Alpha Whiskey likes to have a good time. So when a few female friends invited me to Cuba recently for some sun, swimming and pina coladas I simply couldn’t resist. A fascinating and beautiful country full of contrasts and colour, Cuba offered me such a welcome respite that I took far fewer images on this trip than I usually do, preferring to enjoy the company of my friends while killing infinite brain cells with pungent cigars and delicious cocktails soaked in Havana Club. But beauty is beauty and when I could manage a steady hand I attempted to capture a few postcards.
We started away from the capital, Havana, travelling west through the stunning valley in Vinales and indulging in a brief boat ride through the Indian Caves. We met a gentleman at a small tobacco farm who was kind enough to let me keep his freshly rolled cigar.
Surrounded by endless ‘buena vistas’ one of the best ways to take in the scenery was a few hours on horseback through the hills. Parched and thirsty, we stopped at a coffee farm to sample some alcohol, honey and guava juice; just what you need to keep you steady at the reins. A dinner at an eco-farm overlooking the valley at sunset rounded off a beautiful day.
I happily forgot all about the world for a few hours while frolicking at the lush white sandy beaches around Maria La Gorda at Cuba’s south west tip. Not one to languish on sand I absorbed all my rays while floating in the gloriously clear water.
The surrounding natural reserve, however, was eventually too enticing to resist, offering a wealth of species from bee hummingbirds and iguanas to small lizards and herons, and even bats in a cave. It was almost worth serving oneself up as a buffet of blood for the indigenous mosquito population. Repellent is a must.
Now there’s only so much heady chicanery one can endure after a few pina coladas so we headed back to Havana. A vibrant city resplendent with impressive architecture, anyone with an aversion to colour should definitely stay away. Much of the kaleidoscopic hues were courtesy of the city’s famous abundance of classic American cars, their irresistible lines and forms easily forgiving the modern Korean diesel engines under the hoods.
Havana, baked in heat and humming with ubiquitous air conditioners, is a city with a fascinating history, readily gleaned from a walk through its old town. Statues of conquerors and monuments to pioneers line the busy alleys and squares, walled by magnificent buildings, churches and cathedrals.
The seemingly squalid and dishevelled exteriors belie the ornately furnished interiors, often revealed at the summit of a precarious marble staircase. The city’s Unesco status inhibits any major development or renovation but also prevents the sacrifice of this distinctive aesthetic to a pervasion of coffee shop and fast food chains.
The people in Havana are friendly and welcoming, albeit a little too enterprising with their eagerness for your attention. I found people to be exceptionally obliging and kind and I will personally be eternally grateful for their help.
Inhaling a traditional Cuban dish called Ropa Viejo (Old Clothes), essentially very tasty pulled beef, was a fitting prelude to the Buena Vista Social Club, where a succession of talented singers and dancers regaled us into the night.
A great time was had by all in a country that is justifiably attractive to visit and it is little wonder that Hemingway found so much inspiration and solace here. The lack of internet and media distractions made it all the more possible to focus on the cultural and aesthetic delights before us. All these images were made with my trusty trifecta of brain, eyes and legs and composed and processed to my usual postcard style. While the sweltering heat sweated out my creative juices we were waved off on our departure by thunder and lightning. It made me think of a line from the song Escape by Rupert Holmes. ‘If you like pina coladas and getting caught in the rain’ then Cuba is the place to be. Go visit.
Very stunning pictures of a country I always wanted to visit. The closest I came was floating offshore on a naval vessel during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Now that the USA has an immature egomaniac for its leader; well the closest I’ll get to seeing Cuba is through your photographs. Thanks.
Many thanks Jake! :)
You forgot to mention the Bay of Pigs military flop lead by JFK that opened the door for the Russians. If Trump is an immature egomaniac what does that make JFK?
The 31 looks like a ship sinking, just like the cuban revolution !
Hi there. Some stunning images of Cuba. I was looking for a way to contact you but you’re not listed on this site’s team page and there’s no contact info on your blog. Is there a way to get in touch?
I’m not a member of Nasim’s team and I removed contact info from my blog because I was frankly bored with the unpleasant and curt emails I was getting (from people who clearly have nothing better to do). I’m not looking for a following and the people who need to know how to get hold of me already do. You could try messaging me through Slickpic or leaving your contact info in a comment section of one of my blog posts and I’ll endeavour to get back to you.
Many thanks for dropping by ☺
Great going alpha. Keep globetrottong and bringing us some wonderful images
Many thanks Muhammad. I’ll try! :)
Nice work, AW; exceptional in composition and color capture.
Many thanks! :)
Beautiful set of photos, awesome colors and very nicely composed Sharif.
Thanks for sharing, Vinnie.
Thanks Vinnie :)
Absolutely love these pictures, best I have seen of Cuba.
Do you mind me asking what camera and lenses you used.
Olympus E-M5 (a now elderly camera which should prove gear doesn’t matter!) with mostly the 12-40mm F/2.8; 40-150mm F/2.8 for the birds. Many thanks :)
Beautiful images of this wonderful country. I like your idea of a post card!!
Me too! Many thanks!
Great images. I would consider these the best of any Cuba reportage I have seen in recent memory. Thank you.
Many thanks :)
Many thanks for sharing. Cuba has always been a beautiful country and I hope the government finally follows the Vietnam model which allows much freedom to improve standard of living while the Cpmmunist Party maintains control.
In the Cuban African areas, were tourists are not allowed to go, the power is only on every other day (no cooking, no hot water, no lights) and toilet paper and other necessities is scarce. The water is not drinkable. I’d love to visit, too, but raving about how wonderul Cuba is and ignoring the plight of these wonderful people is a total disservice. I have a Cuban African in my extended family who just returned fron a month-long visit. He goes there annually with suitcases full of supplies (diapers, etc.). Sorry if I’m off topic as I enjoy Alpha’s photography posts but this one hit me hard.
Alpha Whiskey – beautiful fotos, I hope to visit Cuba some day.
Steve Sanders, your comment transported me back to the early 1970’s – my Cuban exile friends and neighbors, relocated in Massachusetts, described their efforts to ship such necessities to relatives on the island.
Steve, I take your point. In all my travels there are always unfortunate aspects to each place, including at home in the UK. But being an optimist I try to only show and focus on the very best that a country has to offer rather than the worst in the hope that people will take more interest and visit themselves. A country can still be wonderful despite its hardships. Cuba has suffered great adversity, including famine, and despite its terrific inhabitants living under the yoke of communism and socialism I hope the increasing foreign visits will eventually bring more opportunities that will reach even into the more remote areas and alleviate the poverty and conditions you speak of. That might be a naïve pipe dream but as the poet Carl Sandburg wrote ‘Nothing happens unless first a dream…’
Thanks for stopping by.
Dream on. Every despot has a dream, too. History is full of dreaming dictators like Fidel Castro.
There are many countries worth a visit other than Cuba.
Indeed there are. I’ve visited many of them. But thank you, I’ll keep dreaming.