My heart stopped. Just moments before, we had been happily enjoying the down-hill momentum and views into Glacier’s central valley, that was until company round a bend ahead. We froze in our tracks. A giant male grizzly dominated the trail just 20 meters beyond.
Of course, I’m well-aware that Glacier National Park is home to a grizzly bear population – warning signs are everywhere – but I never really expected to get THIS close to one. I had hoped to catch a sight of one form the car window. That would have been nice. Nice and safe. If anything, I had been on higher alert earlier that morning as we set out, completely alone, from the Siyeh Bend trailhead. Crossing through Preston Park meadows still enveloped in mist, I made sure to make our presence known, and scouted the area for any sign of movement. Nothing.
Leaving the timberline far below, we wound up a shingle trail to summit Siyeh Pass. There we found a plump lonely marmot, hair blowing in the breeze, admiring the view. He didn’t seem bothered by us, so we let each other be, taking in the same view of a previously hidden eastern valley with tiny glaciers dotted high above.
From Siyeh pass the views really exploded. No longer sheltered by trees, the trail begins a tight descent, switch-backing 3220 feet alongside the stunning Sexton Glacier. Both Conrad and I became so preoccupied with trying to capture the splendor on our cameras – failing completely – that concerns of bears left our minds.
Our cameras had just returned to bags as the trail began evening out, hugging the edge of Goat Mountain. That’s when the creature appeared, completely startling us. Conrad was in the lead (thank God), as we simultaneously stopped dead in our tracks. He had seen us too. Definitely a grizzly. His dark coat hung over huge hunched shoulders, with the tell-tale long snout that identified his bread. I suddenly felt very vulnerable. We hadn’t seen another human-being all day. And here we were carrying a bag full of trail snacks. What idiots! I bet we smelt good enough to eat too.
My mind rapidly began processing every bit of advice I’d ever consumed about bears. I knew enough not to run. Even though instinct kind of made me want to. Now, what was the difference between dealing with grizzly verses black bears again? The bear was holding our gaze. It felt like a Mexican stand-off. He seemed unsure too. Then, slowly, he resumed his stride, edging even closer. Shit! I’m going to die! I immediately began clapping my hands and shouting loud, incoherent nonsense – anything that sprung to mind that identified us as people. Meanwhile, Conrad frantically released the can of bear pepper spray from its holster, the can we had debated paying $50 for just days before. He pulled the safety tab out ready. I cowed behind him.
I’m so grateful we never had to dispense the noxious mace. For one thing, a strong wind was blowing in our direction so we would have probably blinded ourselves! And for another, by the bear choosing to have a change of heart and divert off of the trail instead of confronting us, he kept himself safe. Not that we could have defeated him, but National Park policy often dictates that ‘troublesome’ bears – those deemed a threat to humans – are killed. So we both happily got to live another day! We watched as he leisurely passed us further down the slope, eventually stopping to inspect some fallen timber, to no doubt on the hunt for food.
I spent the remainder of the descent along the gushing Baring Creeks constantly looking over my shoulder, rattled. I didn’t dare get any food out. But wow! What an encounter. My respect for nature increases every day.
We hiked the Siyeh Pass Trail from Siyeh Bend, ending at Sunset Gorge. The trail is just over 10 miles long and gains 2240 feet. There is a further option to extend the hike up to Piegan Pass and view Piegan glacier, but you will have to back-track from the pass to re-join this circuit.
Tucked 10 miles into Rock Creek Canyon lies Little Lakes trailhead and my favourite hike in the Sierra. So far at least. From the very beginning of the 7.5-mile walk, the rewards felt endless.
The trail departs from a peaceful campground sat beside the babbling creek and slowly ascends 994 feet through the valley. As it does a handful of alpine lakes appear, happily nestled below rapidly melting snow-capped peaks.
The path that eventually ends at Gem Lake isn’t overly difficult and contains all the drama and beauty you could possibly want from a hike in the Sierra.
For some, the path to a closer Lake such as Long or Chicken Foot is enough. We pass by the odd angler peacefully fishing in crystal-clear waters. And here lies the charm of this trail – you don’t have to make it to the end to feel rewarded. You could spend 4 hours hiking all the way to Gem Lake like we did, or find yourselves happily lost in the views almost anywhere in between.
Not that you will get lost – very little navigation is required. The trailhead contained a map detailing the various lakes and 2 passes further along different splinter trails. Some brave people trek all the way to Mono Lake more than 50 miles north, but for those with little time to spare, this trail is still well worth the drive.
