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    • Day 4

      Abreise aus Havana

      February 9, 2020 in Cuba ⋅ ☀️ 28 °C

      Heute haben wir Havana hinter uns gelassen. Zeit mal die ersten Eindrücke festzuhalten. In meinen Gedanken schleicht sich schon oft der Vergleich in die DDR.. oder zumindest meine Vorstellung davon aus den Erzählungen der Eltern und Großeltern. Am Supermarkt muss man Schlange stehen und wenn man dann endlich reindarf sind die Regale leer oder mit den immer gleichen Sachen ausgefüllt. Viele Dinge die für uns selbstverständlich erscheinen suchen wir hier vergeblich und vermeintliche Luxusartikel aus dem Westen werden hinter Gittern für hohe Preise verkauft.
      Zudem gibt es leider eine Art Zweiklassengesellschaft, geschuldet durch die unterschiedliche Währung die es hier für Einheimische und Ausländer gibt. Was der Kubaner für 10 Pesos (nicht mal 50 ct) bekommt kostet für uns locker mal 3-5 CUC (in etwa das selbe in Euro). Das ist bei einem Grundgehalt von wohl so 18 Euro zwar verständlich, aber dennoch schafft es eine unangenehme Distanz.
      Trotz allen (vermeintlichen?) Mangels scheinen die Menschen aber allesamt glücklich zu sein und auch in gewisser Sicht freier von den uns westlich aufgelegten gesellschaftlichen Zwängen.
      Und glaubt man den uns wiederholt zugerufenen Komplimenten sind wir wohl die schönsten Frauen die Kuba je erblickt hat.. das ist doch auch mal was 😁
      Insgesamt gefällt es uns aber bisher sehr gut in Kuba und heute durften wir mit dem Bus gespannt zur nächsten Etappe aufbrechen. VINALES. Der kurze Blick aus dem Bus heraus, als wir bei Sonnenuntergang in die Stadt fuhren ist absolut atemberaubend. Was für eine Natur! Morgen ist ein Wanderausflug geplant.. man darf gespannt sein.
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    • Day 6

      The Night Plane to Havana

      March 7, 2020 in Cuba ⋅ 🌙 21 °C

      Today was always going to be a bit messy. The problem was that my flight from Toronto to Havana was not due to leave till around 8.30 pm in the evening. "So what ?", you may well ask. The complicating factor was that I was supposed to be checking out of my apartment at 10 am in the morning, so what was I going to do with all those spare hours ?

      The singularly unhelpful concierge had already told me that there was nowhere I could leave my luggage. At least I thought I could spend a couple of hours sitting in the lobby before my taxi arrived to take me to the airport. That was about as much of a plan I had been able to come up with.

      Unlike the beautiful blue skies of the previous day, I awoke to a leaden cloud cover. On closer look I could see that there were intermittent flurries of snow falling. It was quite spellbinding to watch.

      After making myself my final breakfast in Toronto, I sat by the window and spent some time watching the falling snow gradually build up on the branches of the trees. Although I was supposed to check out at 10 am, there was no point in being too early. I needed to steal every hour I could.

      By 11 am I thought that I could stretch the matter no further, collected my luggage and made my way down to the foyer. I found a quiet corner, opened my computer and started watching a movie. It did not take long for my favourite concierge to come over and ask what I thought I was doing. Of course I told him I was waiting for my taxi. Since no one else needed my seat, I could not see that there was a problem. Of course I was wrong.

      "This is not a hotel", he repeated his now familiar refrain. "You will have to go". While I could have been confrontational and reminded him that it WAS snowing outside, I really had had enough of the pathetic little weasel. He obviously thought that being a concierge was only a step or two below being the Prime Minister, so I decided to pack my stuff as slowly as I possibly could and then roll my way out of the building for the very last time.

      Fortunately there was a very warm shopping centre just across the road, so that is where I went. I purchased a coffee, found a spare table and made it my home. My taxi was due at 1 pm, but did not arrive till 1.30 pm. I had spent the missing thirty minutes waiting in the doorway, while the cold was slowly permeating into every corner of my body. We just don't know what cold is in Australia, but I should have been grateful it was only about -3 C. Last year at this time it was apparently -26 C.

