Over halfway in my Cuba biking trip

Not much space
Not much space

I’m now over halfway in time and folding my paper map (Michelin 786) into two exactly in the centre of the island ๐Ÿ™‚ although I don’t intend doing another circular tour like along the South Coast so should be quicker to the top of the island. Although I want to stop a couple of days in the Bay of the Pigs as payback for when theVulcans kept us awake. Flying so low after taking off, fully laden, from RAF Finningley in those dire days.

I’ve spent the last four days bombing across the central plains with a good SE trade wind behind me, smoothish roads and nice gentle hills meant a good turn of speed โ€“ well the best an old man on a laden bike can do. The main highway seems perilously narrow especially for the huge trucks and buses overtaking horse carts and cyclists. But I survived although the many signs with the death rates for that section indicate many don’t. Haven’t seen any touring cyclists either since Holguin except for two obvious Germans ๐Ÿ™‚ this morning.

Since my last post I’ve stayed in homestays at Las Tunas, Camaguey, Ciego de Avila & tonight in Sancti Spiritus My favorite city been Camaguey which seems to be showing signs of entrepreneurial activity in folks front rooms. Worst homestay by far was in Las Tunas, where all the walls of the room were draped in fabric & the lady couldn’t be arsed to do breakfast ๐Ÿ™

Accommodation hasn’t been a problem the last few days, if I circle the main square a few times someone will grab me and show me a homestay (the word casa particular seems to have fallen by the wayside) they are generally $20-$25 a night plus $3-$5 for breakfast.

I love the way when I stop for a snooze in the middle of nowhere ie a bus shelter, some guy will beckon me into his house and give me a drink and food. One guy even got a bowl of cold water to tip over my head ๐Ÿ™‚ great way of cooling down.

Here in Sancti Spiritus at the Hostal Calle Real the homestay is great with an open courtyard where i’m writing this. By the church I’ve just devoured two large homemade gorgeous chocolate ice creams made in plastic drinking cups at 6CUP (15p) each a true bargain ๐Ÿ™‚

A quick thanks to John & Charlotte for the moral support & energy bars at various points where we met on their car tour of the island after first meeting at brekkie in Santiago, Car touring is probably a saner way of exploring Cuba ๐Ÿ™‚ Hope you both had a good flight home.

The stats show I’ve now biked 873 miles and been on the road 17 days. (51 miles per day)

Todays ride is hereย https://www.strava.com/activities/437686177

First 1000km biking in Cuba

I’ve today completed the South coast loop of Cuba traveling the full length of the South coast in an anti-clockwise direction starting and ending in Holguin. It’s taken 11 days of riding plus 1 rest day to do the very hilly nearly 1000km. I had overnight stays in:-ย Bayamo (From Haiguin), Manzanillo, Marea delPortillo, Uvero, Playa?, Guatanamo, Yacobe , Baracoa, Moa, Mayari, Holguin

Roughest road sections are a tie between Portillo and Uvero or Baracoa to Moa

Hilliest by far is Yacobe to Baracoa but every day has seen a good selection of hills ๐Ÿ™

Worst aspect of Cuban biking is theย belching trucks ๐Ÿ™‚ but in between them the roads are deserted,

Plenty more to say anon but I’ve a lot to do as now I want to start on the header map ๐Ÿ™‚

Hills and yet more hills

1-IMG_0162I set of before 5am in the pitch black, thank goodness I had rigged up the super bright LED lamps. My stomach was feeling ver queasy and I soon found myself doing emergency stops every fewย miles ๐Ÿ™ was it a bug in the infirmary or was it the food?

Imias was holding a full scale fiesta, still going strong at 5am! The Spaniards are truly an amazing race, partying all night, just close the main highway and I’ve yet to see them drink any water!

I stopped in Cajobabo to try and find some water before the mountain pass, The panaderia filled up my bottle and gave me a coffee with some dried up bread, some breakfast for the mountain ahead.

Then it was climbing, impossible to walk as it was way to far so it was crawling up in the lowest of low gears with every little downhill I thought that was the top alas not so. Plus still stopping every few miles, eventually I reached the summit.

At the summit there is a cafe alas he only sells beer and polishes his counter ๐Ÿ™ I’m totally sure there is a very non-socialist fix up going on over here controlled by some very large multi national drinks company all the soft drinks are sold in the latest aluminum cans etc and nobody sells the refresco fruits like in Media Luna.

So down I hurtled only to face yet another climb. Eventually I spotted a friendly looking old lady in her garden and asked her about a refresco fruita โ€“ she disappeared inside and bought out a yummy homemade banana & mango smoothie, no ice but was cool ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ refortified I continued into Baracoa.

Watch the manholes
Watch the manholes

It might have been part of a Lonely Planet once but nothing guarantees the end of a lonely place more than appearing in the guide! Baracoa was heaving, the Casa where my Geordie amigo’s were staying was full plus the place recommended by the German girls. Eventually a local guy came to help out he took me to a place, obviously not in Lonely Planet! But still acceptable if somewhat expensive for $24, so capitalism does work ๐Ÿ™‚

I spent the whole night, 15 hours in bed, with the worst diarrhea ever, fortunately the fridge was filled with water and the shower worked ๐Ÿ™‚

I’m staying here for at least a day to hopefully recover from my night in the infirmary!

48.6 miles biked and vertical ascent of 3,200feet Strava says 5,612 feetย https://www.strava.com/activities/433403262

Dare I venture into the town square to find the WiFi……


A Night in the infirmary

Guatanamo loco sheds
Guatanamo loco sheds

Guantanamo is a pleasant enough working city, I loved the city centre shop stocked with washing machines like some warehouse, only one model though! I left after a poor nights sleep proving that price doesn’t always equate with comfort. I biked past the loco sheds, apparently the Cuban rail network is currently down, so it was safe to lug my bike across loads of tracks. Past the militarized bit around the US base, although where does that rainline go with it’s new smart level crossing? Up the massive hill where you can look out over the US base if you go to the very top, no I didn’t! You then hit the banana plantations and yes even roadside stalls selling coconuts & bananas although each item in the stall is sold by a different seller. Bananas were 25p a bunch and coconuts 25p for 2.

Along the way the guys from Newcastle pulled up in their MG ๐Ÿ™‚ and gave me some energy bars sorely tempted to hop in the back ๐Ÿ™‚ . Quite a few cyclists coming the other way, I saw 3 different couples came past, one lot on Brompton’s, they must have been German as not as much as a smile came across. I was going to stop in San Antonio but at a cafe (yes they almost exist) I got harangued by a drunk so left. No one was willing to put me up which is remarkable when you consider the going rate is equivalent to a months wages!

Loco sheds in Guatanamo
Loco sheds in Guatanamo

Eventually I came across the Campismo Yacabo to be met by a stony faced lady who made it clear the place was full, I hung around using the campside bar ๐Ÿ™‚ after a while some guy called me over and showed me their infirmary, well it had a bed, toilet and a hosepipe so that’s where I slept. Dinner was $6 and they charged $12 for the first aid room. 4 German girls were also staying, they had biked over from Baracoa and the look on their faces didn’t bode well for me tomorrow plus they complained about the campside food….

48.6 miles biked with around 1800 feet of ascent no wonder I’m feeling knackered!