE heard by the universe! 

It will be just short of three months that I left for my adventure to cross the Atlantic. It didn’t happen, but wow, what adventures I’ve had in that time!! Instead, I got to cross the Panama Canal with some amazing people and that is equally as exciting and invigorating. I’ve explored a bit more of the Caribbean, had some good quality sail time in, met many people who have lit my path and helped me to be where I am today. I’ve had mini romances, a few tears, done some deep soul searching and had a lot of laughs. 

Most importantly, I have a different outlook on life. The experiences I’ve had, have taught me a bit more about what it really means to live. Luckily I have heaps more to learn because life is a constant learning curve if you chose it to be. That’s what I’ve chosen. 

I realised I was tired, fed up and a bit lost. In the last three months, I got more lost, found my way (a couple times) and most importantly, found a way to just be chilled. I always knew and said that there’s no point in stressing. I’ve been in quite a few situations over the last few months that normally would’ve stressed me out and sent me running pulling my hair out. Not this time. Yes, there were a few times I used alcohol. However most of the time I either closed my eyes, took a deep breath and repeated an intention I had (for example, I am patient, I am calm, I am alert, I trust in the universe and know all will be ok) or grabbed my yoga mat and took time to re-energise and ask my guides for support. It really works. Of course you have to believe, but it works. Working with the universe is a beautiful thing. 

I have a deeper tolerance for people. There was one particular strong personality on this boat and for whatever reason, at times, she really made it a point to make it known she wasn’t happy I was on the boat. That’s cool. I could see her insecurities and I was able to distance myself from them. It didn’t upset me, at times I needed a break from the force, so I came up to the fly bridge and sat in the hammock. Before I would’ve been complaining and a bit hurt. She has her journey and it doesn’t need to affect mine. I don’t think I’ve ever been at this point in my life. Let me tell you, it feels really good. It feels amazing to be free of letting someone’s energy interrupt mine in a negative way. I am liberated!

Tomorrow I will make my way back to Cartagena where I left and never thought I would return. As my cousin said, “Never say never.” I knew my defensiveness to that comment meant I would be back. I am filled with mixed emotions. I wouldn’t chose to go back just yet as I’m enjoying exploring. My pocketbook has other ideas. I am a tiny bit scared things will go back to how they were. I just know this is the right thing.

Overall, I just know this is what I need to be doing right now. I am excited to see Captain Cool and enjoy his cooking with only fresh ingredients and no meat (I trained him well!). I am excited to feel a loving embrace and have the type of laughs that only lovers can have. I am excited to see a dear sailing friend I haven’t seen in nine months. We kept in contact this whole time so there a lot of details we need to catch up on. I’m ready to feel the positive, upbeat and warm energy of Cartagena run through my body as I walk through the streets listening to the Latin American music and smiling at all the wolf whistles as I pass men on the street. I am ready for a haircut at my favourite salon!!

As this journey ends and I start a new journey trying to find a way outside of the rat race to financially survive, I have no expectations. Of course things will have changed because life is constantly changing. They may not have changed in the way I think they should and that’s ok. All I know is that I am exactly where I’m supposed to be at this moment and I know whatever happens, there is a reason and it will all be ok. No need to worry or stress because that won’t change anything. I am simply open to messages life has to offer me and will enjoy what’s in front of me today. 

Change is possible

Wow, I didn’t realise just how much I’ve changed until I spent time on boats with landlubbers.I left Jamaica for Panama on a motor yacht with a beautiful group of New Zealanders. Life is a crazy thing. It’s interesting how some people firmly believe that people don’t change. Ask my Aunt, she knows they do. She knows me as well as my parents, but without the parent bias. I’m sure she could give you a run down on all the various changes I’ve gone through in my 37 short years of life. 

Five years ago, I would’ve come on this boat and thought, “Wow! How brilliant that I found a boat of people who are so similar to me.” Their sense of humour and outlook on life matched mine up until about two or three years ago. I was caught up in the rat race as well, concerned about the clothes I wore and how I looked, bored there was nothing to do, impatient, incredibly sarcastic and always winding people up. There’s nothing wrong with this. It’s common in the British culture and for ten years, I had fun and felt like I fit in. 

