Cars outside the Capitol, Havana

In 2008 I decided to take my holiday in Cuba – a country I’d had intentions of visiting ever since I heard about it, while travelling on my gap year.

At that time, I had the impression that the country was changing and if I wanted to see one of the few remaining communist countries in the world, I had better get over there quickly. As it turns out, this took nine years.

I’m not sure why or how I thought Cuba was changing nine years ago; perhaps I’d had some conversation with a fellow gap-year traveller who had mentioned that Cuba was opening up to tourism. Unless I wanted to join the bus loads of package holiday tours and instead see the ‘real’ communist country – I’d better get a move on.

Well it took me a while, but I finally bought a return ticket to Havana, and just in time too I think. Not long after I’d received my e-ticket and flight confirmation, did I start noticing the names Castro and Cuba filtering into the news – Castro’s health was still a major concern, speculation over who would be his successor as leader of the Communist Party was rife and the impact this would have on the politics and ecomonics of the country were questioned over and over.

By the time I boarded the plane, Fidel’s brother Raul had taken over as President and was already talking of ‘structural changes’ and economic reforms. Now was the chance for me to travel through a country which was celebrating nearly 50 years of revolution, see whether the people were celebrating too and if so, celebrating what.

Take On Cuba includes journal extracts I wrote during my 3 weeks cycling through and notes subsequently made which may be of use for others who decide to visit this amazing country.