A frigidly cold breeze sometimes whipped us as we rambled the rocky path, hopping across stone water crossings. Yet at this elevation, the sun certainly left its mark. Bring mosquito spray, and even better – if you have the time – pack a tent and s’mores to spend the night under the endless sky. Happy trails.
Last week Conrad and I shattered a personal record. Having made it across the border to Wales for the first time ever – yes we only live in London – we somehow managed to take a ridiculous 7 hours to complete a 6-mile walk. I use the word ‘walk’ loosely here. What followed involved some seriously sketchy scrabbling as our hiking poles got stowed away to grip onto wet rocks for dear life. Please don’t make me another tragic face on the news following a failed mountain rescue attempt I prayed. On the plus side, the views were exceptional. Continue reading Becoming an unwitting Mountaineer in Snowdonia National Park
Road-tripping Colorado last September our entire journey centred around completing the Four Pass Loop trail. Situated close to Aspen in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, I first learnt about the hike from an Instagram photo. The image of an impossibly steep mountain pass covered in wildflowers caught my imagination. Eager to find out more, I searched YouTube where after a few hours my excitement had been fuelled by the epic mountain scenery and numerous ‘awesome’ references. I knew the hike would be challenging – twenty-eight miles of rocky terrain, ascending four 12,000-foot passes, at an altitude we were not acclimatised to – but since our PCT hike ended the previous year I longed for adventure. After convincing a reluctant husband that sleeping outdoors wouldn’t be too bad, we packed the camp set-up we vowed never to use again for 3 days in the wild. Continue reading Colorado’s [not quite] Four Pass Loop Trail
In my previous post, I outlined my child-like desire to visit America’s first National Park and introduced the 3-week trip that finally made my dream a reality. After years of sitting on the bucket list, we finally witnessed Yellowstone’s geological wonderland in September of 2015. It didn’t disappoint. The place has it all: Mountains, geysers, canyons, waterfalls, animals, hikes… tick, tick, tick. With merely a week and an SUV, we attempted to cover as many park highlights as possible before travelling south to the Grand Tetons en route to Salt Lake City. Here’s a flavour of our days and some tips I’ve taken away. Continue reading A week in Yellowstone & the Grand Tetons
I first became captivated by Yellowstone watching a BBC documentary. It charted the dramatic seasonal changes to the park’s ecosystem, including majestic elk migrations, hibernating bears, and the ever-changing foliage. Animals fought the harsh perils of winter. Not all survived. The geothermal landscape struck me as hostile and wild. With a land mass larger than the states of Rhode Island and Delaware combined, and sitting on top of a super-volcano thought powerful enough to cover the continental US in ash, Yellowstone sky-rocketed to the top of my bucket list. But America’s first National Park is not the most convenient place to reach from the UK, so we put it on hold until we had the time to take a big trip.
Our chance finally arrived in September 2015. In-between jobs we took 21 days to explore a chunk of the wild west, flying into the mountain town of Bozeman Montana via Denver.
Our plan was long but simple. Hiring a car and beginning with Yellowstone, our route to Vegas would transport us south through 5 National Parks, 3 State Parks, and a National Monument. It would span 4 states – technically 5 but I’m not counting Idaho’s 44 miles – with most of the driving distance concentrated in Utah. We would stick to the scenic, off-beat roads wherever possible, aiming to avoid the dreaded interstates at all costs. Thanks to the ever-changing scenery and epic natural wonders dotted along almost the entirety of the drive, I can truly say this trip was the most memorable, completely awesome of all time. I only wish we had longer. I thought I’d share our itinerary along with some highlights for anyone hoping to visit this part of the US.
The High-level Itinerary
Rough Driving Route
Bozeman to Gardiner – Yellowstone North Entrance
I-90 & US–89
Yellowstone N. Park
Mainly Grand Loop Rd
Grand Teton N. Park
US-20, US–191/ US–287, Teton Park Rd
Jackson, WY [via Mormon Row]
Teton Park Rd, Moose Wilson Rd, US-26, Antelope Flats Rd, Mormon Row, Gros Ventre Rd
Canyoneering trip to Red Canyon with Zion Mountain School
A parting word of advice: A week before our trip commenced I was glancing over the Yellowstone N.P website and discovered – to my horror – that a section of the grand loop road (the only road through the park) would be closed for construction works during our visit. This changed some of our plans and might be the reason why our route looks a little disjointed. I would recommend checking out this kind of information on the park’s website long in advance – ops!
