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 🙂 and gave me some energy bars sorely tempted to hop in the back 🙂 . 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!
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 🙂 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!
Today marks the end of my first week biking in Cuba with over 360 miles biked and according to my InReach 320 tracking points sent which means I have been travelling for just over 53 hours. The InReach seems to be working well with Sally, Nick, Obliquepanic and The TruffleHound all giving favorable comments about the system although I guess they must wonder why there are quite so many stops en-route!
I left Club Amiga really early at sunrise on Wednesday to try and reach Santiago. However at a beach just before Santiago I made the fatal mistake of going for a swim, the water is way, way to warm so it wasn’t refreshing at all, some guy on the beach told me about the homestay which overlooked it so after 51 miles and over 10 hours I quit and stayed the night. The day was very tough and I walked up some of the hills as it seems quicker and less effort (plus I’m scared stiff of the chain snapping with all my tools stupidly left in Havana)
This morning (Thursday 12th) I left at sunrise with no breakfast as the host wasn’t up until I was halfway up the drive 🙁 we had a bit of a do about the price with her insisting my dinner last night was $5 and not included in my $20 – I made it clear what I thought of her and left her theaagreed $20! I quickly made it to Santiago and happened on the Hotel Casa Grand in the centre with its all you can eat breakfast for $10. A couple car touring from Newcastle had a chat plus a French couple (living in Zurich) the poor girl had fallen off with a grazed leg and face. The folks on this side of Santiago are nowhere as near as friendly and one guy in La Mayo even slung a piece of fruit at me! The road side stands no longer sell the delicious refresco home made iced juices etc also the roadside animals have changed from pigs and goats to cows. The last 10 miles were biked in a torrential downpour with much lightening and thunder so I didn’t arrive in Guantanamo until after dark. I couldn’t face a homestay so booked into Hotel Mari at $41 per night slap bang in the centre of party central, I’m totally sure Iwill sleep throught it all.
Over 67 miles biked in 12 hours.
The next few days are going to be even hillier according the map pinned up outside.
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.
Inveterate dabbler in business, travel, gadgets & life