Counting Cats in Zanzibar Rotating Header Image

Totten: The Lost World, Part I

Michael Totten describes his visit to Cuba. He was on his own, not a guest of Señor Castro or his minions. Longish, interesting, and lots of photos.

The Lost World, Part I

20 January 2014

I needed to go on a road trip in a country where hardly anyone can go on a road trip.

“Don’t even think about driving in Cuba.”

That’s what I was told by an American man and travel industry pro who has visited the Caribbean people’s republic more times than I’ve left my home country combined.

“But I’ve driven in Lebanon,” I said. “And Albania.” No one drives as badly as the Lebanese and Albanians, bless their hearts. Even the Iraqis and Israelis drive like Canadians by comparison. “Besides, Cuba hardly has any cars. How bad could the traffic possibly be?”

“The roads are dark at night and filled with pedestrians, bicycles, and animals,” he said. “There are no signs and you’ll be arrested if you get in an accident.”

Getting arrested in a communist police state ranks on my to-do list alongside being stricken with cancer and getting snatched off a Middle Eastern street by Al Qaeda.

Follow the link to finish Part I; at the bottom, there’s a link to Part II.


  1. NickM says:

    Julie, all you need to know about Cuba I discovered several years back on a trip to the Dry Tortugas, FLA. They had an exhibition of the “vessels” Cubans had become Americans in. I have piccies somewhere (my wife’s lappy but she is working so soz). But 90 miles of shark infested water… in that!!! (a) they gotta be desperate and (b) that shows such gumption they are exactly the sort of folks you’d want coming over. That is not against others with less means but as much (or more need) but it’s a point that hit me. Anyone with the balls to steer that junk across the Caribbean and make landfall in the USA passes my test. I may have posted ‘em in the past. I shall post ‘em in the future.

    Having said that they are mainly nurse sharks and whilst they are big fuckers that could bite your arm of and consider it an amuse bouche (I have snorkeled past ‘em) they generally don’t “have a go”. I like fish (used to keep ‘em – not 14 footers mind but there you go…). I have no idea where I am going with this. None.

    Oh, yeah… My father-in-law (a former Biology teacher) once imparted to me this gem of wisdom…

    “Never annoy a shark”.

    Now, D has utter much genuinely sage advice over the years I have known him and whilst that is technically correct…

    …So I restrict myself to moderately disturbing squirrels. Little fuckers. If I could invent a genuinely squirrel-proof bird-feeder I’d be a millionaire. I have suggested a BB gun but my vegan wife won’t allow it. She’s not even keen on me getting a crossbow or Black Widow catapult to take ‘em.

    Mrs NickM, “But why would you want a weapon but for killing and maiming?”

    Mr NickM, “Yup”.

    I mean the bathroom does need some redecoration but she has no reason to fear me with a weapon.

  2. NickM says:

    I have legs.

  3. Julie near Chicago says:

    Mr. & Mrs. Nick seem to be on not quite the same wavelengths vis-á-vis the squirrels. Personally I adore squirrels (except not in my attic, where they presently reside), nowadays to watch, but as a child I also found them tasty in the pot. You and my son-in-law, now, would probably get along fine, as he has noticed them using the bird-feeders as eat-all-you-can buffets.

    Completely agree as regards the Cuban refugees. The Left here keep themselves well-occupied with vilifying them and the Cuban community here generally. Speaking of which, have you seen Andy García’s movie The Lost City? About Havana in the 50′s, I think. He directed and appeared in it. He and his family left Cuba I think after Fidel took over, and he works with the Women in White (wives of Cuban political prisoners) and is deeply involved with trying to counter the Castros’ propaganda and so forth.

    Anyway, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a real live shark. At the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago? It seems likely, but I sure don’t remember it. However, she said brightly, I did see Jaws. :>)

  4. John Galt says:

    Julie, all you need to know about Cuba I discovered several years back on a trip to the Dry Tortugas, FLA. They had an exhibition of the “vessels” Cubans had become Americans in. I have piccies somewhere (my wife’s lappy but she is working so soz

    Attached are just five of the many examples of Cuban escape craft on display at Fort Jefferson, which is where I believe Nick is referring to.

