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Hemingway Adventure

Havana, Cuba (first day)

Michael Palin - Hemingway AdventureI sink back into the leather seat with a delicious feeling of anticipation. It doesn’t last long. Half-way into Havana we hit the road again, only literally this time. There is a dull thud from under my seat and the Plymouth lurches painfully as the replacement tyre explodes, and the car slews round on its wheel rim before coming to a halt beside an embarrassingly crowded bus stop.

No one bats an eyelid. Not a hint of amusement, concern or even mild derision. It must happen all the time. The bus, which arrives a moment later, completely ignoring a tangerine Plymouth facing the wrong way, in the middle of the road, is unlike any form of public transport I’ve ever seen.

It’s an articulated hut for people, about fifty foot long with both ends higher than the middle - hence, I suppose, the local name for them - camels. With a belch of black smoke, the tractor unit hauls it away leaving us with the prospect of trying to reach Havana on three wheels.

No tyre is to be found, so I unload into another taxi, this time a slightly more modern ’57 Chevy and, fingers crossed, proceed towards Havana.

Old Havana, close to the port and the sturdy Spanish colonial forts and palaces, is lively and picturesque and being slowly, carefully and beautifully restored. Which is a pity, as the mottled and peeling façades seem much closer to the spirit of this hot, steamy, hard-pressed city.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Hemingway Adventure
  • Chapter: Havana, Cuba (first day)
  • Country/sea: Cuba
  • Place: Havana
  • Book page no: 200

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