**NOTE to READERS: The following describes a trip which took place in March and early April, 2016.
Friday, April 1, 2016.
For our last night in town, Santana’s organized a dinner.
We pile onto the bus and drive to this nice restaurant where our meal includes musical entertainment, dim mood lighting and lobster.
Talking amongst ourselves, some of us are suspicious. We think the dinner is Santana’s way of buttering us up for a good end-of-trip tip, despite his slightly ridiculous demeanour almost the entire time.
Jana’s already decided she’s not giving him a thing. Same with Sue, to whom Santana spoke to quite rudely early on. I’m still on the fence. I don’t dispute he’s been a crap leader, but there were a couple moments where he wasn’t completely terrible. Eh. I’ll decide later.
Towards the end of dinner, part of the group plans to walk to another establishment for goodbye drinks. So afterwards, we pile back on to the bus, which drives us to another neighbourhood and stops to drop off part of the group.
One by one, those of us departing shake Santana’s hand and say our goodbyes. He doesn’t get a single tip.
Led by Joe and Claire, our band of tourists wind our way through the streets to an open square – which is bustling – and the bar they recommend.
I’m still full from dinner, but give in to a beer. Of course, a full belly means a few trips to the ladies’ room. I wouldn’t mention this mundane detail, except for one thing.
On my second or third trip to the restroom, I’m looking for soap to wash my hands, and can’t find a dispenser. In my haze, I notice a tinted plastic bottle with liquid, which I naturally assume to be watered-down liquid soap.
I pour some onto my hands … and I don’t realize my mistake until about five seconds later, when the unmistakeable smell of bleach hits my nostrils.
Yep. Bleachy water. All over my hands.
I start panicking because (1) bleach and (2) the group’s about to leave the bar at any moment. I do what I can to rinse my hands for a couple of minutes, but the stench is STILL THERE.
So I spend a good chunk of our group’s departure from the bar doing a terrible job of acting casual while periodically dousing my hands with bottled water and flapping them like a Muppet.
Jana, Claire and Joe and I walk back to the casa that we’re sharing (as it turns out), and we chatted a bit before saying our goodnights – and for me, goodbye. I’ll be the first to leave for the airport, in the wee hours of the morning.
Jana and I say we’ll keep in touch (but really, I’m the only one emailing for the first little bit). Six weeks or so after our adventure in Cuba, she takes off on a another trip — this time, to Sri Lanka. (Guess her stressful job has some perks.)
I have had an email exchange with Anick and Lieven, but life has picked up again, so I haven’t really kept it up. The person I’ve probably had the most correspondence with is Joe – 16-hour time difference and all.
One other thing:
Back in Toronto, I visit the travel agency where I booked my trip, and fill them in on my experience in great verbal detail. They ask me to email them my comments, which they send to the tour operator’s regional manager.
I’m guessing that enough of my fellow trip-mates complain to the tour operator, that they got the message – Santana is removed from the tour.
I get a small bit of compensation, which I can put towards a trip in the next couple of years.
And that’s what happened to me in Cuba over Easter in 2016. I hope you enjoyed my posts!
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve gotta go pack — I’ve leaving the country on vacation, and I cannot wait!
Maybe I’ll do this again sometime. But until then, feel free to read about this trip, or any of my previous posts! Thanks for reading.
Still photo posted above is mine. Please don’t re-post without my permission.