      Alex and I continued our discussions about the cricket all the way to the airport. I completed the self check in without incident and made my way through security and immigration. Another very long wait at the departure gate. Outside the snow was still falling. The time passed slowly. I continued watching my movie.

      The time for boarding finally arrived and we all jammed into the modest plane. There was not a spare seat in sight, but it was only a rather modest three and a half hours, so I did not really care.

      I was seated by a window which gave me a great view of the never ending succession of brightly lit cities we passed over as we flew over the eastern states of the USA. The night was crystal clear, without a single cloud to obscure the view. In some ways there is something cosy and comforting about a night flight. At times I dozed. By almost midnight we started descending into Havana Airport and another adventure was about to begin.

      As I retrieved my bag from the jammed overhead lockers, I noticed that my luggage label had somehow gone missing. I suppose I should be grateful if that was the only thing that went missing - I still had that anxious time of waiting to see if my main luggage would appear on the carousel.

      Back in Australia we had all paid significant money to the Cuban Consulate for a visa to enter their country. You can imagine my surprise when the hostess walked around the plane, handing out blank tourist visa forms and telling us to fill them in ourselves ! It looked like we all may have wasted $100, but it would not have been worth the risk.

      In spite of preliminary fears about the difficulties of entering the country, the immigration process was quick and easy. I was soon reunited with my luggage and went out the exit door into the unfamiliar world of Cuba. I had been told that a driver would be waiting for me (even though it was now about 12.30 in the morning).

      Once again the arrangements went perfectly and soon I was being whisked along in the back seat of a comfortable taxi. Even at this late hour there were plenty of cars on the road and plenty of people wandering the streets. The temperature was a comfortable 22 C. It did not take long to see the old cars that Cuba is famous for. It was like being at some sort of a retro car show. Obviously they just never get junked, they just keep rolling along.

      Our home for the next few days is the huge and very imposing Hotel Nacional de Cuba. This vast place was the place of choice for the rich and famous back in its heyday of the 30s and 40s. Even all these years later, it is still an impressive place. The foyer is massive and filled with colonial character. There was even a working lift !

      I was relieved to discover that my allocated room was clean, huge and had fully working air conditioning. I think I will enjoy my time here, but my first thought was to head for the bed and finally get some sleep.
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    • Day 7

      On our Bikes in Havana

      March 8, 2020 in Cuba ⋅ ⛅ 23 °C

      It's now almost a week since I left Melbourne. The long journey to Cuba took me first to Vancouver, then to Toronto, before arriving in Havana two days ago. Although it has been nice to have some time to explore and soak up the history at the Hotel Nacional, of course the real reason for coming all this way was to ride bicycles. And today that is what we did.

      In our previous adventures we have been treated to some pretty large and impressive buses, but I can honestly say that our bus in Cuba is by far the biggest we have ever had. I am not sure if they did not understand the difference between 16 and 60 when they made the bus allocation as I am sure the bus could easily hold the larger number.

      The bus is actually so large that all our bikes can easily be accommodated in the huge lower storage compartments. We have now met all the support staff that will be accompanying us for the next 16 days. Apart from the youthful Lee (our main guide), we also have a bus driver (Coco) and a bike mechanic (Titi). The bikes themselves are TREK brand mountain bikes equipped with semi slick tyres.

      We began the day at 8 am with an obligatory group photo (or series of photos) in front of the hotel, followed by a short drive in the bus to the place where we would be fitting and testing the bikes. My first impression was very favourable, The bike was relatively light and easy to ride and soon we were snaking our way on the streets of Havana.

      It was something of a relief to find that the streets were almost devoid of traffic. Maybe that was because it was not only a Sunday morning, but daylight savings had only just started that morning meaning that many people may have not put their clocks forward and were still happily home in bed.

      Although the traffic was light, the wind certainly was not. In fact it was blowing a gale all day. Our cycling route took us along the coastline towards the old part of Havana. This also meant that we were heading into the wind for about 80% of the ride. We hoped that this onslaught would not become a daily feature of the weather here.