I hope to write some separate posts containing more details once I get around to sorting out the hundreds of photos!
As we flew into Venice in September 2013, crowds of protestors gathered. Thankfully they were not there for us. The angry rally was directed towards the record-breaking 12 cruise ships expected to pass through the lagoon that day. Italian passions extended to some individuals donning wetsuits and jumping into the Giudecca canal in an attempt to block the passage of the enormous liners. It was a shocking spectacle, but during our time in the city I could see the logic behind their concerns. Not only are the giant ships causing environmental and cultural damage, but more generally Venice is chock-a-block with tourists which has pushed prices up for those who live there. To put a number on it – according to the press – 35,000 tourists arrived by ship that day. That’s the equivalent to half the city’s regular population.
I had longed to visit Venice. I’d seen it in films and on TV, oozing glamour and romance. I wanted to see how an entire city can just float. But not overly comfortable in crowds I found myself a little disheartened. Was this one big – and INCREDIBLY expensive – mistake? For a place that relies on tourism, the numbers seemed excessive and I could barely move without inadvertently photobombing randoms. I can’t imagine how crazy numbers swell during the summer months. So with this in mind here are some of the things we got up to whilst trying our best to avoid the crowds.
Private speed boat lagoon tour
Through Trip Advisor I found Il Bragozzo, a small local company who offer an alternative way to visit the lagoon – aboard a classic wooden speedboat. Our 3-hour tour covered a handful of the more than 100 small islands that make up Venice’s lagoon, including our first stop, the old convent of San Francesco del Deserto still inhabited by the Friars Minori, and not accessible by public transport.
San Francesco del Deserto
Inside the Monastery
The island apparently got it’s name after the monks deserted due to a malaria outbreak in the 15th century
The further north we pass, the more the landscape changes into narrow channels, salt marsh and swamp, providing an area of what Venice would have looked like hundreds of years ago. Our next stop is a delight for the eyes – the picturesque fisherman’s island of Burano. Lined with colourful fishermen’s houses, the place is recommended for casual seafood eateries (shame we can’t stick around for lunch), and is celebrated for lace making.
Next up is the island of Murano, world-renowned for it’s historic glass factories. Every other shop displays ornate (some may say OTT) glasswork and locally-crafted souvenirs. Some workshops provide live glass-blowing demonstrations so you can watch artisans at work. It is mesmerising. This is the place to come if you want to buy a chandelier to rival Tiffany… and to break the bank!
Glass sculpture outside San Pietro Martire, Murano
Glass street art
Vaporetto to San Michele
The cemetery island of San Michele is a short ride north-east of Venice by public water taxi (Vaporetto). It is a tranquil place, both somber and celebratory, honouring those passed through colourful, well-manicured displays and moving effigies. We take a quiet stroll and find the graves of 7 British casualties from WW1 in the Protestant section of the east corner.
On my birthday we take a private tour with photo journalist Marco Secchi. At this point neither one of us had ever used anything but a point-and-shoot camera (probably obvious from our photos here), so I looked forward to learning some technical stuff whilst seeing some quieter areas. Marco was very patient, and the resulting pictures made an improvement on our usual snaps. He took us along the west-side of the Grand Canal, ending at the world-famous Rialto Bridge just before sunset. He also took us to possibly the best gelato shop: Gelateria il Doge on Calle Traghetto Vecchio.
Saint Marks Square
OK, so i’ll concede that no trip to Venice is complete without seeing the central piazza San Marco. Home to the iconic basilica, Doge’s Palace, mechanical clocktower, and a host of over-priced eateries, it is a central-hub that draws HUGE crowds. The below picture was taken at around 8am, before many of the restaurants had opened in an attempt to see it before the place became mobbed. I recommend visiting early or late – basically whenever the cruisers are back on their ships..
Alternatively, you can get a great view into the square from the bell tower of San Giorgio Maggiore across the bay.
I would have loved to have seen inside the clocktower. There are some limited tours that need to be booked well in advance that allow a glimpse of the intricate workings of this historic technology.
Doge’s Palace secret itineraries tour
Part of the reason we made it to Saint Mark’s square so early – I’m really not a morning person – was a reservation we held for the first tour of the day of the Doge’s Palace. Hailed as a gothic masterpiece, the structure is regarded as a symbol of the city. It was formerly home not only to the Doge (the ruler of Venice) but also to the entire state administration. The ‘secret’ tour promised a glimpse of areas usually inaccessable to the public, which included the prison cell where Casanova was held, as well as a few extra passageways and the Inquisitor’s room. In total it lasted around 75 minutes. I found it interesting, but honestly, I think it would have been much better if our guide had been more engaging and if the group was smaller.
