My Cuba biking trip is finished. I was away, with my 1983 Schwinn bike (bought in Hanoi on my last bike trip), from the UK for 32 days and spent 27 of them in the saddle. I covered 1463 miles (2340km) with a total vertical ascent, according to Strava of 39,231 feet (well over 7 miles or nearly 12,000 metres). The accommodation cost $878 (£584) excluding most meals & drinks.
Here is my spreadsheet, clicking on the link in Places should take you to the days pictures on Picasa, clicking the Strava link will take you to the full Strava profile for the day eg route, elevation profile, speed etc etc:
Well the Canadian cyclists like coming here because it’s a lot safer than countries like Mexico for their winter training and I suspect the Americans will be in the same boat personally I never felt threatened once, you tell folks to sod of and they do!
Yep Cuba offers good cycling I never got bumped into once although I had to quickly go onto a verge when a car was tailgating another one overtaking 🙁 and another time was cut up at a motorway intersection. The worst problem by a long way is the thick black smoke belching from vehicles when you are climbing up the hills.
I didn’t do any real off roading – although a couple of roads like Baracoa to Moa and a section to Uvero on the South coast were very rough & quite a fewother cyclists had given them a miss by using taxis!
Before you come make sure your phone has a VPN (I use Onavo) otherwise you cannot access the app store.
The best navigation app by a long long way is Maps.me just download the Cuba map before you leave home and you are good to go when you arrive.
Gaia GPS is good for storing tracks and seeing where you have been. However, you can’t download the whole island into it 🙁
I must give a huge thanks to Steve Coast who set up Open Street Map which both Gaia and Maps.me use. I met him at Re-boot the year he set it up – who would think it has come so far so quickly.
For video chat download (and your friends) the Imo app its the only video talk channel that seems to work here.
Of cause what you quickly find out is that most Apps are not really apps they are just browsers to a particular website! Totally reliant on a an always on 3G connection. Its ridiculous that Facebook and others don’t allow auto download of all the items in your chosen streams for like the past day/week and then re-sync when you have internet again?
Internet in Cuba
Here in Cuba (Dec 2015) there is NO internet on the cellular system at all anywhere and to make it worse texts will set you back 50p and calls £3 a minute. However ETECSA, the state telephone monopoly offer a card for 2 CUC for one hour which gives you access to WiFi in the larger town squares (easily spotted by groups of folk with smart phones hanging about). You have to queue at the local ETECSA store (Dark/Pale Blue building also search for ETECSA on maps.me) whilst your passport details and the cards 12 digit number are very slooowly entered into their ancient computer. There is always a queue 🙁 It has been known for lads to offer you them at 3 CUCs in the street but of cause I’m sure that is totally illegal, I also think the grander hotels offer them for sale at the desk.
I always found a Casa for the night, hugely variable quality but all the same price either 20 or 25 CUC plus between 3 & 5 CUC for breakfast and a very variable amount (8-15) for evening dinner. If you are stuck when you arrive, just wander around the main square someone will be onto to you by the second circuit 🙂 also the all inclusive hotels on the South Coast offer amazing deals if you just turn up, some cheaper than casa’s! e.g. Club Amiga was 38 CUC for 24 hours of unlimited food & drink with good accommodation.
Clothing I wore was totally minimal cycle shorts/cycle shirt/sandals all day and sandals, normal shorts /T shirt in the evenings. When it rains here it REALLY rains so a swimming costumewould be best! Forget gortex jackets etc etc Even when the infamous cold front sweeps in, like now, it still hotter than an English summers day. You tend to get a bit of notice by looking at the sky.
Food for me was mainly fish (Interestingly the locals are not allowed beef or lobsters). I got the runs twice, both quickly cleared up with one 200mg ciprofloxacin tablet (local pharmacists sell you 20 for 2 CUC).
The local ice cream and refresco drinks are stupidly cheap like 7 pence each from the small stands and no I didn’t get my bugs from them! The giant 1 pint Nestle tubs are just over £1 truly delicious and 819 instant calories! The challenge is to eat it before it becomes liquid 🙂
The InReach tracker is a very nice bit of kit allowing the folks at home to see where I am wit my speed etc every 10minutes using a very neat arrangement of bluetooth to iPhone, Internal GPS and Iridium satellite communicator so you don’t need local cell services for text messages/GPS etc.
Its also very reassuring to have a big red button to press for emergency services when you are bombing down a hill in a remote area. Its just a bit disappointing that you can only set up the free messages on the internet 🙁 But obviously the next trip it will be all setup.
My homemade iPhone holder for the KlickFix bar bag system worked a dream in an ideal location and easy to read the map when navigating through towns. The iPhone fingerprint reader is a real pain with sweaty hands though and why isn’t it waterproof 🙁
The Anker A1209 20,800ma/Hr worked a dream keeping everything fully charged on the longest of days and is amazingly fast to charge up in the evenings.
Would I come again? maybe, but not soon I still have plenty of other places that I have never visited and for winter training etc in Europe we have The Canary and Balearic Islands.
Saturday I decided to make myself a walking tour of Havana, Lamar went off to explore the film festival since he is in TV production and with Gaia maps running I went of to try and never walk the same street twice 🙂
At the world famous, because of Hemingway, Ambos Mundos hotel I found a Taulk tour group having a tour with what sounded like a very interesting person. An architect who works at the Havana old town conservation project (Maybe habaguanex), who then took us into the Maqueta de la Havana, essentially a fully detailed model of the old town.
He then went into some details of the many problems they face. Apparently the project is unique in Cuba and probably the world in that most of their funds come from the tourist tax paid by the hotels and restaurants they own. In other Cuban cities the money goes to central government and then paid out if hey are lucky.
The biggest difficulty they face is that no one ‘owns’ the buildings! The government owns the physical land but after the revolution the state took over the apartments etc (If you didn’t flee you were allowed to keep one city apartment and one country building the rest of your property was taken and essentially given to other folks in exchange for a small amount of money – If you fled you lost the lot!) What this means is that in a block of apartments where upto 20 families are living no one owns the physical outer shell of the building, hence the very poor state of repair.
The project offer to renovate the building for free but they insist that only say 12 families can remain – the others are offered free apartments but not in the old town. So interesting squabbles occur 🙁
The most interesting statement he made which strongly agreed with the opinion I have been forming is that their government has been using the trade embargo as an excuse for the embargo of their mind! No original thinking has been taking place! Like winning the battle and losing the war 🙁
For instance I’ve noticed Nestle have a huge presence here with their freezers in virtually every cafe/store on the island also soft drinks/beer are all marketed in the latest all aluminium cans, which require huge upfront investment. Yet the banks don’t offer normal folks credit for building houses or starting small businesses but a foreigner can offer a slug of money for a special visa and be allowed to buy a building for business. Not good …
Anyway I got thrown off their ‘private’ tour so I continued my meanderings. The scale of renovation is vast eg The Central Station, Capitol building, National Theatre etc etc
Later I saw the end of the first stage of the Titan Tropic GAES Mountain Bike championships all on gleaming highly expensive bikes – but no backup kit! Just an ambulance and a few cars 🙂 They are off to Vinales now.
In the evening to go for a meal I had to run the gauntlet of prostitutes and managed to pick up a stomach bug again 🙁 Over 12 miles walked..