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28 October 2014

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Travels through Cuba: the end
by Pete Keane

Cuban fortress

Pete Keane spends his last exciting night in Cuba before he heads back to blighty...

quoteI woke up today feeling a little sad as this is my last full day in Cuba. After breakfast I call Yiisa and we go into Havana courtesy of Lazaro. Once there we go off in search of the airport building and the Air France offices. I want to confirm my return flight and Yiisa is hoping to alter her flight date to the same as mine. We manage to do both of these with the minimum of fuss and leave the Air France office feeling pleased with ourselves.

I leave Yiisa and Lazaro to go for pizza, I have unfinished business to attend to. I make my way down to La Rampa, the tourist market. I score a few goodies for my friends. I’m still looking for a copy of the Sintesis CD and speak to a few stall holders. I draw a blank at every stall. One of them tells me to follow him downtown where he thinks he might be able to get his hands on a copy. We enter a residential area and the stall holder starts acting nervous. He thinks we’re being followed. He makes us walk very fast and we enter a large building.

Once inside I cannot help but marvel at the architecture, the faded glory of old Cuba. There is a stone staircase that curves gently towards the upper landings. Once beautiful mouldings crumble, the smell of damp is everywhere. We go upstairs and enter into a large room. Inside a young woman is sat smoking a huge cigar. The stall holder asks her to get the CDs out of a suitcase. They search frantically for my request but they have no copy of it. Undeterred, the couple try to sell me cigars, carvings and other black market items. I leave empty-handed and go back to the apartment. After a spot of dinner I pack my rucksack for one final time.

By nine o’clock that evening I am getting itchy feet and decide to go to a club for a couple of hours. I end up back at the Havana Libre. The entrance fee is scandalous so I go further down into town. Eventually I find a small club that is just what I’m looking for.

It’s not too busy and there’s a five piece band playing bits of salsa and rhumba. The band up the tempo in order to tease a few more dancers onto the floor. I become aware of two Cuban girls who are good movers. They dance as a couple. After a while they seem to be losing interest. Suddenly a tall, black man no older than twenty gets up to join them. He grabs them both by their hands and begins to twirl them in time with the music. He charges them off in different directions whilst maintaining a completely different step for himself. The band takes the tempo even higher to test the trio, though it’s really the tall man who is doing the work. He meets the music head on and charms even more elaborate moves from his willing dancers. When the music ends all three are exhausted, sweaty and triumphant. The rest of us clap and cheer. That has to have been the finest piece of performance dance I have ever seen, bar none.

I stay for a few more drinks and get to meet one of the girls. She proudly tells me that she is self taught. I ask her how did they achieve that amazing piece of choreography. ‘Es facil, seguirnos los movimentos del hombre y esperar todo esta bien. (Easy, we follow the moves of the man and hope everything is ok) Really. As simple as that…

By the time I leave there is torrential rain outside. I manage to flag down a car. He runs me to Vedado and acts very cagey. He is terrified of being seen taking money for a lift. I fall into bed and sleep well. What then follows is that depressing return quotejourney, the sadness at leaving and the promise to save like crazy for the next adventure…

The views expressed on this page are those of the contributor and the opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the BBC.

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Travels through Cuba: part one

Travels through Cuba: part two

Travels through Cuba: part three

Travels through Cuba: part four

Travels through Cuba: part five

Travels through Cuba: part six

Travels through Cuba: part seven

Travels through Cuba: part eight

Travels through Cuba: part nine

Travels through Cuba: part ten

Travels through Cuba: part eleven

Travels through Cuba: part twelve

Travels through Cuba: part thirteen

Travels through Cuba: part fourteen

Travels through Cuba: part fifteen

Travels through Cuba: part sixteen

Travels through Cuba: part seventeen

Travels through Cuba: part eighteen

Travels through Cuba: part nineteen

Travels through Cuba: part twenty

Travels through Cuba: part twenty one

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