So given that only about 2% of Cubans own a car, and that there is no dedicated city-to-city transit system (a la Greyhound busses or Amtrak in the U.S.), how do Cubans get from place to place?
Well, basically, it’s not easy.
In rural areas, people can make do with more-traditional approaches — you’ll see a lot of semi-modern carriages drawn by horses out here. I’m guessing this works pretty well for trips into town from farms in the hinterlands. Continue reading
When people find out you’ve been to Cuba, they always seem to want to talk about the cars (at least in the U.S.).
So, just to get our footing, let’s start by talking about license plates. It didn’t used to be this simple, but relatively-modern Cuban license plates make it easy to tell whether a vehicle belongs to the government, or to a private citizen. Government vehicles have license plates with a blue strip on their left end:
Since most cars and trucks in Cuba are owned by the government, you’ll see a lot of license plates like the one above / left. I’m not sure what the “B” stands for, but it’s nearly the only letter you’ll see on Cuban government plates. One prominent exception is the “T” plate (above / right) — these are for government vehicles reserved for tourists, namely rental cars.
License plates for privately-owned vehicles lack the blue strip, and always start with a “P” for good measure:
A minor detail, perhaps, but you’ll see where this comes into play in subsequent posts.
From what I’m told, this is about as bad as traffic gets on Cuba’s Autopista Nacional (National Highway):
But this makes sense, when you consider that only about 2% of Cubans own a car. The Autopista was planned to span the length of Cuba, from Pinar del Rio on the west to Guantanamo on the East. Construction started in the 1970’s, but halted in 1990 when the Soviet bloc collapsed, and Cuba could not continue highway construction using only its own resources. As a result, the western end of the highway is largely complete, while its eastern end has two completed segments, and the central part consists of only plans.
In this view, we’re travelling west, toward Havana.
Our family recently returned from a “people-to-people” tour of Cuba — one of the most unique sights was definitely “La Milagrosa,” in Havana’s Colon Cemetery:
This is the grave of one Amelia Goyri de Adot, a woman who died in childbirth at 23 years of age on May 3, 1901. Her infant son who also died was buried in her casket, at her feet.
These petroglyphs were carved and painted into a sandstone wall (in what is now Dinosaur National Monument, Utah) about a thousand years ago by members of a semi-nomadic culture known as the Fremont:
This site, called the “Swelter Shelter,” was a seasonal dwelling for the Fremont, only used for part of the year as they followed available food and water. But apparently conditions here were sufficiently hospitable that the Fremont had a little spare time for art.
Should you ever make it to Dinosaur National Monument, this is just one of a number of fairly easily visited sites along the Tour of the Tilted Rocks Scenic Drive, not far from the Visitor’s Center.
I don’t know why it took me so long to post it, but here’s my favorite among the shots I took of last Sunday’s supermoon lunar eclipse (near the deepest part of the eclipse):
We didn’t have time to run off anywhere for a unique local point of interest in the frame, I shot this straight off the deck over our garage. Still, I like it — even with (maybe because of) the traces of clouds below the moon. The clouds swept through just after the eclipse started, and I was afraid they’d ruin the whole show, but they moved out just in time.
Ages ago, I published a photo looking up at Structure II in Calakmul from ground level — if you were curious, here’s the view from the top looking down:
Getting up and down again is definitely a good workout, if your knees will take it!