Varadero, Cuba wasn’t quite my dream vacation. As I’ve told many people since we got back – the first five days were beautiful and amazing! Too bad we had 5 more days remaining on our trip, and that’s when I got sick.
In the moment, I knew how bad it was. My body was giving me ALL of the signs. I threw up one night and had chills – to the point where my body wouldn’t stop shaking and it was hard to fall asleep. To make matters worse, I threw up the night before our day trip to Havana (or Habana as the Cubans and Spanish people call it). Looking back, I think it was even worse than I had thought.
Let’s start from the beginning though. At first glance, Barcelo Solymar Beach Resort was breathe taking. There were 4 stories of rooms and green, luscious plants hanging from the top – down. Checking in was a breeze and our room was HUGE. The weather was sunny, hot (but not too hot) and bright. Our beach was white sands and the ocean was many, many shades of blue. The food wasn’t bad. It’s what you’d expect in Cuba.
Andrew and I had a lot of fun hanging out on the beach, lazying around, tanning and playing in the water (ocean and pool-side). But then, it hit me. Vomiting, severe nausea, diarrhea too! As I said, we were going to Havana. Initially, I felt better that morning. We got everything ready. At breakfast, I looked at Andrew’s plate of food and wanted to throw up.
Havana is spectacular. It was the main reason we chose to stay in Varadero. Little did we know that it was a 2hr drive away, but all in all the day was great. We visited Hemingway’s hangouts and hotel in the city – where he wrote a lot of his classic stories. The architecture, culture and people were amazing to see. We were lucky enough to visit a local food supply store where locals purchase their monthly rations. What an experience. Even Revolutionary Square was something I had seen in pictures but was more magnificent than I had thought.
Having gotten back to the hotel so late (after 9pm at night) there were no doctors at the hotel. The next day I seemed to feel better, but with diarrhea still present, I knew I had to contact my parents. With an internet card (only 5 convertible pesos for 15 minutes!) I emailed our travel agent – to see if we could leave sooner – and my parents.
With my mom insisting to see the doctor – that’s what I did. She gave me a shot in my butt of gravel, an electrolyte liquid and something I still don’t know. The combination immediately helped my nausea and pooping problem. Some type of bacteria had gotten in my digestive track, which required antibiotics as well and lots of juice boxes. I was also prescribed coconut electrolyte powders to pour into water and drink once every two hours until finished. It tasted like sunscreen.
All the medication cost me about $99 convertible pesos (about $120 Canadian). Thank God for travel/medical insurance. As the days passed, I started to feel better, but the food was still turning me off. The doctor had to give me a hand written letter to show the buffet chef so that he would make me grilled chicken and chicken noodle soup. She even went out of her way to tell him herself that I’d be coming.
I’m not sure how I knew, but I stayed out of the sun while on antibiotics. So much for tanning. Andrew and I lounged on the beach in the shade for the last three days of our trip. At least I had the weather and a magnificent view on my side.
Being sick while away from home was more than traumatizing. All I wanted to do was leave early. However, to change your flight would cost us $400 each. We would have had to pay our flight again since it wasn’t an emergency (though it was – I lost 8 to 10 pounds pretty quickly having only ate white rice, bread and chicken for four days).
I love Cuban people. I used to love Cuba, but being sick there has exposed Andrew and I to some flaws in their country’s travel industry and currency. Sunwing was helpful, but I much prefer Air Transat overall. The hotel though lovely, was a party hotel, and it was hard to make friends. The majority of people were from Montreal (weren’t interested in talking to English-speaking Canadians) and young.
Somehow I managed to come back with a bit of a tan, but going to an all-inclusive for 10 days was a huge mistake on my part. This is why people only go to these places for 7 days MAX. If you get really sick like I did, you aren’t stuck there.
Lesson learned. Havana was all I had dreamed it would be, the beaches even more wonderful, but I won’t be making a visit back to Cuba anytime soon. Not without my mom.