Chamber of the Great Council
The north side of the courtyard is closed by the junction between the palace and St. Mark’s Basilica
Wearing our tour headsets!
The Bridge of Sighs
As the tour didn’t cover any of the main rooms of the palace – which is enormous – we sprung for an audio guide and spent perhaps another 2 hours wandering through rich interiors. Ornate architecture and elaborate decoration adorn every corner, with works by artists such as Titian, Veronese and Tintoretto. We also got to walk across the Bridge of Sighs, which I [shamefully] first heard about from Dan Brown’s novel Inferno!
Via Garibaldi neighbourhood
To the east of Saint Marco is the relatively quiet neighbourhood of Via Garibaldi. Less than a mile from Saint Mark’s square, it is a great place to stroll away a few hours and feel as though you have seen a more residential/ ‘real’ side of the city. We enjoyed simple but tasty cichetti (Italian tapas) and drunk Campari outside one of the many small street bars filled with locals.
Riva degli Schiavoni
A typical alleyway
Despite Venice being car-free, it was relatively straight-forward to pick up a rental car from Marco Polo airport (across the lagoon), and embark on a road-trip. We drove north via the pretty city of Verona, into the mountainous lake region. In less than 3 hours we arrived at Lake Garda, where for 5 days we enjoyed some off-season R&R. Oh and more than a few gelatos!
With a hint of early spring in the air it seemed like a good idea to escape London. In an hour-and-a-half we arrived in Hastings, one of England’s oldest seaside towns. It’s a place that will sound familiar to anyone ever taught in the British school system. Home to the infamous 1066 Battle of Hastings – the one where William, Duke of Normandy became the Conquerer and King Harold met his end with an arrow through the eye, as illustrated in the Bayeux Tapestry. Despite the grisly past, today’s seaside ports of Hastings, Rye, (and nearby Battle where the war was actually fought), are all charming destinations in East Sussex worth a visit.
The 14th Century moated castle is home to a collection of roosting bats
Resident duck enjoying the sun
Making a brief stop at Bodiam Castle on the way
Setting out beneath a clear-blue sky the plan was simple: to walk 13.2 miles from Hastings to Rye, then catch the train back again. But as we all know, not everything always goes to plan. Still, our walk began as expected, joining the Saxon Shore way above Rock-a-Nore beach. In sunnier seasons, a Victorian funicular railway operates, carrying people up the 300-foot vertical cliff face to Hasting Country Park. But it was February, so we contend with the stairs.
From the map, our intended path roughly traces the coastline. But from the outset, signs warn of an up-coming area of coastal erosion. Less than a quarter of a mile into the walk we traipse inland, across boggy fields making very slow progress. Eager to re-join the Saxon Way, we end up bush-whacking through Ecclesbourne Glen, something I wouldn’t recommend. Once back on the trail, the undulating path provides views out across the English Channel towards France. The odd ship appears on the horizon.
The Saxon Shore Way has another unfortunate break further along the trail. Not shown on our GPS, we come to a dead-end in Fairlight Cove where the road has literally fallen into the sea far below. A local, out tending his lawn informs us the road has been like it for years. So we follow a series of quiet residential roads without sea views, until the trail returns in Cliff End. From our vantage point we see Pett Level Beach stretching out in the sun below. We opt to get closer to the beach, so we descend down and depart the trail to walk along the raised sea wall. Only once we join the long, straight beach, do I realise its made of shingle, not sand. I spot the odd tree root poking up from the surf, remnants of the ancient forest that once grew here before rising sea-levels buried it. On the opposite side of Pett Level Road, expansive wetlands attract bird-watchers, who sit in their cars with binoculars and probably flasks of tea milling away the hours.
It’s taken us longer than it should have to reach the end of the beach, so we sit outside the beach cafe with a drink to decide what to do. We want to return to Hastings before it gets dark so we can explore it today. I’m also really hungry! So at that point, based on the train and bus timetables, we elect to shorten our route by around 1.5 miles to end at Winchelsea instead of Rye. This involves cutting across the nature reserve – completely soaking my feet – to enter the small town through the imposing 13th century New Gate. Winchelsea is an attractive little place. It centres around the very grand, gothic St Thomas’ Church. Unfortunately we don’t have time to visit the local pub, due to the expected bus, so instead we take a quick stroll through the churches graveyard. Within it lies the final resting place of the much-loved British-Irish comedian Spike Milligan.
