We’re gazing across the dinner table into each other’s eyes. This should have been a romantic moment, but instead we’re trying our hardest not to burst out laughing.
It’s an uncharacteristically stormy night on Cayo Levisa, a small, idyllic island off of Cuba’s northwest coast. The diners around us are bundled up in hoodies and jackets… you know, things you’d wear in a tropical storm. We’re also dressed to impress: Kyla’s sporting Ellen Degeneres boxer briefs – not *quite* long enough to pass as shorts, a thin rain jacket, and… nothing else. Leslie’s wearing a top that could be appropriate for a nice restaurant, except that it’s damp, she’s bra-less, and her arms are firmly crossed to hide the obvious fact that it’s very cold. It’s one of those moments where you realize you’re both thinking the same thing: how did we get here?
Flashback five days to Viñales, a small, colourful, agricultural town a couple hours west of Havana. It was our first stop in Cuba and we were super excited to explore. The main mode of transportation in Viñales was by horse or classic car. The surrounding valley was made up of lush tobacco fields and limestone cliffs, and there was a steady stream of rum flowing in all the restaurants, no matter the time of day! (More about Viñales: vlog, blog.)
We opted to stay in a casa particular in town. A casa is a private Cuban homestay, the original Airbnb. Casas are a GREAT option, both in terms of budget and getting yourself immersed in Cuban culture. For the most part, ours were wonderful: we got to enjoy Grecian-style balconies with views of the Havana Malecón, had our hosts in Trinidad arrange salsa dancing lessons, and enjoyed delicious home-cooked meals. Unfortunately in Viñales, our casa provided us with some unwelcome roommates. The first morning, we woke up with a few bug bites. “Could be mosquitos,” we told ourselves optimistically, “there are lots in the valley, we’ve seen them around!” The next morning, and every day after that, we’d wake up with more and more angry-looking bites. It became increasingly clear that the bites were coming from underneath the covers! Googling “signs of bedbugs” didn’t reassure us, and long story short, by the time we got to the tropical paradise that is Cayo Levisa, covered in red welts, we could NOT relax!
There are no homes or roads on tiny Cayo Levisa, just one hotel with beautiful, beachside bungalows. If you’re on a budget like we were, it’s definitely a splurge, but a worthwhile one! As soon as we arrived on the island, Kyla did the first thing she ALWAYS does in a new place: scoped out some trees and hung up our super gay rainbow hammock. The hammock was declared a bedbug-free zone, so we both took cleansing dips in the ocean before climbing in. Once we were able to check into our bungalow, laundry was the first thing on our agenda! We went searching for someone who could help us, because in our minds, washing EVERY SINGLE ITEM of clothing we’d brought was the only solution to the bedbug ordeal. We gratefully dropped off several bags of clothes with a helpful employee, keeping a handful of delicates back to hand wash. We turned our massive bungalow bathroom into a small scale laundromat, and strung our clothes up to dry over every available surface. “All you need is a bathing suit at an island resort,” we reasoned naively, “plus, our clothes will dry in no time in the sun!” Unfortunately, that’s when Mother Nature was like, “hold my drink!” As we finished up the last of our washing, we heard the unwelcome sounds of a tropical storm. Not what you want to hear on your beachy holiday. DEFINITELY not what you want to hear when every single piece of your clothing is soaking wet!
But we were on a romantic vacation, so even a tropical storm couldn’t keep us away from the beach! Having finished our laundry, we triumphantly put on our soggy swimsuits, and bravely ventured towards the water. Two minutes later… we were under the covers in our birthday suits – the only dry “suits” we had – watching Spanish cartoons. Just then, the phone rang. With our poor Spanish, we understood something about our laundry… and a boat. Our clothes were definitely no longer on the island, and dinnertime was rapidly approaching. Pro tip: when you don’t have a clothes dryer, or the sun, a hair dryer is a (much less effective) alternative! Half an hour later, our clothes were basically just as damp, but we were still just as determined to eat dinner. And that brought us to the romantic scene at the beachside restaurant, fabric walls billowing violently in the wind. The other diners looked on incredulously, wondering where the rest of our clothes were, as we shivered our way through our nearly-naked meal.
The next day brought a little more sunshine – or at least a little more not-rain – and as a few more of our clothes slowly dried, we ventured out around the walkable island. We spent the day doing handstands in mangrove forests, acroyoga on soft white beaches, cross stitching about smashing the patriarchy, and curling up in beachside cabanas to read up on Ellen Page in the latest issue of Curve.
Moral of the story (no matter where you go): check your mattress before you sleep on it! Despite the circumstances, Cayo Levisa was a lovely place to spend part of our Cuban holiday, and we imagine it would be even MORE enjoyable if you had clothes to wear.
Kyla and Leslie are a lesbionic, world-travelling couple, based in Victoria, Canada who sometimes make videos about their adventures, which can be found here. You can also follow their travels through Leslie’s blog, Instagram, and Kyla’s Instagram.