…on Russians and Driving in Cuba

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Hello there loyal readers. My sincerest apologies for the delay in posting any additional tales of intrigue on our recent trip to Cuba. I had to fact-check all of my information for fear that the Somking Gun might find me to be a fraud as they claim to have found Jim Frey’s book “A Million Little Pieces” to be :-). But seriously folks, I’ve just been pre-occupied with welcoming in 2006, and figuring out just what the hell I plan to do with it! At any rate, allow me now to magically transport you back to Cuba. Picture it: Cuba. 2005. December. One of the things that you may read about Cuba is that you really shouldn’t try to drive there. Cars are unreliable, and drivers don’t have that Canadian sensibility (hunh? what? Last I checked, there were plenty of idiots on the road here too!). Well, after our full day of Jeep safari in Cuba, I will concur. However, the drivers you really have to worry about are the damn tourists. And in our case, the crazy drunk Russian tourists (ed. note: this is not an anti-Russian post, just an anti-Russian-that-was-on-our-jeep-safari post.) Read on.

The day started out magnificently. Jody and I had booked a jeep safari, which started early morning and ended around supper. We would get to drive ourselves around, and stop at various points to do stuff like river-cruise and swim, horse-back and/or bull-back ride, lunch on a ranch, snorkel in a coral reef, snorkel in a cave with caverns. All great stuff. Well, for starters, the tour company GO travel uses was booked, so they shunted us to an alternate group. I’ll call it the Infinite Patience Company for reasons which will become obvious. The catch was that this group was apparently used by a Russian tour company, as the majority of the group were Russians. There was one other jeep of 4 Canadians in our convoy.

Let me say that overall, the day was great. All the stops, apart from the pretty boring river cruise, which was only made up to me by the fact that I got to dive off the 2-storey boat several times to swim, were fun. I would recommend this excursion as a good way to spend a day. However, being that we were driving oursleves, my impression was that drinking should be discouraged, at least for the drivers. One guide jokingly told me at the first stop (at a bar!), that I should limit myself to 4,5 or 6 Mojitos. I laughed. I took it as a joke. Some Russians apparently did not. In fact, they decided 6-12 beer per stop should be okay! This one jeep managed to pick up bags of beer at certain points in the trip. They spent the whole day chugging beers and throwing the cans out the jeep! What was even more amusing was that it was a (presumably) husband, wife, and their 13ish year old boy! This kid would be standing in the back of the jeep trying to videotape, and his old man would peel out at every stop, throwing the kid back. We were sure he would end up road splatter! Luckily, he didn’t.

For a while, I thought it was mainly the wife, as she started getting really ‘friendly’ around lunch to the other guides, to everyone’s amusement. However, it became readily apparent with time that the guy was also totally wasted. His driving was quite erratic to say the least. At one stop, the wife was even on her cell phone to Russia I assume, at God-knows what astronomical rate to undoubtedly say something like ” Ha ha Mishki! I’m in warm, sunny Cuba with our bretheren, while you freeze in Ugrunza since you have no money!” (note: that is completely made up, well the quote anyway).

The piece de resistance of the tour was the final 30km drive back to our starting point. By this point, the guides had tried to convince the man he should stop drinking and try to stay cool while he drived, while risking life and limb allowing him to keep driving. In their own words to me. “Have you ever tried to stop a Russian? They don’t stop. They don’t understand.” Point taken. Anyway, the final ride, this guy was ALL over the road, swerving into on-coming traffic, going off the road, nearly rear-ending the guide multiple times. I decided it would be fun to be next in the convoy, to witness the train wreck. Ironically, he made it all the way back sort-of safely. However, when he got out of the jeep, HE COULDN’T EVEN STAND UP! He was leaning on the jeep for support! It was insane. I won’t forget that safari. Those crazy Russians may have just made that the most memorable part of our trip!

Oh yeah, the snorkelling was cool too 🙂 There should be pics up shortly, we got the pictures back from the underwater camera, so I’ll post more when those are up. Till then, watch out for crazy Ivans!

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