Well I was already to start doing a comprehensive review of my first 4 days in Cuba. However, I discovered the free Cuba Libra at my all inclusive $38 per night resort hotel (well Cuban Convertible Pesos’s which are pegged to the US dollar’s except if you want to buy them with US dollars you get an awful rate of exchange). In future writing the $ sign signifies CCP. Just to confuse you even more there is another currency called Cuban Peso (CUP) which has about 24 to the CCP or about 2.5pence each in English. So my totally yummy ice cream today was 2 Cuban Peso’s or about 5 pence 🙂 compare that to Jesus Green kiosk prices of 150 pence!
The simple answer is I’m loving it especially the 30 degrees heat, Yep I can hear Sally and my siblings groan in disbelief but I guess it’s called getting old 🙂 It’s truly fantastic to be in sandals/shorts/T shirt day and night without a shiver or white finger in sight!
The major disadvantage for an internet junkie like me is there is no 3G or even GPRS on your phone and even a talk only SIM card runs at $3 a day plus any calls out of Cuba. However, there is WiFi available at selected places near major hotels and some parks with scratch cards available from ETECSA stores and hotels for $2 per hour to connect to the WiFi, but beware if there is no internet between the router and the cloud or you forget to disconnect you still get charged 🙁 so only get the one hour cards, to cut your losses.
The Cubans seem very friendly and helpful for instance my host family at Hostal Aeropuerto Havana managed to get me on an internal flight to Holguin ($187) at basically 20 minutes notice.
The first day (Fri 6th Nov) I fixed the bike together discovering that the locking ring on the headstock was broken 🙁 Paolo quickly came to the rescue with a hose clip – it seems to be holding so far. I then did the Havana bike tour with Ebert of Cuba Ruta Bikes, an excellent way of seeing Havana at a glance. Total distance 43 miles but the hostal added 20 miles so the tour was 23 miles or so. Afterwards I went to the excellent La Catedral restaurant for a 3 course meal for $11(£7)
The second day (Sat 7th Nov) was an insane rush and flight to Holguin (Ebert had suggested doing the South Coast from Manzanillo but flights there are only mid week). I reassembled the bike once again and then rode to Bayamo arriving in the pouring rain. The days are sunny but around 4pm there seems to be massive thunder / lightening and heavy rain for an hour or so. A couple of lads found me the upmarket Royalton hotel for $47, hideously over priced but it was raining hard! Three other cyclists from Canada were there so Brent gave me tips were to stay for next couple of days. 39 miles biked.
Sunday 8th Nov was a short day from Bayamo to Manzanillo. I took Brett’s advice and stopped at the very run down resort complex at Hotel Guacanayabo, $22 for full board. Favoured by Cubans so a very noisy afternoon by the pool 🙂 At 5pm the heavens opened up with much banging & flashing. 43 miles biked
Monday 9th Nov (today 🙂 At breakfast I met George another Canadian cyclist whose traveling in the same direction. He set of first but I eventually caught him up at Campechuela where he introduce me to the delights of sugar cane juice, surprisingly non sweet and a bread roll with fresh cheese all for mere pennies. We rode on together but parted company near Niquere as George was taking it easy, I continued down the very hilly road into a head wind to Pilon, totally exhausting reminding me very much of riding across Cambodia. Pilon seemed a total dump so I continued to Club Amiga, arriving totally wrecked, a fully inclusive resort place at $38 unlimited food and booze 🙂 66 miles biked.
Amazing experience apart from trucks belching out black smoke and cars running way to rich mixtures. Fascinating to see families on horse back or riding in pony & traps. With guys scything the roadsides. Very much like Romania but without the rubbish dumps welcoming you to each village.