Mar 03, 2018 - Harmony V

After three great days in Havana, it is time to move on. Cuba is one of those places that no matter how many times I visit, I still enjoy each one in its own special way. This country brings so many memories, smells, and colorful thoughts.

Early morning we split the group in two options, Revolution Museum or Columbus Cemetery. I still remember one of my visits to this unique landmark during mother’s day. It was such an intense day, you could almost photograph the emotions in the air. Even though not a special day today, a small group chose to walk and explore the place, cameras in hand, surrounded by marble graves and sculptures. It is always interesting to see how people follow their intuition when using their phones, and seem to have a more formal approach when carrying bigger cameras. Both are equally fun and challenging.

I personally joined the group that visited the Revolution Museum. Even though I am familiar with the history, it’s always refreshing to hear new anecdotes and stories by our local guides.

After a lovely early morning, it was time to head to Cienfuegos, where the Harmony V was waiting for us. Travelers seemed to enjoy the change of pace. Switching the mindset is not always easy, but here in Cuba seems to happen naturally.  We spent the bus ride talking about the differences between the United States and Cuba, but mostly the upcoming challenges.

Multiple memories flashed back as we drove through the main highway known as “Carretera Central”. Around 240 km. separate Havana from Cienfuegos. I remember one of my earliest trips to Cuba years ago, when I drove the island from corner to corner, picking up hitchhikers along the way. Their life stories still resonate in my mind. As we drove today, many of those stories came back to me. That is the power of traveling. It turns us into different human beings. I looked at the color of the vegetation today.  I looked at the absence of traffic. I stared at the spacing between vehicles, the waiting by-standers. So many elements and characteristics that define this country.

By the time we reached Finca Campesina to enjoy a delicious Cuban meal, all guests seemed to have already transitioned into a more rural state of mind. We listened to a typical countryside music group while we served ourselves to a fantastic open buffet, where the main course was the traditional roasted pork.  I have always been fond of the people interactions created on National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions. The combination of very well-organized activities with enough room for serendipity moments creates the best photo opportunities for us, as do, of course, the best settings to share some photo tips.

On arrival to Cienfuegos, and before heading to our floating home for the next few days, we are lucky enough to listen to a special performance by the acapella choir “Cantadores de Cienfuegos”, at Plaza Marti.  Our guests were mesmerized by the talented performers, combining traditional Cuban instruments, such as la clave, with acapella singing. Every trip here reminds me of how lucky we are to experience this country, and how lucky to be able to share our love for photography with our guests.

Another day has passed. Conversations flowed at dinner. It was clear that Cuba had given us another lovely day. This country always surprises us with its charismatic chaos and uncertainty, but always, always, decorated with bright smiles and warm hearts.

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About the Author

Kike Calvo

National Geographic Photographer

Award-winning photographer, journalist, and author Kike Calvo specializes in culture and environment. He has been on assignment in more than 90 countries, working on stories ranging from belugas in the Arctic to traditional Hmong costumes in Laos.

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