Whilst today wasn’t the prettiest coastal walk I’ve ever done in England, this may partly be due to the time of year and various diversions. But it’s accessibility from London, and the attractive towns on route make it a great choice for an easy day-trip. It’s possible to travel to Hastings by train from various London stations. I believe the quickest route is from Cannon Street in 1 hour 29 minutes. The return from Rye station (into St Pancras) can be done in little over an hour.
On a side-note I really should invest in some hi-top waterproof shoes. The number of water-logged fields we crossed during this hike definitely slowed us down. I just need to find a comfortable pair so I don’t end the day in one big squelching, wrinkled-footed mess!
Havana is not the place your Instagram feed would suggest. When I returned from Cuba last year, I kept getting asked what the place was like. People seemed genuinely curious. Looking at the pictures that I had snapped, I realised they didn’t follow the narrative I was sharing or convey a true picture of what Havana was actually like. I had shamefully fallen victim to the ‘filtered perception’ trap that plagues social media. My images focused on the glamor. They paid way too much attention to classic cars in every shade of pastel, the best examples of palatial buildings, and the odd mojito. But the stories I told, and the images that stick in my mind tell a very different story.
What I witnessed was an obviously once-illustrious capital crumbling in decay. Physically I mean. Ornate edifices that symbolise the era of Spanish colonialism still dominate the cityscape. If you don’t look too hard, you could almost be in Valencia, with large shaded plazas, grand churches, and the odd churro vendor. But the condition of the buildings signifies a telling change in circumstance. Constructions that would be condemned in most cities, are instead full of families who have fashioned units through crude sub-divisions. The structural integrity of many of these buildings look highly questionable, with some leveraging wooden planks for support. A British Health and Safety Inspector would have a field day!
Some of the most dilapidated structures that I assume are empty, have washing hanging off iron-ballastrads. I want to be able to close my eyes and time-hop back to the metropolis in it’s heyday. Surely, life for the people of Havana must have been very different back then. Of course there are some buildings that have been saved, mostly government ones, or those of touristic significance. The Museo de la Revolución,Gran Teatro, El Capitolio, and Hotel Nacional de Cuba, to name just a few are all impressive examples of more affluent times.
Architecture aside, the next thing that strikes me as I wandered around the Central and Old Town was the unique world of commerce. Shops, and the physical effort of shopping are both stuck in a time-warp. Locals buy their groceries mostly from government-owned establishments that are little more than small, dark shells with a counter-top and scales. Each one often contains specific produce – locals go to the egg place for an open tray of eggs, and the butcher for meat, using food rations for certain staples. Inside a larger exchange, individual counters sell dry produce, but there are no aisles for selecting different brands of goods from the shelf. Products are generic. I watch with fascination as an employee scoops rice from a large sack into scales whilst the shopper looks on patiently. The air inside has a warm aroma of grease wafting over from a small snack counter. I can’t decide if it’s an enticing smell or not. In this stark, fluorescent space, the ambience certainly isn’t urging me to eat.
Inside the produce market
Waiting for fried snacks
The local butcher shop
In the absence of big, luminous shop signs or windows full of advertisements, it’s sometimes hard to know exactly what you’re looking at. In four days of walking around the city I only noticed one shoe shop. It wasn’t like any I had ever seen before either. Inside, functional-looking footwear sat encased within walls of antique wooden cabinets. I wonder if this is what shopping was like for my grandparents in post-war Britain, with limited supplies and continued food rationing? On the plus-side, living in a country virtually devoid of consumerism, must make life somewhat simpler.
Almost all shopping is cash-based in Cuba. Although, confusingly there are two versions of Cuban currency. Local people spend the Cuban Peso (CUP), which is much cheaper than the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) reserved for visitors. Unsurprisingly, as not all shops accept both currencies, this can result in diverging prices for a bottle of the same local rum.
Outside another non-descript building a long queue has formed. I ask our local guide Isbel about it when we take a tour with him the next day. He explains that the people were waiting for the Cubacel branch – the national mobile phone network – to re-open after siesta, so they could purchase SIM cards, or top up mobile phone credit. Although many people now own mobile phones, popular culture hasn’t fully embraced the internet in the same way it has elsewhere. Internet has been spreading fast over recent years, with some wi-fi zones now dotted around city parks, but the web remains heavily censored and is not free. The internet system seems to work much like the dual currency system. On one-side sits a global internet, which we dial into using a [limited] access card for our hotel’s wi-fi. This service is largely cost-prohibitive for most Cubans. Then there is the local Cuban internet, which sounds more like an intranet. It’s cheaper, but people pay the price through restrictions imposed by the government-owned communications companies.