    Just goes to show the determination of those wishing to escape the communist regime in Cuba. Those like Ken “Newt Lover” Livingstone – our former Mayor of London may espouse the communist paradise bullshit, but I ain’t buying it and from the state of these refugee vessels, neither were they.

    A desperate and uncertain journey across the Caribbean in these flimsy craft being seen as better than a future in Cuba under communism, just goes to show how grim and problematic it all is.

    I can’t wait for the Castro regime to collapse as then there is a reasonable chance of restoring freedom to this benighted island. Then Cuba will return to being a tropical island in the sun, living on the prosperity of providing holidays to Americans as it always did.

    Cuban escape craft 1
    Cuban escape craft 2
    Cuban escape craft 3
    Cuban escape craft 4
    Cuban escape craft 5

  5. Julie near Chicago says:

    That’s … amazing. And heartbreaking. How anybody could try to vilify those people, or support that horrible regime, I just don’t understand.

    Thanks for the photos, JG.

  6. John Galt says:

    If I could invent a genuinely squirrel-proof bird-feeder I’d be a millionaire. I have suggested a BB gun but my vegan wife won’t allow it. She’s not even keen on me getting a crossbow or Black Widow catapult to take ‘em.

    How’s about this then Nick?

  7. NickM says:

    As I am a Quaker warden so that would have to go to premises committee which means 2114 by the earliest. The Quaker’s are pro gay marriage. It took them decades to decide that one and they like decided it like everyone else had gone “Yeah, like whatever!”. They had a meeting here yesterday – “elders and overseers”. Fuck knows what was discussed to the porpoise (the cube root of buggerth all in my experience) but (I thank fuck I wasn’t on the away team for that one) so rather than hours of almost transcendental* boredom I cleaned the house, drank beer and watched the Rugby. It’s not that I don’t like ‘em. I do but playing parking marshal for… Well, when I went out to get some milk the flow of bodies up the road was like a George Romero movie. Put it this way… We get an unfeasible number of Honda Jazz’s here. Most of which will last longer than the drivers.

    Thanks for filling for me JG on the Cuba thing. I saw about the same. Julie, it’s not heartbreaking (though it is) but uplifting. It shows the lengths people will go for freedom. And well I last went to the USA on an Airbus A330 so… folks who go “Hey ho let’s go! (or whatever the Spanish is for that) for a punt in a bathtub deserve utter respect.

    *One of them once told my wife he actually meditated during meetings. Well why not?

  8. NickM says:

    As far as bad driving goes… Try Malta. Utterly mental. They might technically drive on the left but anything goes. Genuine quote from the “nose art” on a bus*, “If you want to know about the afterlife try overtaking me”.

    *And they have/had real cool 1950s buses. Seriously. English folks would/do go out there to “bus spot” – having said that the service was ace and more exciting than a bus trip normally is and dog cheap. I think Boris apparently flogged Ken’s bendy buses to them so maybe it ain’t as cool. God alone knows how they deal with Maltese roads and they just ain’t as cool. I mean you can’t drive one of them in shorts that short wearing mirrored aviator shades and glancing at the ladies in one of those. You can in something made in Detroit in 1950 with chrome trimming. You’re Maverick in one of those. The F-14 of the central Med. I hate that film.

  9. Julie near Chicago says:

    Nick, yes, it is uplifting, because it speaks of such courage in the face of despair. And that some of them do make it here…. (Yes, we are not exactly Paradise just now, but still better than Cuba I think.)

    The thing is, I had just been reviewing the Elian Gonzalez story, and Andy Garcia’s work, the Women in White, the movie The Lost City (which I still have to watch)…. Elian’s mother drowned in the attempt to get here … and the first photo of the bunch is that little, shredded foam raft. Heartbreaking.

    And the conditions that drive the refugees to try to escape. And that there are so many Castro supporters here, “Americans” so-called, who are just enablers of naked evil, whether through stupidity or not.

    I hate them.