Fortunately, this travel bug does things to a person. If a person is open to receive it, it teaches you a lot about other ways to live, other morals and other perspectives on what it means to survive. You see all of those things I mentioned above? None of them apply to my personality now. As my clothes were hanging on a line to dry, I could see how my shirts have started to thin due to frequent use and hand washing. A lot of my underwear is forming holes. I own no designer clothing or anything over $10. I have one fancy bra that is worn and stretched out. I quite often forget to brush my hair, it’s always in a ponytail, what’s the point? I can’t even tell you the last time I used a blow dryer. Straighteners?? Even longer! The mascara and eye liner I use for special occasions is never used because I’ve gone so long without wearing it that I feel like a clown when I do. Plus I usually forget it’s on, so I itch my eyes and then have to run to the bathroom to fix it. 

I don’t care about wages or pay rises for I don’t have to live in a cool part of London, spend a lot of money to travel (I know how to do it cheaply now!) and buy the latest fashion. I told someone the other day that in the last year I made $2500 and she said, “Oh my god. How did you survive?” I said my food and accommodation is paid for, there isn’t a lot more I need. Her reply? “That’s amazing!” Yeah it is. It’s amazing because I no longer have to be bound by the rules society sets for me. I don’t have the material worries I was culturally brought up to have. I make my own rules and live in a way that brings me peace and contentment. 

Sure people talk down about my life and make fun of me. I know at least one person did it on the most recent boat. It doesn’t bother me. Now I get to walk through life relaxed and with a smile. Before I discovered this way of life, my shoulders were always hunched, my mind was infected with worry and stress and I was always striving to find something better instead of living for the moment. People who think I’m weird just haven’t found their peace yet, I get it. 

I guess that’s one reason why I feel so relaxed with Captain Cool. He’s the same. He also thinks I’m most beautiful when I’m natural so there’s no pressure to buy fancy clothes and spend all that time putting a false face on. For I could spend all that time applying make up and doing my hair and I’m still the same on the inside. That’s what I want people to see, not some beautiful face that isn’t even mine. CC encourages me to wear protective clothing so I don’t get sun burned. He doesn’t care that I don’t wear the latest sailing fashion or a bikini to get rid of the many farmer tans I have. While I’ve had a good time in the last few months, I’m really looking forward to sharing life again with someone who has similar views. With someone who just gets it without words and judgment. Someone I can just simply be with. 

I may not have a lot of money or a lot of things, and that’s exactly how I want it. I have something money can’t buy and those with money, try to buy. I sleep at night all through the night, I wake up refreshed and ready to join the day, even if I only had a few hours of sleep. I don’t worry about time, career goals, clothes, my weight, my age, fitting in, having the best, being the best, pensions or things that are never going to happen. I simply live in peace and at one with nature. Life has never been so beautiful, even during the difficult times. Why would I ask for more?

Return to reality

It sucks. I hate it. It’s like I’ve been in a horrible car accident and now I have to deal with the aftermath. I was in a horrible car accident when I was 18, so I know. 

Maybe coming back to reality in Montego Bay, Jamaica wasn’t a good place, but I don’t know where would’ve been a good place. Captain America loves it here. Probably because he has money and a penis so he isn’t harassed in the same way as I am and the effects of being ripped off aren’t so detrimental to his pocketbook. 

I looked to fly out of here, well prices have gone up significantly in the last six weeks. There aren’t any boats here to try and leave with. I am on my last dollars and need to spend wisely. 

Now I’m just filled with panic and worry I made the wrong decision. Maybe I should’ve gone on the boat to Panama or the boat to Guatemala. I can easily get to where I can find work from those places. But I didn’t and something told me not to go so I have to trust it. I have to be calm and believe it will all work out. It always does. Something always comes along when I just relax and trust. Sometimes that’s harder to do than other times…

The people in the marina are nice (minus the quarantine officer who disagreed with Captain America about me being a spring chicken!!!), we of course got ripped off trying to take a taxi into town. Luckily not my money. I never would’ve gotten in the car with him. Then we sit at the marina bar. The locals seem nice, an American comes up and we start talking. 

I just don’t get it. I try to embrace the fact people like being around me and my energy. Of course it gets me things, but more often than not it gets me in uncomfortable situations I have to get out of. Not dangerous ones, just “no I don’t like you like that” situations. I just treat all men and women like this.

So I’m talking with the American and say how it’s annoying to travel alone as a woman because many times people think if I’m nice and ask to be taken around, they think I want sex with them. I have learned how to ward that off and my experience in Cuba was thankfully not like that. You would think this would be a hint, right? 

