Biking along the Cuban motorways

Cuban motorway being white washed
Cuban motorway being white washed

After some thought I decided to get back to Havana along the Cuban motorway system it was about 6 miles further in distance but offers a much better ride.

I left Matanza on a very long slow climb but at least with motorway gradients you can always bike up, the road was pretty well deserted and at least the huge cars and buses can easily get pass as the road is at least two or three times wider than the standard ones so makes for a way more relaxing time.

1959 bridge
1959 bridge

I eventually reached the Puenta de Bacuna Yagua viaduct which came as a bit of shock when you suddenly find yourself hundreds of feet above the valley floor with a very low handrail indeed. Pretty amazing concrete construction built in 1959. Once across it there are a set of steps upto a viewing platform and tourist centre.

I stopped for an refresco in one of the huge roadside restaurants amusing to see the 5 piece Cuban band strike up when a tourist bus arrived. At one of the motorway hills I decided to do a detour and follow the coast road. True to form I ended up having to carry the bike and wading across a river by the beach where a hurricane had destroyed a bridge 🙁 I was ready for my prawn lunch by the sea after that!

Eventually I came to the Havana bypass which I followed around to get to the airport hostal and retrieve my tools and sort the bike out a bit. The amount of metalwork embedded in the tarmac is incredible an archaeologists dream in centuries to come. Motorway junctions are a bit of a nightmare and definitely not for the feint hearted. But I survived 🙂

At the hostal I gave the bike a wash to remove all the sand from my beach escapade, tightened the headstock and oiled the chain & gears.

The next day it was more motorway to get to Saroa. Since it was Sunday there was a huge local biking club out going into Havana. I had a huge wind behind me so made good time to Saroa. Saroa waterfall is nothing spectacular although it’s a steep hill to get to it and the local rip off boys want 3 CUC to get entry and ‘look after’ your bike. Whilst having a pee in the undergrowth some insect bit me down there, I made a hurried departure to my homestay, had a shower and lashings of anti-histamine cream.

Lots of pigs etc next door but I slept soundly but as my friend Andy aptly put it the countryside is a noisy place 🙂

Today (Monday 30th) I made another uneventful 50 miles on the motorway to Pinar del Rio the end of the motorway system. Tomorrow I will do the last leg of Cuba end to end by going to La Fe and the western most part of the island. I then want to explore The Vinales valley for a couple of days before getting the bus/train/taxi back to Havana.

A day with a poor start can have a good ending..

Early Sat 28th November

Dutch lady with parrot
Dutch lady with parrot

After our breakfasts I departed leaving the Dutch couple to enjoy there free day going around the nature reserves whilst I set of to find the museum and Playa Larga. The museum door was open but alas it was closed and wouldn’t open for another 20 minutes or so (Lonely Planet says 8am in reality it’s at least 9am). I decided not to wait but just take some pics of the aeroplane & tanks on the lawn outside, my guess is there will be a decent Wikipedia article on it.

1-IMG_0472Riding along suddenly a huge crab sprinted across the road! Also there are many concrete block memorials (reminiscent for me of The Berlin Wall uprights)which I’m sure are where the guys were killed in the fighting, although they only have a simple name plate on them (alongside a couple of them were smaller tombs with a brass memorial plate with the date 17 April 1961).

Eventually after passing a few all inclusive diving centres I reached Playa Largo which for me seemed a bit of a dump so after a refresco I quickly moved on, leaving The Bay of Pigs to the youngsters and there snorkelling. Battling into the headwind I eventually came to Australia 🙂 where I stopped for another refresco & bread roll.

A young guy came over to practice his excellent English on me and told me his Aunt had an homestay in Jaguey also more appealingly I could get my Cuban visa extended in the town. Given I was getting tired I followed him across the motorway (well more like a deserted country road) into Jaguey. The bank exchanged $25 for the requisite stamps and then went around the corner to the Officina de Tramites to find it closed 🙁 so we went to his Aunts which seemed ok…

until 3am next morning when all hell broke loose in the adjacent house with cocks crowing and dogs barking until I finally left after breakfast at 7am 🙁 🙁 Awful!

So I continued into the head wind around truly vast fields of newly planted orange trees. Then into banana plantations. I decided against visiting Varadero as apparently it’s just a tourist centre and so came straight to Matanza which turns out to be an excellent working town with lots of ‘real’ shops where I smile at the glorious mix up of retail categories, truly awful window displays and the bored women behind their little counters. Lots of houses that have lost their roofs and inners but with glorious facades.

With the help of the fire station I quickly found the immigration office and after some bureaucratic fussing about got my visa extended 🙂 Just around the corner was Hostal Azul, full but the owner took me back around the corner and put me in Hostal Vanessa, A delightful QUIET room with a bathroom that is 2 feet wide and 7 feet long 🙂 but unusually for Cuba a power shower 🙂

A good ending to a day that started so badly especially with all the places in Matanza selling chocolate helado at 3CUP per boule 🙂