Full Circle in Cuba

By Mike Davis

In 2012, Gloria and I had headed off to Cuba to a 2-star resort. Don Lino in Holguin province was the lowest price on the internet; this was the deciding factor. I had been to Cuba before, but had stayed with the locals and went caving (spelunking) with them. This was the first time I had stayed at a resort, first time in Cuba for Gloria. We rented a motor scooter, toured around, wanted to check out a cave out in the countryside, crashed, got rescued by some very nice people, Gloria cut her knee, got it sewn up by a very competent Cuban doctor, went home, where Canadian doctors were impressed with the sew job. Gloria writes about it in her blog post. Gloria and I had gone back to Cuba several times since to other resorts in other provinces, but not back to Holguin.

Farmhouse belonging to our rescuers

In 2018 I decided to go back to the same 2-star, now I think a 2.5 star. Gloria had to stay home with her geriatric dog, so I went with my friend Steve, who had gone spelunking with me before in Cuba.  I wanted to try to find Gisela, the young woman who had rescued us after the previous crash. I had a photo of the farm house belonging to Gisela’s grandparents near where we crashed , so I printed it off along with the blogs that Gloria had written 6 years prior. I also had Google translations of them into Spanish.

I asked the staff at the resort, but no one knew of Gisela, so I peddled into town south of the resort, Santa Lucia, on my bike that I brought from Canada. I sauntered into the first official looking building I came to and started asking. It turned out to be the local court house. I know no Spanish, so with a lot of hand signals and pointing to my paperwork, I was introduced to, I think, the court administrator. She spoke some English, and my story got through. I knew that Gisela was a social worker in town. The administrator phoned that department and talked to her boss! I was getting closer! But she had bad news, Gisela had quit her job the month before and moved to another town far away. Oh well, or so I thought.

Steve and I each rented a motor scooter; for the record, we did not crash. We decided to check out the cave that Gloria and I were looking for 6 years before. As I had the picture of the farmhouse and it was on the road to the cave, I found the house. I met the Grandmother again and gave her the photo, copies of the blogs and copies of the magazine. Again, lots of hand gestures, but no verbal communication worked at all. I thanked her and we carried on; my mission completed, or again so I thought.

View from the top, looking toward the farmhouse and the resort

Steve and I carried on down the road and found the path to the cave. We hired a local guide, had a very good climb up a mountain with a fantastic view and we explored the cave. Interestingly, the rock formation behind the farm house and where the lookout/cave was, was very likely the same formation that Christopher Columbus (in Spanish: Cristóbal Colón) had described in his journals in 1492, when he stumbled onto the Americas! After a great day, back we came to the resort, and I found a note from Gisela under my door.

Note that was under the door
Gisela at her home

I met up with Gisela the next day.

She had quit her job and was in the final stages of moving within a few days to her boyfriend’s place in Ciego De Avila, a city more to the centre of the Island. I almost missed her. She invited me to visit her house in town (Santa Lucia), so I took her up on it. By our standards, it may not be much, but by Cuban standards it is a fairly reasonable place. Most importantly, though, it was hers and she was really proud of it.

Gisela’s Home
Back yard


Gisela wrote a letter back to Gloria. It was in Spanish and we tried to translate it by typing into the computer and using Google Translate. The Google version was entertaining with a few rather rude words wrongly translated, so I asked a fellow Naturalist club member to help with translation.

Some of Gisela’s letter, translated

It was a great adventure and I’m happy that I linked up with Gisela and her Grandmother. I’m sorry her grandfather had passed within the last 6 years.

It was fun to explore, reach out further than the resort experience more of the countryside. Gisela says I need to learn Spanish- Sí. Alas, I’m still trying to figure out English.

1 Comment

  • Love this story Mike. It is so important to remember those who, out of the kindness of their heart, help us out. Connection.

    A few years ago, I traveled twice year to st Lucia. From the airport, I always stood in the pick up portion of the pick up truck and waived at this gentleman carrying goods to / from the market. He always waived back with a smile. One year, I visited once. Gentleman saw, ran up to me, said: “man, it is so good to see you. Every time you said hello, I felt so good.” he shook my hand and that was the last time we saw each other. i had no idea my waive meant much to anyone. just felt good.

    Thanks again.

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