  10. Roue le Jour says:

    Ha. I’ve driven in Malta, Nick. Made the mugs mistake of filling up the hire car… this is an island where the international runway only fits lengthwise. My girlfriend said, “Notice how none of the road signs have distances? That’s because you just look in that direction, and there it is. Dummy.”

    St. John’s church pretty bloody magnificent, though. You can see where the Templars spent the loot they nicked.

  11. RAB says:

    We didn’t drive in Malta, we took the bus, cheap as chips and it’s good to have a few tons of rusting Harvester between you and those who Nick rightly describes as the worst drivers on earth. My last moment almost came going over a zebra crossing in Sliema to buy a paper and a packet of fags on the seafront. This crazy bitch comes hurtling round the corner, apparently steering with her knees and using a mobile phone. Instead of holding it to her left ear with her left hand, she was holding it with her right, which meant she could see sweet fuck all. Missed me by inches. You don’t pass a driving test in Malta; when you get to 16 they just issue with one… and the Book of Common Prayer.

    Question: I have never figured out why the USA continues to impose sanctions on Cuba. Firstly they seldom work and second a massive influx of dollar spending tourists and imports of all kinds of stuff they would kill for, would smack Castro’s regime upside da head in a minute.

  12. Julie near Chicago says:

    RAB, in the first place, all the world’s goods and most of the world’s tourists are already available to Cuba, since no other country joins us in the embargo. Cuba, meaning the Castros, get plenty of $ and custom from tourism. Fidel is a multi-billionaire, y’know. It is true that Cuban tourism has had a lot of ups and downs since the regime decided to allow some tourism once again, back in the ’90′s, but that has to do with the psychopathic Castro regime and global financial conditions, not the fact that Americans are forbidden from visiting (which they aren’t, as a matter of fact — they’re just not supposed to go purely for purposes of “tourism,” and they’re not supposed to spend dollars there. Except, of course, for necessities such as food, lodging, transportation, …).

    For instance, from the Foot of All Knowledge (and please note the part I put in boldface):

    To ensure the isolation of international tourism from the state isolated Cuban society, it was to be promoted in enclave resorts where, as much as possible, tourists would be segregated from Cuban society, known to as “enclave tourism” and “tourism apartheid”.[4] By the late 1990s, tourism surpassed Cuba’s traditional export industry, sugar, as the nation’s leading source of revenue. Visitors come primarily from Canada and western Europe….”

    Second, our embargoes never work anyway, because we always send humanitarian aid to the “embargoed” or “sanctioned” country, no matter how downright rotten the regime. Cuba is no exception to this. We regularly send them food and medical supplies, just as the UN did to Iraq; with about the same results. Once again I quote your highly intelligent countrywoman, Helen MacInnes, who wrote in a novel about the results of sending aid to the USSR (in the ’50′s or early ’60′s that would have been–and I don’t vouch for the exact wording prior to the comma): “You send them food and medicine, which only helps their Communist masters to sit more firmly on their backs.”

    So why continue them? I don’t know what Washington’s thinking is, but in my opinion, to lift the “embargo” now would be a massive signal of weakness unless some other means were used simultaneously to make it known that we are prepared to stand up to Mr. Tough Guy and then some — and I don’t know what that would be, especially now that the Thing in the WH has destroyed the last vestige of the world’s belief in our willingness to come to our own defense.

    Equally important from my personal point of view, one does not deal with murderers — certainly not mass murderers! — and that’s that.

  13. Julie near Chicago says:

    Sigh…this happens a lot. I ended up cutting part of what I wanted to quote. So here it is, with a statement added at the end of the material above:

    Tourism in Cuba is an industry that generates over 3 million arrivals per year, and is one of the main sources of revenue for the island.[1] … To ensure the isolation of international tourism from the state isolated Cuban society, it was to be promoted in enclave resorts where, as much as possible, tourists would be segregated from Cuban society…. [ [I]n recent years Cuba’s tourism has decreased due to the economic recession, escalating foreign investment conflicts and fears, and internal economic restrictions.

  14. One good thing that will happen over the next couple of years is the fall of the socialist regime in Cuba – it will happen, and it will happen soon.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: