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An Illegal Taxi Adventure in Cuba

March 5, 2014

Before I went backpacking and wandering through Cuba I asked myself what images I wanted to come back with.  Top of my list was a city scene with an American Classic car.  Truth be told getting the image wasn't really that difficult.  I don't know why I imagined it would be a hard image to come by....5 minutes in Havana and you are surrounded by American Classics (retrofitted with Russian engines).    I had quite a bit of fun wandering around town, snapping pictures, chatting up  car owners.   Though it was fun I wouldn't really say there was any real adventure in getting those images....no sireee...the adventure wasn't in photographing these cars, it was in riding in one...now that was truly wild.  

 

 

Now let me preface this by saying "I'm cheap!"...almost to the point of stupidity ....ok I will be honest...it is to the point of stupidity.  So when I was in Havana I decided to skip the tourist taxi and make like a local and take the "Collectivo" taxis.   Why?  Well if I took the Collectivo taxi I could pay a fraction (10% to be exact) of what I would pay for the tourist taxi.   I learnt of this when my translator, a lovely lady I had hired to help me out in Havana, joked that I could probably get away with riding the collectivo taxis because I looked so much like a local.   When I asked what the difference was between the Collectivo and tourist taxi this is what she said... the tourist taxi is pretty much the standard taxi service you expect...metered fare, restricted to you as the passenger etc (keep in mind the etc bit will be relevant as the story goes on)...the collectivo taxis tend to be illegal, stick to a specific route around town operating as a hop-on hop-off service, not available to tourists, only used by locals, shared amoung multiple passengers and most importantly...SUPER CHEAP... etc (eeehmmm....again with that etc).

 

 

So I decide, when in Cuba, make like a Cuban....and take advantage of the opportunity to indulge the miser in me and save 90 cents (yup...that is what I saved y'all....90 cents).   I bravely stand on a main street, stick my arm out and flag one like I've seen everyone else do....I'm feeling more confident than I should because I have my translator to back me up in case I say or do something stupid...an older American Classic pulls up...driver waves us in...negotiate and pay the fare.... I wedge myself into the back seat of this car with 3 other people....car speeds off...I grin all impressed with my frugality...and look down and notice....hmmm...I can see the road rushing underneath us through some rusty holes in the floor of the car.....cautiously move my flip flopped feet away from holes.....car hits a pot hole and I notice the driver side door fly open...driver calmly reaches over and slams it back shut as he drives along...none of the passengers bats an eye....I start to consider the possibility that I was supremely idiotic for not paying attention to the "etc" part of this deal.....he speeds along the motor way and I begin to imagine all the ways my no-seatbelt-wearing-self  could die....I look over at the door handles on the back doors and feel the hysteria creeping in just a litte bit when i realize someone has ingeniously replaced the absent door handles with beautifully carved wooden ones...makes me wonder what else  has been "creatively" replaced on the car...a savings of 90 cents no longer seems so smart to me...I start wondering if my insurance company will refuse to cover me because they would consider this risk taking behaviour....I look down at the holes in the floor and think about saying a prayer...a horrible thought occurs to me, what if the back seat is only resting on a bit of rust and a plank of wood....what if it protests the weight of the fellow passengers and myself and we fall through onto the road...I soil myself just a little bit....and right about then we got to my stop and my translator and I tumble out of the car and I watch the American Classic speed off....and you know what I thought....OMG that was such a blast...I wanna do it again!....so I did...and I saved another 90 cents :)

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