Nope! He asks what boat I’m on so maybe we can all meet tomorrow. Then he says he’ll show me the boat he is on. We go there, then he starts with this crap about knowing he was going to meet an amazing woman tonight and blah, blah, the same compliments I’ve heard a million times. I switched off and started thinking how great it would be to just have friends. Just friends. No obligation, no being on guard that my personality is going to be misinterpreted that I want sex. Just someone to spend time with. I had that in Cuba, I guess I should be grateful I had a few days of that. Maybe that’s why the effect is harder now. 

I make my excuses to leave, he pretends to be a gentlemen and walk me back. He hugs me, tries to go in for a kiss which I avoid and then asks for another hug. My heart fell. Being in Jamaica is easier when I’m with a man and Captain America and I don’t travel the same way. Oh well, I guess I will get lots of reading done on the boat until I can get out of this country. 

Some people say I should be grateful for my looks and for the attention I get. I am when it’s the right person! Try walking down the street with a sign that says, “Will have sex with anyone and everyone,” as apparently that’s what my energy reads. I don’t enjoy it. I am constantly on guard. I want to be me and smile and be friendly and treat people like humans, but it’s usually misinterpreted. I hate it. I need to learn to manage it better so I don’t have to be on guard. I know that’s my issue. I wouldn’t change my looks or personality and I certainly can’t change how people react to me so it’s me that needs to manage it to go through life more relaxed. 

Not only that crap, but I have to answer questions from so many people. My parents, friends, immigration, myself. They are normal questions but I don’t live a normal life so I don’t have the answers people want. Or even answers for myself!! Cubans have a different mind frame, they don’t ask those kinds of questions. Sailors don’t ask those kind of questions. I’m not used to them after a month break. 

Then dealing with banks, flights, finding a job, my feelings of not being with Captain Cool, etc. The list goes on in reality. All I can do is close my eyes, think of Ben and the other beautiful people I met in Cuba and wish I could teleport myself there with lots of money so I can stay longer. It gives me a moment of tranquility to get through the next question. 

This is just an adjustment. I’m used to change, it doesn’t get easier, I just know how to deal with it better. I’m ok for I still have a sense of self and peace and that it will all work out. I’m just experiencing culture shock for the millionth time. I’m experiencing coming down from an incredible high. 

So what do I do? Meditate, do yoga and stay calm. I have asked the universe to send me a boat to where I am supposed to be. I should open it up a bit more to an opportunity to where I need to me. Hell, the American said he would pay me to stay here. Yuck, the things I would have to do… No, I value myself too much! That definitely wasn’t the opportunity!! 

Move forward, have faith. It will all be ok. It always is. 

Cuba part 16: Saying goodbye to Cienfuegos

It’s a very bittersweet goodbye. I really did go out with a bang. In many different ways. Remember the rum induced evening? Well, turns out I was a bit flirtatious with Elio’s friend, to the point I gave the, “What happens in Vegas…” line. Oops! Anyway, my totally innocent meeting with him the next day to exchange contact information was quickly enlightened with this behaviour. It’s no wonder he waited in the same spot for two hours after I left because he was late!!

After I explained to him that this is exactly the reason why I normally don’t drink that quantity of alcohol, he proceeded to try and make a move on me. Of course he assured me Ben would never find out and come on, it would be fun. I said no because it would break Ben’s heart and he is too nice of a guy. Yes, it took a lot of will power to do that because his friend is hot, in my preferred age group and there really is no future with Ben. Luckily, I was born with a big heart so Ben only needs to be heart broken that I am leaving. 

The three of us went out that night, as Ben had to work my last night. I don’t like to drink before I sail anyway. We went to watch one of Ben’s favourite reggaeton bands. It was incredible!! There were two singers and about eleven people with a variety of instruments. It was amazing! 

We danced the night away. Neither of us drank, but his friend was happy with a bottle of rum. Of course he was trying to feed me with it to loosen me up. As he drank more rum, I felt like I was in the middle of some love triangle. He would wink at me as I danced with Ben, grab my hand as Ben was walking in front with my other hand. Let’s just say I was well protected that night! Sometimes I was in the middle of them dancing, so that was fun. I mean come on, life is short and I’m only young once!! My time with boy toys could be limited!!

The last night I was there all my favourite marina workers were working. It was great! An off duty customs officer even came by with my favourite Cuban desert, pudin, as a farewell gift. And probably an apology for locking me in his office one day and trying to convince me that we should run away together… I chatted with everyone for a bit, but I was exhausted. 

