La Habana -love at first sight...

This years "exotic" trip went to Cuba and Mexico with Cuba being the first stop. First up was, of course, the mythical city of La Habana. This city and all the other places we visited in Cuba was unlike any other place I've been to so far: no comercials, nothing fancy, nothing new -no bullshit! Just old buildings, old cars, music and dance everywhere, you eat whatever there is still left on the meny. For someone like me, who is all about old school, this was The place. You could write several books about this place or read the ones that are allready written. But this place has to bee exerienced if you get the chance. So. We didn't spend our time slacking. We walked the streets, went out for salsa music and dance (I just happend to be travelling with two salsa experts!), ate whatever was available and also went climbing at the "el Morro" fort in the Habana habour.

the spirit of "el Che" lives on...

doing some wicked routes on the "el Morro" fort with La Habana and the sunset in the background. Magic.

taking a "batido" (milkshake) by the end of the day near China Town i La Habana. the guy to the left is Pellin, my timbale drum teacher who just climbed for the first time a few hours earlier.

El Morro was great fun but I didn't travell all the way here only to climb on historical buildings... Next stop was the center of Cuban climbing -the Vinales valley. Home of a couple of hundreds of routes, and hundreds of mosquitoes! I had a great time, despite the mosquitoes though. There was a small but great small community of local climbers and also a bunch of travellers so finding climbingpartners was no biggie. The ocean was not too far away to cool you down on restdays. And the nightclub with live music on the main plaza rocked every night. For more info, check out: www.cubaclimbing.com.

the beauty of the Vinales valley. it reminded me a bit of Yangshuo in China. photo: Yarobis Garcia

climbing at the Palenque sector with parts of team Vinales/Cuba, Canada and Sweden below. photo: Olivier Ouellette

finally feeling it a bit. here sending Cubas testpiece, the "One Inch Punch" 8b+. maybe a bit in the soft end of the scale but who cares? The perfect route! photo: Yarobis Garcia

After Vinales it was time to celebrate x-mas so we headed to the city of Matanzas to meet some good friends. I also found a bit music going on, the roots of afrocuban batá drumming. Then it was time to leave Cuba for this time. Next stop was climbing in northern Mexico: El Potrero Chico and el Salto. But in between some quality time in the Mexican caribbean on the Yucatan peninsula.

jamming with the sacred batá drummers in Matanzas. this is a big part of the afrocuban Santeria cult and the roots of rumba music.

taking a break in Tulum near Cancún in the Mexican caribbean. great freediving/reefs just 5 minutes swimming from the beach. and the great drinks and food wasn't too far either!

Arriving in Monterrey, the closest big city to all the climbing, we started asking our selves what the hell we were doing there? The temps had dropped about 20-30 degrees from the caribbeans. I know I hoped for cooler temps in Vinales but this was a bit too much. The worst morning was when I woke up with -something in the air and snow on the tent... but the time we had in the Monterrey area (Potrero and el Salto) was a blast nevertheless.

Potrero Chico by night. photo: Sean Leader

on another great 8b, on the las Animas wall in el Salto. photo: Sean Leader

trying to stay warm in our little cave that we used as a livingroom in el Salto. coming up on the laptop is the 80's classic "American Ninja" starring Michael Dudikoff. but don't worry, you can also rent cabins in el Salto, but with no heating. photo: Dirk Smith

On our way home we had some final days in the Cancún area, just to melt a bit before heading for a snowcovered and icy cold Sweden. The journey continues...