Something else beyond the reach for most people: those pristine American classic cars that you see in all the photos. These Maquinas are almost entirely reserved for the tourism industry. Acting as a regular taxi, they carry foreigners who – like us – revel in being pictured in them. For such novelty a premium rate is charged. Most locals cannot afford to even own a car, and for the few who do, they have generally been inherited for grandparents, who have passed them down through the generations. This is because, since the dawn of Soviet Cuba, Cubans were prohibited from buying new cars. Only a select few who did work for the government were given car permits. This promotes a real make-do-and-mend culture. But look under the bonnet of most of these vintage cars, joked Isbel, and you will be lucky to find anything original. Even in todays market, buying a car from a state-run dealership will be financially out of reach for the majority of Cubans. Instead, some city workers use a Colectivo. It works as a kind of semi-private bus/car-pooling service, where typically old rusty rides ferry people between pre-determined collection points. We witnessed this in a popular plaza – a black Lada pulled up to the curb, strangers piled in with virtually no interaction, and within seconds everyone had left looking very snug. For workers who don’t own their own transportation, and are unable or unwilling to get on buses, this is the next best option.
My basic understanding of how the Cuban economy came to be like this all comes from the background provided by Isbel. By the early twentieth century, hundreds of years of Spanish rule had given way to a Cuban Republic. This was great for the middle classes, who feasted off increasing trade with North America, and the growth of tourism. But not everyone was fairing so well. Widespread unrest led to the 1959 Communist Revolution, which landed Fidel Castro in power. Trade embargoes from the west and nationalisation of privately-owned property and industries followed, hitting the economy hard. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Cuba lost billions of dollars in subsidies, bringing the economy virtually to it’s knees. I appreciate this is an abridged and overly simplified version of events, but you hopefully get the general idea. Cuba is a product of it’s politics. Isbel himself is a fine illustration of the socialist economy at work. He is a qualified air traffic controller, yet conducts tours on the side to make enough money to feed his family. With wages regulated by the government,highly-qualified vocations that command high renumeration in the free market, are not rewarded as such in Cuba. If I take Isbel at his word, the food stamps provided from his day-job at the airport, provides enough food for 3 days. Apparently one of the most in-demand jobs in Havana is that of a hotel bartender, because their cash tips can pass through the regime unreported.
I came away with conflicted views of what life in Cuba must be like. On the surface it looks tough, choices are limited, and freedoms that I personally take for granted are restricted. Yet, I also witnessed many examples of a warm and vibrant Cuban culture. In the dusty streets kids happily kick footballs, whilst couples of all ages dance salsa, and people gather on steps outside their buildings to share cheap street food and catch up on gossip. The cityscape is buzzing. After dark live Cuban music echos through the streets, and many locals take advantage of the cooler temperatures to go for a wander in one of the many squares. The Parque Centralis a popular spot for men of an older generation, who banter animatedly over games of chess played on folded tables or perched on walls. Many further social pursuits – like the cinema – are subsidised by the government to promote wide-spread access. I see great joy in these sociable interactions. Such simple pleasures are being squeezed by the growth of the online social media age in many countries. I know that I don’t see my friends as often as I used to.
Havana – and Cuba on the whole – is set to change dramatically over the next few years. I visited when I did because I felt an urgent need to see the city before too much changes. I only wish I could have travelled more extensively throughout the country. It’s an intriguing place, a fusion of cultures and beauty, suspended somewhere between a time-capsule and the modern age. Hopefully predictions of increased openness and growth will led to improvements in local living conditions, and an easing of cultural restrictions. But I also hope change doesn’t erase the very fabric that makes Havana so unique. If anyone is interested in experiencing the effects of such isolated development, I would urge you to visit someday soon.
A final side note
The pictures shared here are a small edit of my full, overly-touristy shots. My choice was certainly limited when it came to trying to illustrate the above words. I am clearly not a photographer. One thing that I lack in particular – apart from in-depth technical knowledge of a camera – is the ability to be completely unabashed about taking strangers pictures. I find it intrusive. There were lots of times during this trip when I would have liked to click away – such as watching the men playing board games in the park, or workers climbing over each other in the car-pool, but I just couldn’t bring myself to invade their privacy. The irony is that these are the very type of image that I find myself captivated by – those capturing a moment of real life.