I had seen a lot in the city of Havana, had learnt about Cuba’s history and pondered the greater philosophical aspects of its culture.
Now, I was toast.
The experiences of the last few days had left me completely and utterly exhausted, and so it was time to take an easier approach to the rest of the week. This was a holiday after all, and if I tried to understand every country I pass through in minute detail I’d probably go completely cuckoo.
Tourism always represents a duality for me. On the one hand, I dislike the fact that most tourists are simply travelling consumers who will spend any amount of money to be pampered in comfortable hotels, bottle-fed by tour guides, and generally encouraged to boost the local economy by buying a lot of useless rubbish that no one, in their right minds, would buy at home. On the other hand, I dig it too.
One of the main disadvantages of finding your own transport, constantly haggling for cheap accommodation and scouting for affordable nutrition, is that you have to spend an awful lot of time and energy in finding transport, haggling for cheap accommodation and scouting for affordable nutrition. A typical package holidaymaker, however, spends almost no time dealing with any of these things. They usually have a pre-arranged itinerary, foodstuffs are provided at convenient times, and one is generally well-informed and directed towards the most pertinent points of interest along the way. Security is at a relatively high level, as most travel outfits will do their best to ensure that everyone is safe and spend thriftitious at all times, lest they have to deal with the costly consequences should something go horribly wrong.
There is always a steady supply of toilet paper.
I craved the comfort of not having to use my own brain and be inundated with interesting city trivia by a knowledgeable local. I decided to buy a ticket for the Havana sight-seeing day tour, which began with a topless bus ride to Revolution Square. There followed a gentle drive through Havana’s busy streets, looking at some nice buildings as we wafted by, constantly being informed about the passing sights by a pre-recorded screeching noise in English, Spanish, German, French and Chinese. This was blasted at an insanely loud volume over the bus’s public address system, through torn 50’s loudspeakers that made the announcer’s voice sound like a demented robot at a political rally.
Thus far, I have seen a few places and have learnt that you should never go anywhere without earplugs. This habit started during a trip to Moscow where the underground train system, despite its old-fashioned charm and well-run efficiency, proved to be the loudest forms of public transport I’d ever encountered. Vehicle suspension, engine damping, acoustic insulation and noise safety levels were obviously not phrases which came up in daily meetings of the Moscow Metro Maintenance Department, and if they did, they obviously didn’t hear them above the hellish din. I was amazed at the sheer level of noise in the underground tunnels as ancient Russian subway trains clattered and squeaked their way through the suburbs, and had vowed then and there never to be subjected to such levels of auditory pain ever again.
Indeed, I have never since travelled anywhere in the world without a decent pair of earplugs in my pocket. I inserted them now, and slowly the cacophony softened, and screeching noises gently subsided, leaving only a pleasant bus ride through Havana city.
I was fast asleep two minutes later.