They gave Ben and I our privacy as it was the last night. We sat at the end of the dock looking at the moon and the stars. He was whispering sweet nothings in my ear, made even more romantic because, well, it always is in Spanish. Then he asked me if I ever thought about getting married. I said only if it was because I needed to in order to be in the same country with someone I love. I don’t believe in traditional marriage. Then he said he wanted to ask me to marry him but he knew I would say no because my true love is the sea. That almost made me want to marry him! I thanked him and said if things in Cuba ever change, maybe I will come back and bring him on my boat so we can sail away together. He liked that idea. We said a passionate goodbye and he brought me to my boat for the last time. 

In the morning, all the guys came over when they saw I was awake. They were teasing Ben and one told me that he had been sat all night crying. Ben just smiled and looked down as they teased him. I gave him a kiss which made them cheer. They wished me a safe journey and then left us alone. The border control left the boat and Ben gave me one last kiss which causes an eruption of cheers from his friends and a laugh from Captain America. I felt like I was in a romance movie. 

The staff all lined up to say goodbye, even the grumpy dock master who last night asked what I did because there were 7 or 8 guys that were upset that I was leaving. In the two weeks we were there, I’ve never seen them send anyone off. They waved us off with smiles and requests for me to come back soon. 

As I sit on the deck watching Cienfuegos fade away, I have a huge mix of emotions. Cuba and the people in it have taught me more than any other country. We opened out hearts to each other which probably explains the heartfelt farewell. For you see, I was one of them. They offered me coffee when they made it, they offered their food, they always made sure I was ok and that I was smiling. Many times they told me “Eres una Cubana,” you are a Cuban. It’s because they were so open with their hearts and willing to share and so was I. 

I have tears of heartbreak rolling down my cheeks. Maybe not for the reasons you think. I am sad to leave Ben, we spent a lot of time together and laughed a lot. I am more sad for him because I still have the heartache of loving someone so much but not being able to be with them because of wanting different things. I don’t like people to hurt, so I wouldn’t wish this on him. Leaving has just reminded me that it still hurts, it just went away for a little bit. 

My heart also aches that I have to go back to reality. Here I hardly went on the Internet, hardly anyone has phones so it’s all house calls. Like the good old days. I liked being unaware of who was messaging me and what was happening outside of my world. There’s something about reality that I just can’t cope with. It’s probably why I have fallen so in love with sailing!

I will just take my time in adjusting back to the normal and hold my month in Cuba very near and dear to me. I will work on ingraining those life lessons into reality. Maybe it won’t be so hard!

Goodbye Cienfuegos, goodbye Cuba. I don’t know when or if I will ever return, but you and your beautiful people will forever remain strong in my heart. 

Cuba part 15: A break from Cienfuegos 

I am getting tired of being landlocked. There’s no quick sight for leaving anytime soon as a cold front is hanging around and it’s blowing hard. It is so hot here that I can’t always go out and make my own adventures during the day. The other day I spent the whole day in air conditioning. I finished one book, read a whole book and started another. I didn’t want to do the same. 

Another captain and I have been spending a lot of time together and he’s getting restless too. We organised to go across the bay to check out the nuclear city that the Russians started but never finished. I was excited as he’s a seasoned backpacker and seems to like to travel the way I like to.

It was an early start. We left at 7.15 a.m. and walked to the ferry port. It was fun to watch all the locals go about their day. There was a man selling peanut baked goods so we bought some to start us off on our journey. They costed pretty much nothing and were so tasty!! We chatted all along the ferry and observed the locals as they did their daily commute. 

I find people in this part of the world so helpful. We were debating which ferry stop was ours and someone could tell, so he told us the castle was the next stop. We thanked him and carried on chatting. We got off at the port and started walking. We asked some locals what was the way to the nuclear city. They happily directed us and went on their way. 

The path took us through a little community. It was mainly apartment high rises. There was a playing field and a little square with a few vendors. We saw an abandoned apartment high rise and decided to make the climb. There was graffiti all along the outside and as we climbed up, we viewed some interesting artwork of all kinds. There were socialist mottos, drawings of people and quite a few humorous sexual drawings. The building was about 30 stories high and as we kept climbing, the graffiti became less and less and the stairs less and less worn. 

As we explored the various floors, we guessed the theories of why the buildings work stopped. Balconies had been constructed and each floor had four concrete boxes with tiles and unmade showers in them. We had fun guessing what the lay out of the building would have been. The captain said how he could live there happily just as it was. I wouldn’t live anywhere happily unless there’s water underneath me. 

