Monday, February 14, 2011

Next Stop: Cuba!

Many, many months ago, just after our return from our birding trip to Ecuador (Galapagos), Andy Griswold from the Ct. Audubon Society's Ecotravel decided to try and tempt us into booking another trip. First he sent us information on their trip to Trinidad and Tobago -- it look interesting, but we decided it was a bit too rich for our blood. But Andy is a smart man. The next offer hooked us and reeled us in. It was a two-week birding survey of Cuba in conjunction with the Caribbean Conservation Trust.

Perhaps a little bit of backstory would be in order here. I used to have family in Cuba. My grandmother had two aunts who lived there and ran a, um, er, "business" in Cienfuegos or Matanzas. (Both areas came up when she would tell the story.) My grandmother visited her aunts there before Batista was deposed and frequently told us it was the most beautiful place she had ever been. I have several photos from her time there, but will post just one, since I think it's the most historically significant (check out the poster to my grandmother's right).

Basically, the poster says:

We march on May 1st
United front to the divisionists (?) and against anti-union attacks!

We signed up. The process hasn't been an easy one.

We're flying in and out of Miami through a Cuban charter company called Marazul. We ARE traveling legally, with a license from the U.S. Treasury Dept. since this is considered a scientific trip which falls under humanitarian travel. As of now, I'm still not sure everything is in order, since we have yet to receive our travel packet: airline tickets, Treasury license, proof of Cuban health insurance (required of all foreign visitors at a cost of $3/day per person), and who knows what else. With only two weeks before our trip, I must say I'm a bit nervous.

I guess our target bird should be Cuba's most famous, the Bee Hummingbird -- about the size of a quarter. But I'd really like to see the Cuban Tody, a very cute, brightly colored piece of feathery fluff (and probably one we're much more likely to see).

Our trip to and from Florida will also include a visit with our daughter, who is living in Hollywood and will be our means of transportation to the Miami airport on March 1. We'll probably get in a bit of birding there as well, though not as concentrated an effort as the two weeks which will follow.

So, stay tuned. I'm pretty sure there won't be much Internet access during our time on the island. But I'll be keeping my journal and logging the photos each day so I can post gradually once we arrive back in the U.S. For now, I'll leave you with one more photo with my grandmother and her cousin (the daughter of one of the Cuban aunts who was raised as her sister in the U.S.) with some Cuban friends.

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