In the apartment I decided I might be able to wait a couple of hours until the heat died down before venturing out again. I settled down with my beers and smoked one of my cigars from la finca.
The Great Money Exchange was a quest I had hoped I wouldn’t t have to make. But after finishing breakfast and finally buying a few chachkies for the family, I found I had just $1000 cuban pesos to my name and no more dollars to spare. That’s about $5 for those of you keeping score at home. So, if I had any interest in eating and drinking today and tomorrow, then I’d better fucking change some money, shouldn’t I?
On that note, after a few practice runs I did start feeling more comfortable with the money situation. For someone from the good old US of A, the whole idea of exchanging currency on the black market sounds, and is, extremely sketchy. But once you do it a few times and — importantly for me — understand a bit of the why behind it, it becomes a little less scary. The waiter yesterday offered me the full suite of cuban services: cigars, ron, prostitutas, and currency exchange. I changed $20 green ones with him. I was thinking of going back yesterday there when a man near the capital asked if I needed to change some money. I changed $80 with him for the best rate I’ve found yet. Just trust your gut and try not to be a complete idiot and you probably won’t get robbed.
Ah yeah, yesterday nearly killed me. I was determined to visit two of the major Spanish forts on the other side of Havana from where I’m staying. Would I take a taxi? Maybe one of those classic cars that they rave about so much? No. I had resolved, with all of my being, to walk and take the ferry. What this amounted to was about an hour of walking (with a break for breakfast) down to the ferry site. Okay, sure, an hour of walking, not the end of the world. After about an hour of being ferryed around I finally ended up where I needed to go: casablanca, where two iconic Spanish forts defend habana from piracy and the British.
I did all I could, and I did it all walking. Casa de Che Guevara, Castillo de los Reyes del Morro, Castillo de San Carlos. The forts are enormous, and the sites are not especially close together. The heat was an awe-inspiring force of nature to contend with, a downpour a radiant head against which I had to swim. Dentro de poco toda mi ropa y mi cuerpo estaba empapadisimo con sudor. I took shelter when I could in delightfully air-conditioned gift shops. I rested in the shade. My phone shut down from overheating. But I walked the castle walls. I stood on the parapets and gazed at the city and the sea.
When I made it to the ferry I had one thought on my mind: Cold Beer