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    Cuba: More Than Just Sunshine and Cigars

    Vintage Cars in Havana, CubaChristopher Columbus discovered Cuba on the 28th of October in 1492 declaring it 'the most beautiful country human eyes had ever seen,' and named it Juana. However, the indigenous people had always called it Cuba and this was the name that eventually took. He reached what is now Bariay, a harbor a few miles to the east of Holguin, which is also where I stayed.The people of Cuba are just wonderful, so friendly. They always have a smile on their face and are great to talk to. We stayed at the Sol Rio Luna y Mares All Inclusive Hotel Resort, were looked after by Alexis and had a great time. The hotel was an hour transfer from Holguin and the weather was great. It was an eye opener seeing people living in very challenging conditions, but this was the result of Hurricane Ike on the 8th of September 2008. The devastating storm caused £4.6billion ($7.3billion) in damages thanks to its high winds of about 120mph (193km/h) which caused flooding destroying over 200 homes. However, the rest of the view was beautiful and everybody was always happy.There is a lot to see and enjoy in Cuba. In our resort they offered us everything. Unlimited drinks and snacks as well as three meals a day and a great variety of sports and activities to do. Snorkelling was popular here as there was a giant catamaran everyday that went past our resort to go the best snorkel place near us. We also went out sailing with a great guy called George who gave us the history of Cuba and some of its myths and legends, one being on the saddle hill where Christopher Columbus took port there is a lot of hidden treasure and people have been looking for it for thousands of years. Another day we took out a pedalo and went around the warm ocean. Playing tennis in the heat is very challenging but it was great fun when you just wanted to be outside doing something, but the best part was being able to dive into the pool after a game to cool down. Bicycles were a plenty as well as motorbikes for hire so you were able to go off by yourself and explore your surroundings. This is highly recommended as the countryside is stunning. A bike ride into Guardalavaca (the next village along) is really tough but worth every gruelling minute of blood, sweat and tears because you feel awesome after you get back, like you have achieved something great in that dying heat, not to mention the dive into the pool or sea after. There was a beautiful archaeological site and zoo a 15 minute walk away which had some great animals such as large iguanas, turtles, hundreds of crabs, flamingos, hawks and even a crocodile! It was a great way to spend an afternoon, also further along, the archaeological site offers great discovery of flora and fauna and a beautiful look-out point on the bay, perfect for a great photo of Cuba.One of my most favourite moments in Cuba was the thunder storm we experienced. Almost 5 - 6 days of pouring monsoon rain, thunder and lightning so close the sound crackled in our ears. It was so beautiful and enjoyable having a romantic dinner on the beach only to look out at sea and admire the storm giving us it's very own light show.There are many other things to do in Cuba as well, excursions a plenty with trips to the capital Havana for three nights, go fishing in the local area or head out to sea for some deep sea fishing in the hope to catch some large tuna. Or you can take a tour of a cigar factory and see how the best cigars in the world are made and take some home with you or swim with dolphins in the aquatic park. Alternatively visit part of an old fishing village where you can see the real Cuba and get a taste of what life is really like here.It is such a wonderful a peaceful place, even after all the woes they have been through with hurricane after hurricane, and despite the losses they have suffered every person we saw always had a smile on their face and said hello.

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