The guard glances into the car.
"Passeportes?" He asks.
Passports? Nobody told me we needed passports to get onto the island.
"No passports?" says the driver. He pleads with the guard, a man in his early 20s. It's well over half an hour back to the guesthouse. The guard is expressionless. No passports, no entry.
Within minutes, the Lada is back on the road, dodging potholes, making a break for it on the smooth patches. At the guesthouse I grab the passports and back we go. The guard remains emotionless as he takes the documents to the sentry booth, returning them a few minutes later.
Cayo Saetia is spectacular. It's a wildlife preserve with antelope, water buffalo and ostriches. It is said it was Castro's private island, and that Soviet visitors enjoyed firing ammo into the wildlife. I have no idea if that was true.
We drive down to the bay where visitors can take jeep safaris and ride horses. There is a palm-thatched bar and restaurant perched along the shore. Coves of coral sand spread in both directions-not a soul in sight. The water is clean and still and Caribbean blue. We spend the day snorkeling and lazing on the beach, interrupted just for a few hours by the catamarans that arrive from the resorts. The merrymakers spend most of their time in the ranchon style restaurant, half an hour on the beach, then head out, drinks in hand.
On the dot of five, the Lada returns. Back to the sentry hut. The same guard is there. He searches the vehicle with his eyes, and when he sees mine, he steps toward the car. Wordlessly, he hands me an exquisite flower, freshly woven of palm fronds. As if to say, ""I'm sorry for your troubles."
"A machine wouldn't do that", my husband says.