Mariel to La Mulata
The wheels on the bus go ... back to La Habana

June 2, 2015

What happened…

Andrew writes:

I often remark on how expectations can make or break a ride for a day. For example, when it started raining, we immediately sought shelter and waited it out. Today while we were having breakfast, Jose told us that it was going to rain all-day today, and continue for three more days. Forewarned is forearmed, so after breakfast when it started to rain, we just shrugged and put on our rain jackets and got ready to ride. Not that having a raincoat seems to make much of a difference; we end up being coated in sweat or rainwater one way or another. The temperature gauge on my bike read 23C when we set out, and it didn’t change much over the course of our ride to Vinales.

Another way that we had prepared our minds, was that we were expecting some pretty big hills, based on what we’ve read. Vinales is in a valley, so we figured on having to ride up and over some mountains to get there. As it turned out, we didn’t have to worry, but setting the expectation just made the ride that much easier. It ended up raining until we were almost done riding, but then it cleared up and remained overcast for the rest of the day. The scenery today was beautiful, as we had been led to believe from others we have met, or read about online. Lush green hills, and lots of farms, which make Pinar del Rio province, Cuba’s “garden”.

We took a left-hand turn in the small village of Mina de Constancia, which ended up taking us on a deserted road through farmland, surrounded by mogotes, and then a thrilling descent to the valley floor and the town of Vinales. Entering Vinales pretty much every house advertises itself as a Casa Particular. People don’t wave “Hello”, but there were plenty of people calling for us to stay at their house. One young woman, Anna, managed to break through our barrier and she convinced us to stay with her family at Casa Sol Caribe. She even offered us free lunch, and coffee to seal the deal. SOLD!

Pedro and Maylin took good care of us, and Pedro basically sat and talked with us all afternoon and evening. Amanda’s ability to listen and comprehend Spanish has gotten quite good, and as a result, she is able to participate much more in conversations than she was in other parts of Cuba. Having said that however, Cuban culture is very much based on relationships between men…and relationships between women. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it before or not, but bars, restaurants etc. are populated almost entirely by men. The men talk about lots of things, while women seem to talk about…I dunno, chick stuff. And women are rarely seen in public, at least where we go in public. As a result, Amanda finds it difficult to relate to a lot of the women, and she is reticent to talk with the men while I’m talking with them.

We did a quick walking tour of Vinales, which is surprisingly small, given how popular of a tourist draw it is. It turns out that much of the allure is from the “beauty” of the surrounding region. Having ridden my bike through it for the last 3 days, I guess I don’t seem very attracted to the “attractions”. Maybe I’ll feel differently in the morning.

Amanda writes: The ride was beautiful and the casa was lovely. As Andrew said it has been very difficult to practice Spanish here as the women don’t really participate very much. It is especially frustrating when regardless of who (Andrew or I) asks a question, the man will always give the answer to Andrew like I don’t exist. I suppose it’s good practice for many parts of the world where the culture dictates who speaks. In any even Pedro and Maylin were nice to chat with. Maylin did participate for a short while and I managed to get a couple of sentences out of here. Unfortunately as I tried to talk more, she left the table and went and swept.

I later asked Pedro about it as he seemed very patient with my questions and actually spoke to me rather than solely Andrew. He confirmed that women in Cuba very rarely play any type of sports. He said really the only sport he knows of that women participate in is judo. There are no leagues or casual games of any kind; soccer, basketball, baseball or anything for girls. He also confirmed that the reason we never see women in the streets is that they are at home. They are meant to maintain the home and raise the kids and there is no need for them to be outside. It certainly is a different culture from North America. He also confirmed that women have children; period. If you don’t have kids here it’s likely that you are not physically able to. I asked him if it is expected and he didn’t really confirm it was, but instead just responded that it is very rare that a woman doesn’t want kids. That would explain why most people ask me if I have kids and when I say no they look sorry for me. In the end it was great to speak with him and realize that I’m glad I’m from Canada and come from a culture where it is acceptable for me to not have kids and to be a terrible housekeeper.

Today’s Photographs

Mariel to La Mulata
The wheels on the bus go ... back to La Habana