      The roads were liberally spotted with potholes of various sizes, but were probably in better condition than I had expected. During the course of the morning we stopped at a succession of historically significant locations, while Lee explained their history to us. Because I have a limited capacity to store vast amounts of this type of information, I contented myself with just looking at the buildings, rather than trying to remember all the place names and dates. One theme that did keep repeating is that the history of Cuba and Havana in particular, dates back over 500 years. The city is liberally dotted with ancient buildings that have made it a World Heritage Site.

      When our cycling was complete we adjourned for lunch in a cafe which was apparently one of the favourite haunts of Ernest Hemingway who did much of his writing in Cuba. The afternoon was spent in a walking tour of the old city, however the wind was now blowing so hard that it was hard to stand upright.

      Tomorrow's ride will take us on a much longer foray into the Cuban countryside.
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    • Day 14

      In Search of Che Guevara

      March 15, 2020 in Cuba ⋅ ☀️ 26 °C

      After three days in Trinidad, we were really starting to feel at home in the place. The streets that had looked so confusing when we arrived, now felt familiar. My home for the three nights had been the magnificent casa particulaire owned by Carlos and Jenny Amenidides. They really had welcomed us and proven to be exceptional hosts.

      We bade our final farewell after breakfast and walked our luggage back to the waiting bus. Our destination for the day was the famous city of Santa Clara - the place where the image of Che Guevera is everywhere. But before we could begin the day;'s ride we had a tortuous bus transfer up high into the mountains.

      Anyone who thinks that Cuba is all flat, has no idea what they are talking about. The driver had to use all his skill to negotiate the narrow roads and the tight switchbacks. At times the gradients were so steep that I was worried that the bus would not be able to struggle to the top of the next climb. The roof of the bus regularly bashed on the low overhanging branches.

      At one spectacular vantage point we stopped to climb to the top of a viewing platform where we could see all the way back to Trinidad and the Caribbean Sea beyond. It was an ideal spot for another group photo.

      Then it was back in the bus for another 30 minutes of serious climbing. I was certainly glad we didn't have to ride THAT section ! Eventually the bus stopped and we were told to get ready to ride. I looked ahead at the next section of road and noted that it went straight uphill. Lee had told us that the day's ride would be a DOWNHILL ride, but once again he had lied.

      For the next two hours we alternated between long fast descents and steep climbs. Although the climbs were not long, some of them were very steep. I am happy to admit that one two occasions I got off and walked to the top.

      The scenery that we were riding through was probably the prettiest of the ride so far. Not only did we have regular views down to the lowlands, but we passed through a succession of small villages where the locals greeted us cheerfully as we passed by. Numerous horse drawn carts carried all sorts of goods back and forth.

      The road itself was sometimes unsealed and sometimes bitumen. The poor condition of the road reminded me of some of the mountain roads we had ridden in Bhutan.

      At one point I could hear happy singing coming from a small house and I stopped to listen. It did not take long to realise that it was a church gathering. The people sang and clapped with obvious joy and the harmonies were beautiful. Several young children wandered in and out, waving and smiling at me. It really was a wonderful glimpse of local life.

      I stopped outside the church for 20 minutes or so until the rest of the riders joined me and we continued together. As we descended, the heat that we had experienced each afternoon steadily built up. Apparently there has been very little rain and this shows in the dry and dusty conditions we have seen everywhere.

      Eventually we reached the sizeable city of Manicuragua, where I met a T intersection. I thought it would be good to film some of the street life. In the process I did not notice that our riders had stopped by the side of the road. I kept going through the town, before finally realising that I was alone. It was a slightly scary feeling and I had to turn around and retrace my route until I found the rest of the group.

      A short distance later we finished the ride and loaded the bikes into the bus. We then had a short drive to Santa Clara, the famous location where Che Guevara successfully waged a guerrilla war against the Battista regime. The image of Che is now everywhere and a huge mausoleum has been built in the revolution square to house his remains. This has become a place of pilgrimage for those who think that Che was some sort of superhuman.

      We visited the memorial where we had to walk in silence past his remains, before finally checking into our lovely hotel. It has been another long day.

      I should also add that word of the outside world is slowly reaching us. I can assure you that we are all well and healthy and have plenty of food and toilet paper. The biggest worry is that our flights and travel plans over the next couple of weeks may be impacted. Interesting times indeed.

      Pictures to follow .
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    • Day 9


      May 2, 2022 in Cuba ⋅ ☀️ 29 °C

      Last minute change - we're going on horseback. Something not usual for Michael.

