Off to Cuba
Really, really on the road again

April 10, 2015

What happened…

Andrew writes:

I guess it’s really my sister Nicole that we have to thank for choosing Cuba as a cycling destination. She said they really needed to escape from the cold winter of Ontario. It was 2008 when we saw her last, so it just sort of made sense, and the universe helped us fill in all of the pieces of the puzzle.

Cuba represents a challenge for sure. Our research has lead us to believe that camping is “illegal”, there are few places to buy food for cooking, the mosquitos are terrible, and the people quite poor. So basically, it sounds very similar to our time last summer in the Canadian Arctic, minus the camping situation. We have had one friend tell us that he budgets $60-100/day, and another told us that he got by on less than $10/day. We are still aiming for $30. As a room in a Casa Particular costs $25 CUC (similar to $25USD) we know right away that we will be hard-pressed to stay on budget. Time will tell how we do. Hopefully budgetitis doesn’t set in too quickly.

It was a pretty lazy day today. We woke up, went to grab a coffee and spend some time at the library, and the rest of the day we sat around and watched TV. Our friends Megan and Paul treated us to a sushi dinner, and then Paul drove us to the Vancouver Airport.

Despite our best efforts to avoid ‘ultra-efficiency’, the check-in at the airport was super smooth. Every one of the WestJet staff that we interacted with were very friendly. Albertus helped us get our checked baggage sorted. It turns out that both of our bags were overweight. Mine by 1kg, and Amanda’s by 3kg! Ack! We pulled a few things out of the bags, including the tent, and somehow strapped it or found room for it with our carry-on. I ended up strapping the bar/lines for the kite to the back of my bicycle.

So there we are with two rather large, lumpy canvas bags (chock full of panniers), and our two bicycles. I rolled the bikes over to the special baggage area for inspection, and started to take them apart. Meanwhile Amanda and “Ces” our new amazing WestJet helper were going through the check-in process. Ces was really kind, and her bright demeanour made the whole process fun. She was right in there with us, loading the bicycles into their ruggedized (not!) plastic bags. Then they were off, and we were off to the security portal. Even that didn’t take long, and we were through security and searching for a place to grab a drink having been in the airport for only an hour.

With two hours now before our flight, we settled down with some soft drinks, and Amanda loaded up a baseball game on the iPad. The game we were watching ended up going into the 19th inning, and lasted over 7 hours. We caught the first two hours of it at Megan and Paul’s and the last two hours at the airport.

Nothing significant happened on the flight to Toronto. I started watching a boring movie (Exodus: Gods and Kings) hoping that it would put me to sleep. Amanda and I both managed a little bit of shuteye, but not as much as we would have liked. When we reached Toronto, we grabbed some breakfast and then waited to board the next flight to Cuba.

Amanda poked me in the ribs, and pointed at a kitesurfing bag across the aisle from us. I started up a conversation with a group of 8 guys, all bound for the same area that we’re starting in. So I spent the 2 hours in Toronto stoked to reach Cuba and get out on the water! These guys couldn’t believe that not only were we biking for the next two months, but that we had all of our kitesurfing gear too.

Next up was a 3 hour flight to Cayo Coco, Cuba. The first few moments we were in a bit of a panic because we looked out of our window and saw the baggage cart. We could see our bikes and bags; not necessarily a good thing because:

Our bikes were literally at the bottom of a huge pile of golf bags (filled with kitesurfing equipment), and other crap. Hundreds of pounds of crap. Hopefully they are OK.
They loaded all of the bags, EXCEPT our bikes. Then they drove away. We alerted the flight attendant, and she immediately called the captain. A few minutes later, the luggage truck returned, with our bikes. They started loading our bags.
They loaded our bikes, and stopped. Then they removed the bikes, and loaded them back onto the truck. What the, what!?!?
A few minutes later, with the plane engines revving up, two guys picked up each of our bicycles, and then walked them out of our sight, presumably to another hatch in the plane. We don’t know at this point (because I’m typing on the plane somewhere over Florida.

Meanwhile on the flight, I talked to my neighbour a bit, as this was his 8th trip to Cuba. He was able to give me a little bit of advice and information, but I think that for the most part, we aren’t tourists in Cuba, in the usual sense. So it will be interesting to see how his advice shapes up to be. I loaded up Mary Poppins on the laptop and Amanda and I watched it for a bit, drifting in and out of sleep. Finally, after what seemed like forever, but was really only 13 hours, we arrived in Cuba.

Right away it was HOT. As usual, we waited patiently for everyone else to deplane and set off in search of our precious cargo; everything in the world that we own. It showed up last, but fortunately the bus waited for us. Everyone onboard was supplied with booze to keep them happy. Also, joy of joys, the bikes fit under the bus perfectly. We loaded aboard and headed towards the Hotel Colonial, an all-inclusive resort in Cayo Coco to meet my sister, and her family.

Today’s Photographs

Off to Cuba
Really, really on the road again