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Adventures in the Caribbean: General: Golf:

Return Hell

We check out of our room in Varadero Cuba at about noon on Sunday, after spending a fabulous week in the sun with some friends, get into our traveling clothes, and continue to hang out sampling the wonderful ambiance of the resort, not to mention the delicious rum drinks. Weíre picked up at our hotel at about 6:30 Sunday evening. We go to the airport, a short trip of about 15 or 20 minutes. We get there just in time as itís starting to rain. We line up to check our bags in, which takes about an hour. Then we go through security, which takes another hour. Finally we get to the departure lounge. I buy a few cans of Cristal beer, and wait. The flight is supposed to leave at 10:30 p.m. The schedule on the monitors shows it to be on time. 10:30 comes & goes, 11:00 comes & goes, as does 11:30 and 12:00 midnight. Shortly after 12 we are told that we have to get our luggage and get on a bus, which will take us to a hotel, the flight is leaving at 11:30 tomorrow morning. Lucky us, our luggage had been left on the tarmac in the rain for several hours while they tried to figure the aircraft out and everything we own is soaking wet. We spend 45 minutes on the bus traveling to a hotel on the Varadero strip, which incidentally is as far away from the airport as you can possibly get and still be on the strip. We are told that the aircraft has a flat tire that they are having some difficulty replacing. Once at the hotel, we line up for another hour to get checked in. We get to our room at 4 a.m. The bus is supposed to pick us up at 10 a.m. Do you think you can sleep? No way, youíre waking up every 15 minutes or so to check the time; after all, you HAVE to make that bus!

At 9:00 we get up & head to the lobby. 5 busses come to pick 195 or so of us up. Another 45 minutes to the airport, another hour to check our bags in, another hour to go through security. It is already past the time that the flight is supposed to leave. At about 1:00 p.m. we are told that the aircraft is still unserviceable. It seems that when the tire blew on landing, some rubber from it was sucked into the engine. We are going to have to get our luggage and go back to a hotel. Our flight is now scheduled to leave at 11:45 tonight! OK, I have to make some phone calls. No cellular service, perfect. I go to the service desk & ask if the telephones will accept my credit card, I have to make some international calls. No, I am told, you have to buy a phone card. OK, no problem, where can I get one? Well, the lady that sells them isnít here today I am informed. Perfect. We wait for Ĺ an hour or so to get our luggage (after going through security again), then as we board the busses are handed a piece of paper. Sorry for the inconvenience, sign this & weíll give you a $125 voucher for our airline. I donít think so! Another 45 minutes back to this hotel, then because they are waiting for us this time, only Ĺ an hour to check in. Itís 30C and humid, the sweat is literally running down in cascades from my pores. Iíve been wearing the same clothes for a while now, and havenít eaten in almost 24 hours. Is the dining room open? No, itís closed, we are too late for lunch (itís now 3 p.m.), and we will have to wait until 6:30. We manage to find a snack bar after dragging our exponentially heavier bags to a room. We sneak in just under the wire as it closes 5 minutes after we get there. Back to the room for a shower, donning the same sweat soaked clothes that weíve been wearing since about noon yesterday, and a cat nap.

Sleep deprived,† (nothing but naps for the last day or so) we head to the lobby at about 8. At this time we are told that our flight is delayed yet again, and the busses instead of picking us up at 9, are now picking us up at 10 p.m. It seems that the aircraft dispatched from Toronto to come & get us (the one in Cuba must really be screwed) also broke down. Another aircraft is sent, a different bigger one. UH OH, I paid extra for emergency row seats, I donít fit in normal aircraft seats. 6í3Ē 237 lbs. No man, normal seats will not work! If this is a different aircraft, will my seat assignment put me in the emergency row? I get hold of the poor harried tour rep. who makes a phone call, gives me a name of the tour rep. at the airport, and assures me there is no problem.

At 10:00p.m., the busses arrive to get us. We travel yet another 45 minutes to the airport, theyíre waiting for us this time, I check with our tour rep., yes no problem, I have confirmed emergency exit seats. Check in is only 20 minutes or so, 10 minutes or so to clear security as we are the only people in the airport. Into the lounge we go. Everything is closed pretty well. Good thing I bought my duty free stuff the first time we were there! We board the aircraft at about 1:00a.m., and I am directed to my seat, strangely enough, NOT an emergency exit seat. No way man! I stand by the emergency row seats & refuse to sit until I get one. The steward is very nice & gets me the seats, trading with someone who was assigned them but who didnít pay extra for them. One problem solved.

We land in Toronto at about 4:00 a.m., going through customs the guy asks us what we have to declare. I think that they were called in JUST for our flight! I say some rum, cigars, a cap, box of dominoes, and a jar of honey. HONEY he says, marking my card with all kinds of red lines. Perfect. We go to the luggage carousel, which spits out about a dozen bags, then inexplicably stops for 20 minutes. Ĺ an hour later we finally get our bags. We get stopped at the final customs check because of all the red marks on our card, but they are tired too, so the guy who is asked to handle us says hen doesnít care & we are let through. A 24 hour shuttle gets us to the hotel we had paid for the previous night at about 5 a.m. We had a reservation last night but our flight was delayed. Sorry, weíre full. Of course you are. We drive back to Stratford, the window open, Iím shaking my head trying to stay awake. Iíve been up for about 22 hours or so and havenít slept fully in ages. At one point I have to stop & walk around for a while to wake up. Iím seeing double at times and driving is a real concentration nightmare. We make it back home at 7:00 a.m.. In bed until noon, then I have to get up so Iíll be able to sleep that night & go to work.

I have to drive Cal back to Kitchener in the afternoon. Zombie like I make the trip. On the way home my exhaust system starts making all kinds of noise. Perfect. I stop & make an appointment for the next day. They call me at lunch the next day, $520. Nice. I go to pay for it & they give me ďgood newsĒ. Itís only $320. What a perfect end to a vacation. I need another one to recover from the trip home!

Filed under Adventures in the Caribbean, Feb 7, 2010

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