      We left with Franka towards the horses, I had the fast / more active one (Tequila) Michael the bigger easier one (Mojito). This ride was totally not like any other tourist horse tours I did before in the past. We stopped a few times, we adjusted te route on what we would like and this time we went again to see "real Cuba"

      Franka is a Dutch girl living here. Her daughter, Olivia, is probably the only blond with blue eyed two year old in town. She knows everyone here, perfect translator for us.

      First stop was a Tabacco farm, they explained in very details about the process and also the government rules. They take 90% of all the Tabacco, where 10% is left for the farmers to sell for themselves. The big difference is that the cigars made by the farmers are all natural, handmade, what we would call bio, while the rest of the production (cohibas, partagas, etc) is not.

      On this farm they also grow and brew coffee, honey and a special rum. We decided to buy 5 kilo of the coffee, delivered to us in plastic bottle
      .. The only packaging they have! Francesca helped making this happen, it would have been impossible otherwise. They started roasting the coffee when we left, and would later deliver it to our house.

      We hopped on back on our horses. On our way we have seen our house owner, working on the land with his oxes. We stopped at a cave, rode through wetland and some jungle parts.

      Last stop was a cute restaurant up on a hill, we said good bye to our horses and left for a super nice cuban lunch with a amazing view . Franka parents joined us, super nice and friendly people with amazing travel stories! The apple did not fall far from the tree.

      The evening we walked over to her house, spend some more tile with her parents and learned more from Franka about the life in Cuba.
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    • Day 10

      Vinales day 2 / Transfer to Havana

      May 3, 2022 in Cuba ⋅ ⛅ 30 °C

      Wake up call at 5.30.....

      We decided to go on a sunset hike. One hour walk uphill in the dark with a guide and Franca. Watch sunset, one hour walk down.

      Despite the punishment and the early hour, this was very much worth it. Amazing views, endemic birds, jungle mountain sights, it was everything we hoped for.

      After a well needed shower and a gargantuan breakfast, drive to Havana in a modern car with air conditioning! Nap time!

      Arriving in Havana we looked at an old fort. OK, had to be done.

      Back at hotel we decide to go to complete different part of town. Clean, nice, almost modern : vedado. Compare to the absolute wreck and poverty of old Havana, this feels like heaven.

      We have a decent dinner there on a rooftop and we walk back via the malencon, the beach strip to the hotel.

      Its where couple hangs, Cuban plays music and fish. We saw one guy fighting and bringing up a massive barracuda - just from the shore. Impressive!
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    • Day 11

      Havana last hurray

      May 4, 2022 in Cuba ⋅ ☀️ 29 °C

      We start the day with fusterlandia. A crazy artist who decorated a whole neighborhood a la Gaudí, miro, Picasso.

      Quite interesting. Funny details we would have bought something but except hyper luxurious cigar shop no one accepts credit card - only cash.

      If we didn't had Franca or Barbara funding us pesos vs a bank transfer to their Dutch account, we would been eating white rice for a week already. There is no way to get any cah out at all or at 1/30 échange raté while the street gives you 1/110!!
      We burned our expected cash within just a few days and leaving with next to nothing 😅

      So we decide to burn the last of it on the local craft tourist market and we did a good job at it 🤣🤣

      We walk back home via a street art neighborhood - quite clean and nice actually and a hunt for bottle of water which is thus week cuban shortage. Nothing new here...

      Finally another good restaurant - top 3 in Cuba. We meet this kind of crypto American millionaire on his quest to visit 100 countries (he was at 99 already) and in a side quest for a new exotic girlfriend.

      Off to zzz, a last quickwalk and good bye to Havana. We are writing this from the Prado, just before the last shower, packing, drive to the airport one last time in Orge old timer dodge, and off to an long flight, connection in Paris, then Amsterdam in zombie mode!

      This was fun, eye opening in how poor those people are, but also how you can be happy with very little. Some things to ponder!
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    • Day 25


      September 28, 2022 in Cuba ⋅ 🌧 29 °C

      Das vorletzte Ziel, die Playa Pilar im Norden Kubas🇨🇺 ist erreicht. Nach unserer Landung in Havanna haben wir direkt ein 🚕 für die 570 Kilometer lange Reise durch Kuba genommen.

