Tag Archive for Cuba

Cuban Revolution Day – Charity Challenge Team Leader Trevor Gibbs reflects on the importance of this commemorative day

The Cuban Revolution probably spawned some of the most iconic images of the 20th century. For a short time, back in the early years of the 1960s, against the backdrop of the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis, Cuba, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara held centre stage whilst the world held its breathe and waited. Those days are long gone, but the images still remain and Cuba, Castro and Che continue to be a poignant reminder of a world that stood on the brink of social change and cold war paranoia.

Cuba’s Celebration of the National Rebellion is one of the most important dates on the revolutionary calendar. It commemorates the day in 1953 when Fidel Castro led a small group of rebels against the Moncada army barracks in Santiago de Cuba. The attack itself was an unmitigated failure and led to the arrest and imprisonment of Fidel and a number of his revolutionary compatriots. For many Cubans though, the date marked the beginning of Cuba’s long road towards revolution and reform. Indeed, such was the importance of the date that the army that eventually overthrew the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista was known as the 26 July Movement (M-26-7) and today this auspicious day is celebrated throughout the country with three days of festivities and rallies.

A showcase for Cuban national pride, it is a dazzling mix of patriotic fervour and carnival, with the country’s towns and cities being adorned with political banners and official graffiti. It is not unusual for crowds of 100,000 or more to hit the streets of Havana, the flag waving, dancing and live music adding to the carnival atmosphere. Meanwhile, at the Moncada Barracks in Santiago de Cuba, the names of the martyrs of the revolution are read out to an accompanying fusillade of gunfire and singing. There are few countries in the world that can combine politics and partying with such relish, but the Cubans have a style and a passion all of their own. Here, revolution and rumba go hand in hand.

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Cuba Carnival – Trevor Gibbs writes about the biggest fiesta going down in Cuba

The ‘Pearl of the Antilles’, Cuba pulsates to the rhythms of its Latin and African origins. The land of the rumba and the salsa, this Caribbean jewel has been partying for centuries; since black slaves began holding dances to commemorate the festivals of Corpus Christi and Epiphany. Indeed, Carnival can justifiably be considered one of the island’s oldest traditions.

Until the late 1990s, Carnival was always held earlier in the year to coincide with its religious roots, a time when the Spanish overlords allowed their slaves a few days off to reproduce the songs and dances of their African homeland. For the past few years though the festival has moved to the summer months, when the streets of Havana and Santiago de Cuba explode in a riot of colour and comparsas (performing groups). The largest and most traditional of the carnival celebrations take place in Santiago, whilst in Havana there is music, dancing, outrageous costumes and fireworks, with parades running the length of the Malécon, Havana’s broad waterfront.

As well as the faroleros dancers and the hypnotic blend of traditional and contemporary music, the parades also include allegorical floats and the imposing presence of the Muñecones, huge satirical caricatures of well-known politicians and other famous people. Many of the groups that take part in the festival are drawn from the neighbourhoods of the Cuban capital and much community pride goes into their performances. Each year one day is also set aside specifically for children, with clowns and magicians joining the thronging masses.

For anyone who has never experienced Carnival before, it is a dazzling kaleidoscope of Cuban rhythm, dance and colour and every year spectators are invited to join in with the fun. For those looking to immerse themselves fully into Cuban culture, this visual treat is also a great time to experience a rich range of Cuban cuisine, with roasted pig (puerco asado), tamales and chicharritas on offer…all washed down with some cold Cuban beer or some of the island’s famous rum.

Dates for this year’s Carnival are from the 21-29 July in Santiago de Cuba and from the 3-10 August in Havana.

To keep up to date on all Charity Challenge news and recieve our latest blogs, please subscribe to our RSS feed via clicking the orange button in the top right, and enter your email address into the adjacent box to subscribe to our mailing list. And for more of Trevor’s view on the world, check out his action packed blog at:http://alizardwandering.wordpress.com/

Top 5 Romantic Challenges of 2012!

Happy Valentines Day everybody! In honour of St Valentine, we’ve put together a list of our top 5 most romantic challenges…

5) Etna Volcanic Adventure – coming in at number 5 is the Etna Volcanic Adventure, a challenge so hot that it’s literally bursting at the seams! (The last eruption was literally last week). With breath-taking scenery, real Italian Spaghetti, isolated shepherd huts in the wilderness and the chance to sleep under the stars, there was no way this challenge was not going to make the list! This long weekend challenge might not be as gruelling as some of our other challenges, but the fact that you need to carry sizeable rucksacks whilst trekking adds a whole new dimension to the trek (in fact, this is a perfect challenge to take your other half on, as you could do with someone to help you carry your bags!) Also this challenge is currently on special £75 promotion!

4) Great Wall Discovery – Anyone who’s seen the sun setting over the Great Wall will know why this challenge makes the list. It’s a truly unforgettable sight, especially if you have somebody to share it with. China is also the country steeped in myths and legends where beautiful Chinese lanterns light the sky. This challenge also has a £100 off offer running on it, and what makes a more romantic valentines gift than a discounted trek across one of the wonders of the world!

3) Kilimanjaro Summit Climb – On the surface this challenge may not seem as romantic as the previous two, but this is the challenge that has brought together the most couples out of our entire challenge catalogue! A few years back we even had a proposal at the summit of Kilimanjaro. And standing in footprints of past celebrities (Gary Barlow, Cheryl Cole and Chris Moyles to name but a few!), with the backdrop of a stunning African landscape and an inescapable long walk back down, you’re really not going to say no! Kilimanjaro is our most favoured challenge and we have various expedition dates throughout the year, click here to see them (note: all challenges with the red stars by them are currently on special promotion!)

2) Escambray Encounter – this is on the list for all the singletons out there, who are currently ripping petals of roses and ceremonially burning their ex’s stuff. We have it on good authority that our Escambray Encounter Trek is the ultimate challenge for people looking to have a fun trek. The city of Havana is alive at any time of day or night with music and street parties, the locals are friendly and there is even rumoured to be a free bar on offer to challengers once they’ve completed the gruelling trek! It’s not too late to sign up to our three current departure dates in November of this year and in 2013

1) Dog Sledding Challenge – This challenge had to be number one for so many reasons. As our Sweden Ground handler Jordana put it “What could be more romantic than cuddling together on reindeer pelts by open fire whilst hearing the sleddogs howl to the northern lights and full moon!” We simply couldn’t think of anything, which is why this challenge tops the list and gains the title of Valentines Challenge of 2012! So for the ultimate Valentines gesture, click here to view and book onto one of our upcoming Dog Sledding Challenges!