Over the past few days a dark cloud had been growing steadily, not just over Cuba, but over the whole planet. It was called the COVID 19 virus. The first mentions of this epidemic were just hitting the news as we departed Australia, but no one could have foreseen just how rapidly the situation was going to involve.
Even though we were on the other side of the planet, I endeavored to keep up to date with the latest developments whenever I could get Internet access. In a place like Cuba the Internet is something of a luxury and access can only be purchased an hour at a time by means of a coded scratch ticket.
Over the previous couple of days we had been informed that the first cases of COVID19 had been reported in Cuba. We noticed a rapid increase in the number of people wearing face masks. Restaurants started insisting that everyone entering the premises had to have their hands disinfected. My level of anxiety increased with each successive elevation of the alert level.
Today we travelled from Santa Clara to Las Terrazas (The Terraces). Although we were due to spend the afternoon cycling, I decided that I needed to spend the time getting as much information as possible, so that any decision I made would be rationally based. The next 3 hours were spent in my room at the beautiful Hotel Moka, searching for accurate information.
The first thing I found was that my planned cross Canada rail trip had already been cancelled. For me that was one of the main reasons I was taking this trip in the first place, so the cancellation was bitterly disappointing. I also received another email from World Expeditions advising all participants to look for earlier flights home. The final straw came in the form of a notice from the Australian Government raising the threat level for the entire world to level four - the highest possible.
In the space of a couple of hours I could feel that this trip was being taken from my hands. I looked around the room and gazed at the spectacular view outside. Although it was breathtaking, I knew just how far I was away from home. All it would take is a disruption anywhere along the way to make a return to Australia impossible. I decided that I would return to Havana as quickly as possible and seek alternate flights back to Melbourne.
Anyone who has tried to ring airlines would know how difficult it is in normal circumstances. In times of crisis it is absolutely impossible. Fortunately my family back home were able to work on my behalf to find earlier flights.
When the rest of the team arrived I told them what I had discovered and I informed them that I would be returning to Havana. Each participant then had to decide whether to continue or not. I have to admit that I was more than a little surprised when the rest of the group decided to continue with the trip.
I returned to my room to pack my bags for the final time, knowing full well that it would be a very long time before I would be able to lay my head on a pillow again. A taxi had been arranged to pick me up at 1 am for the long journey back to Havana.Read more