      Diese durchaus abenteuerlichen Fahrt war geprägt von schlechten Straßen, Sonne, Regen, ⛈️ Gewitter und vielen Eindrücken die mich an die DDR in Pastellfarben erinnern lässt. 😅

      Drei Tankstellen ohne Strom oder Benzin hätten diese Fahrt fast zu einem Übernachtungs-Tripp gemacht 😬

      Mit den letzten Tropfen im Tank, ohne Klimaanlage und Tempo 40 über die Autobahn geschlichen hatte Tanke Nr. 4 dann Beides.

      Mit vollen Tank kennt der Kubaner nur eines. VOLLGAS!🤪🤯

      Dank der Undichtigkeit des Autos saßen wir für 4 Stunden in nassen Sitzen 😖 und es scheint mal wieder wir hätten uns in die hosen gemacht.... Was in anbetracht des Fahrstiels gerechtfertigt gewesen wäre 😂😬🤪

      Jetzt heisst es erstmal ankommen und hoffentlich die nächsten Tage einfach nur entspannen.😍🌞🏖🇨🇺
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    • Day 2

      Havanna, Cuba

      September 28, 2022 in Cuba ⋅ ☁️ 29 °C

      Ausnahmezustand - Hurrikane „Ian“ hat ganz Kuba in ohne Strom und Internet hinterlassen. Wir sind mitten in der Nacht angekommen, keine Taxis, kein Internet, kein Geld 😅 Schließlich hat sich unter den Taxifahrern dann wohl rumgesprochen, dass der Flughafen wieder geöffnet hat und man mit der Hilflosigkeit der Touristen gut Geld machen kann. Nach einer Geisterfahrt durchs dunkle Havanna haben wir es dann sicher ins Hotel geschafft.

      1. Tag: Noch immer kein Strom auf Kuba. Auf der Suche nach trinkbaren Wasser und etwas zu essen haben wir uns zu Fuß auf dem Weg gemacht. Es ist verrückt, es war so schwierig ein geöffnetes Geschäft zu finden, als wir an einem Straßenmarkt vorbei gekommen sind, haben wir uns entschieden erstmal auf Nummer sicher zu gehen. Wir haben Reis, Tomaten und Zwiebeln gekauft und die im Hostel gekocht. Mittlerweile haben wir auch einen kleinen versteckten Shop gefunden an dem wir überteuert Wasser kaufen könnten. Wasser kostete tatsächlich mehr als ein Essen. Und auch das Wechseln der Währung war ganz anders als in anderen Ländern: Der offizielle Kurs über Bankautomaten (1:120) war schlechter für uns als der inoffizielle Kurs (1:185), und dieser wurde auf der Straße gehandelt.
      Auf der fast schon verzweifelten Suche nach Kaffee, haben wir dann kubanischen Zuckerkaffee von einer Dame bekommen, die uns diesen aus ihrer Wohnung im 2. Stock über einen Seilzug auf die Straße befördert hat.

      2. Tag: Am Morgen hatten wir zeitweise wieder Strom. Wir machten uns auf den Weg Havanna zu entdecken. Langsam kehrte auch wieder das Leben in die Stadt ein. Es öffneten weitere Geschäfte und mehr Menschen waren auf den Straßen unterwegs. Derya bemerkte plötzlich meterhohe Wellen am Stadtrand. Wir machten uns sofort auf dem Weg dahin. Der Hurrikan hatte das Meer aufgemischt und die Wellen schlugen gegen Stadtmauern und türmten sich zu riesigen Wänden aus Wasser, die dann auf die Hauptstraße schlugen. Ein Polizist rief uns mit seiner Pfeife zurück, da wir uns zu nahe am Rand der Promenade bewegten. Wir beobachten das Geschehen noch eine Weile und machten uns dann über den Plaza 13 de Marzo in die Altstadt. Da bemerkten wir zum ersten Mal die Schönheit von Havanna. Und wir haben endlich was leckeres gegessen. Und ja, Havanna Club Rum war natürlich auch am Start. #mojitomojito

      Auf dem Rückweg unterhielten wir uns stundenlang mit einem Einheimischen. Wir lernten viel über das Leben und die Probleme auf Kuba. Dieses Gespräch zeigte uns erneut wie
      privilegiert wir in Europa sind.