The views were amazing. We climbed up almost to the top so we could see where the nuclear power plant was. We saw there was a road and we made our route. But the most incredible view was observing the community from up high. In one of the balconies in the apartment block next to us, there were three men standing and talking. I took a photo and they waved. They had a conversation with someone on the street below. Of course there was lots of laughing. There were one or two cars driving by and other than that, there was no noise pollution from machines. There were horse and buggies carrying people and food to various destinations. The clip clop of the horses hooves made me feel as if I was in another time. We could see people buying fresh juice and snacks from the street vendors and then escaping the hot baking sun by taking a seat on a bench in the shade. 

The most amazing observation was when I closed my eyes. We must have been about 20 stories up, but there was no silence. The layout of the high rises made the sounds of the village echo. There was a beautiful buzzing of human activity. There was a school close to the building and I smiled as I thought how hard the teachers must have to work because there was a chorus of beautiful tiny voices. I could hear lots of laughter and a mix of intonations as the locals went about their daily routine. I took a deep breath and enjoyed this feeling of ecstasy. A feeling of being at peace, at being a part of a community, at hearing human activity without the interruption of manufactured noise. It was such an incredibly beautiful orchestra to my ears that I didn’t want to leave. I didn’t want to break the trance. 

Eventually we carried on walking to the nuclear village. The sun was burning and the concrete road only offered us extra heat. We had minimal water so I was looking around at nature during the hour journey to distract me from the uncomfortable heat and silence I experienced. We saw beautifully coloured land crabs, various flowers and plants. We waved at the locals as they drove by in tractors or dump trucks loaded with people in the back. Instead of waving, they cupped their elbow in their palm. I later found out it means that we are people with money, but to cheap to spend it. The truth is we were dying for a ride, but no one stopped!!

We were getting closer and closer to the big domed nuclear plant. I saw a fence which said “No pase.” I said, “This must be it!” We did exactly the opposite and passed through the barb wired gate. There was a beautifully coloured dirt road. Almost like clay, but the consistency of dirt. We followed the path waiting at any moment to be stopped by someone. As we got closer to the power plant, we saw a bunch of cows and some horses. I didn’t see any people, so we kept walking to the next gate. 

As we got closer, I could see a man, but our plan was to be innocent tourists and keep walking. All of the sudden, two dogs ran out at us and started barking like mad. My heart skipped a beat, but I could see the man walking faster and shouting “esta buena,” it’s good, to the dogs. They calmed down and were sent inside to what I thought was a guard’s hut. 

The man was a farmer. He looked to be in his 40’s, beautifully tanned, wearing green overalls, green wellies and a straw hat. He was very good looking with a warm and welcoming smile. The captain speaks no Spanish, so it was all up to me. I asked him if this was the entrance to the power plant, he said we couldn’t enter and the main entrance was on the other side, but it’s guarded so we probably wouldn’t be let through. The captain then asked me to translate a barrage of questions about the power plant. The farmer knew a lot about the history, but not all of the questions the captain wanted to know. Some of the questions were quite embarrassing to ask, so I apologised to the farmer and said my friend was just very curious. He asked why so many foreigners were interested in that power plant as people from all over the world have tried to walk through. I explained there is a theory that there is nuclear waste and/or weapons still buried and he laughed saying that was not true. 

Luckily the captain started becoming interested in his life as a farmer and we got to know a little about his life. His wife came along after she rounded up the goats. She was equally as tranquil, beautiful and as welcoming as the farmer. It is obvious they have treated life well and it has rewarded them. She explained how Robin was a very good man. He didn’t drink or smoke or go out with friends. He worked hard on the farm. The captain asked what his vice was, as well all have one. He noticed there was a tv inside and asked if this was it. His wife rolled her eyes and nodded her head yes. The farmer laughed and admitted he stays up until three or four in the morning watching tv series from all around the world. We all laughed and said there could be much worse unhealthy habits!

They invited us to sit down and enjoy a coffee, which we did. They asked about our lives and told us of some of the people they have met as they trespassed on their land. I couldn’t believe how they welcomed us and no doubt all the others before us. So many parts of the world would have attack dogs and/or shotguns to prevent trespassers. This beautiful couple only had sweet dogs that barked ferociously and open arms. It made me love Cuba even more. 

We looked at the time and realised we had to make a move to make the last ferry. The farmer thanked us for our time and we thanked him for his hospitality. As we talked about whether or not we were going to try the main entrance, Robin grabbed a gunny sack and threw it over the back of his horse. He climbed on the horse like a true cowboy and rode off down the dirt road. I looked after him thinking he’s exactly the kind of person I want to model my life after. Cuba has given me a beautiful set of gemstones to illuminate this incredible journey of life!