Come and Join our PhotoSafari to Castro’s Cuba

Here we go again. We are going on a PhotoSafari to Cuba from 15-28 November 2014, and early bird bookings are now open. Here is a preview of part of the Information Pack which will be emailed to all PhotoSafari Alumni members, and to those others who have asked to be on our mailing list. If you’d like a copy of the Information Pack and you want to be placed on our mailing list, please email maxbee@gmail.com. We’ve already got more than half a dozen pre-announcement bookings so you should hurry if you want to ensure a place for yourself. Here’s the cover of the Cuban PhotoSafari Information Pack. Most of the photos in this information pack were shot and are copyrighted by M.Roubach

Cover page of  our PhotoSafari to Cuba Information Pack.

Cover page of our PhotoSafari to Cuba Information Pack.

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Come with us on a PhotoSafari to Cuba. In an amazing balancing act, Cuba is at once poor and broken, and rich and thriving. From the beat of the music echoing through busy towns and quiet villages, to the hustle of Havana’s glorious crumbling streets, Cuba challenges and enchants all who venture inside her. Like Bhutan, Cuba’s political isolation has prevented a tourist flood spoiling the country’s people. Cubans are a little like the Bhutanese –  the local people in Cuba are sincerely friendly to visitors.

While Fidel Castro’s infrastructure has seen better times, and the food is best not spoken about, this last great bastion of communism enchants all with its intoxicating human spirit. Or was that the rum?

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Introducing Cuba – Trapped in a time-warp, Cuba is like a prince in a poor man’s coat. Behind the sometimes shabby facades, gold dust lingers. There ought to be a banner in the arrivals hall at Havana airport that reads ‘Abandon preconceptions, all ye who enter here.’ Prepare yourself to be shocked, perplexed, confounded and amazed. Cuba is a country with no historical precedents. It is economically poor, but culturally rich. It is visibly mildewed, but architecturally magnificent. Its infuriating, yet at the same time, strangely uplifting. If the country were a book, it would be James Joyce’s Ulysses – layered, hard to grasp, serially misunderstood, but – above all – a classic. Laying halfway between the US to the north and Latin America to the south, Cuba has long struggled to work out where it fits in. Yet, as a former Spanish colony liberally colored with French, African, American, Jamaican, and indigenous Taíno influences, there’s no denying the breadth of its historical heritage. When Castro pressed the pause button on economic development in the 1960s, he inadvertently saved many endangered traditions.

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Though the infrastructure has suffered, important historical heirlooms – forts, palaces, hotels and colonial towns – have survived. Better still, many of them are in the process of being faithfully restored. Most visitors are surprised to arrive in Havana and find, not some grey communist dystopia, but a wildly exuberant place where music emanates from every doorway and even hardened cynics are ensnared by the intrigue and romance. Rhythms and melodies are ubiquitous in this melting pot of African, European and Caribbean cultures. Witness them at the opera and at the ballet; in the corner bar or through the hypnotic drumming of a Santería ceremony; with the trombonist practicing his arpeggios on the seawall, or in the rhythmic gait of the people as they saunter along Havana’s musical streets.That Cuba has survived is a miracle in itself. That it can still enthrall travelers from around the globe with its beaches, bays, mountains, rum, music, and impossibly verdant landscapes is an even greater achievement. The key lies in the Cubans themselves: survivors and improvisers, poets and dreamers, cynics and sages. It is the people who have kept the country alive as the infrastructure has crumbled; and it is also they who have ensured that Cuba continues to be the fascinating, perplexing, paradoxical nation it is.

Gold-Car-DiptychFAB Essential Experiences in Cuba –  The trademarks for Cuba are cigars, communists, rum, salsa, Fidel Castro, poverty and old American cars. After a home cooked ajiaco stew, featuring potatoes, beef, vegetables, corn, old beer and anything else lying around, wash it down with a mojitos. For desert smoke a Cuban Cigar, because Cuban cigars are world famous. Then take a stroll along Havana’s Malecon, and head for a bit of nightlife in a nightclub where you must pretend you can Salsa – even if you cant ! On your first day in Cuba, I guarantee you will certainly shoot a 1950 Cadillac. And dont forget a Spanish-English phrasebook, for speaking Spanish to the Locals . When you return home after a couple of weeks in Cuba, you will definitely remember the busy but delightful streets, the snapshots of lives lived out in the open, and the unmistakable aromas – papaya mixed with tobacco leaf, petrol and musty carpets. You’ll love Cuba because it’s a complex country of head-scratching contradictions which, however many times you visit, will never adequately answer all your questions. Most of all you’ll love Cuba’s musicality, its robust culture, its wonderfully preserved history, and the fact that it can frustrate you one minute and unexpectedly inspire you the next. Pump-&-GueveraFB Street-photoFB

Email:  maxbee@gmail.com for more information on costs, and to reserve your place in this photosafari to Cuba.

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