      3. Tag: Die Hostel-Leitung warnte uns, weitere Teile von Havanna zu erkunden. In vielen Orten hatten die Menschen seit mehreren Tage keinen Strom. Sie protestierten und schafften Menschen-Barrikaden. Mit dieser Aktion erreichten sie, das Internet in Havanna lahm zu legen.
      Auch viele Teile von Kuba konnten wir nicht entdecken, die Zigarren-Plantage war verwüstet vom Hurrikane und der berühmte Strand in Varadero war nicht lohnenswert, da dieser Ort noch immer keine Elektrizität hatte.

      Ursprünglich wollten wir dann zum 20 Minuten entfernten Strand von Havanna. Aber ratet mal was passiert ist? Es führen keine Busse und die Taxifahrer verlangten aufgrund dieser Situation mal wieder horrende Preise. Planänderung, es gingt mit der Fähre nach Casablanca. Dort besuchten wir die Statue „El Cristo de La Habana" und das Haus von Che Guevara - zumindest von außen, da dieses natürlich auch geschlossen hatte. Als wir wieder in der Altstadt ankommen sind, haben wir die berüchtigten Ernest Hemmungway Bars aufgesucht. Mit Mojitos lebt es sich definitiv besser auf Havanna.

      Marvins Flip Flops, die er natürlich extra für den Beach-Tag angezogen hatte, haben schließlich den Geist aufgeben. Wir haben uns dann mit einer Rikscha nachhause bringen lassen.

      4. Tag/Abflug: Wir machten uns morgens früh eine Stunde vergebens auf die Suche nach einem Fitnessstudio, dafür hatten wir dann aber bereits vor 12 Uhr schon 8000 Schritte auf unserem Fitness-Konto 💪🏾 Irgendwie müssen wir die Drinks ja wieder kompensieren.

      Nachmittags gingen wir nochmal in die Altstadt um uns von Havanna zu verabschieden und uns für die Reise mit dem mittlerweile verfügbaren Essen zu stärken.
      Schließlich wurden wir von einem blauen Oldtimer ala Havanna Art abgeholt und zum Flughafen gebracht. Auf der Fahrt erfuhren wir, dass das Flughafen System abgestürzt ist. Am Flughafen verlief alles allerdings ohne nennenswerte Komplikationen außer dass alles handschriftlich gemacht worden ist. Ja wirklich alles. Auch unsere BoardingCard wurde per Hand ausgefüllt und ausgestellt 😂 und es war egal wieviel Flüssigkeiten wir mit durch das checkin genommen haben 🤔 that’s Kuba.

      Zum Glück waren wir mit 4 deutschen Backpackern aus dem Hostel unterwegs, die auch nach Medellin wollten. So konnten wir uns gegenseitig etwas Mut zusprechen.

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    • Day 3

      Day 3 - Outside the Window

      January 14 in Cuba ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C

      With all the craziness, I forgot to show you what's outside the windows. Here are a few pics from my balconies.

      It's chilly with a wind here today. Not much sun. Too windy for the beach. Even the water is rough. It might be an indoor day if it doesn't clear by lunch.

      Enjoy the views
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    You might also know this place by the following names:

    Republic of Cuba, Kuba, Cuba, ኩባ, كوبا, Куба, কিউবা, ཁྱུའུ་བ།, ཀིའུ་སྦ, Kuba nutome, Κούβα, Kubo, Kuuba, کوبا, Kubaa, Cúba, ક્યુબા, Yn Choobey, Kyuba, קובה, क्यूबा, Kiba, Կուբա, Kúba, キューバ共和国, კუბა, Kiumba, គុយបា, ಕ್ಯೂಬಾ, 쿠바, کووبا, ຄິວບາ, Kiobà, ക്യൂബ, ကျူးဘား, Kiuba, क्युबा, କ୍ୱିବା, کیوبا, Cubba, Kubäa, කියුබාව, Kubë, கியூபா, క్యూబా, คิวบา, Kiupa, Küba, Cu-ba, Kubeän, Orílẹ́ède Kúbà, 古巴, i-Cuba

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