Beach Day Redux
Life's a Beach!

May 15, 2015

What happened…

Andrew writes: I wanted to give a special shout-out to Yarise – who will likely never read these words). Yarise works at the cafeteria we’ve been going to in Guardalavaca for all of our food. Breakfast, lunch and dinner, she looked after us. I really like the setup for food in this town because at one kiosk you can buy your coffee and juice, and the one next door serves up piping hot meals. Everyone makes and sells what they do best it seems. Fittingly, the guy serving me coffee today at his little blue kiosk is wearing a Tim Horton’s shirt.

I suppose it shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise when we were rolling through Guardalavaca in the morning that we would pick up a stray..or rather that he would pick us up. We were riding along on the outskirts of town when we again saw a guy riding a really nice (by Cuban standards) mountain bike, with Rockshox fork, Shimano Deore grupo, and bike shorts and everything. We’re riding along and we start talking. He says he’s a bike mechanic, and that he loves riding bikes. Often 70km a day he rides, sometimes as much as 200km. He offers up some chain lube which our bikes desperately need, since we left our oil/lube in Canada. Quick as you can spit, our bikes are purring like kittens.

I ask him to confirm on our map, the way to Gibara. We had heard that there was a back way that you could take, which avoided much of the main highway/road. So off we all set. His name was Jose, and he said he would ride with us for a bit. Amanda and I thought it would be a short-day, especially with the wind at our backs, so we didn’t bother to stop for lunch anywhere. Yet, as the day got longer, and the distance grew, so did our hunger.

As we passed a sign that said Gibara – 17km, with the wind in our faces for some reason, Amanda hit the wall. I soldiered on, keeping pace with Jose. I have to admit, it was kind of nice having someone more “my speed” to follow for a change. Meanwhile, Amanda brought up the rear. Finally we reached Gibara, and there, on the edge of town was someone waiting for us.

We’re used to being accosted when we ride into a town, usually by someone trying to get us to go to their Casa. The difference this time was that this guy knew our names! He led our group to the Casa, Villa Bettina, and we got settled right away. Meanwhile Jose hung out by the front door. He told me he was waiting for water, but even after he got water, he still sat there by his bike. We invited him to come join us for some food, but he passed. Instead, we gave him an energy bar, and ravaged by hunger, set off walking through town.

We wanted, in our heart of hearts, to think that Jose was just a generous soul, and that he had wanted to ride to Gibara with us. As it turns out, he did want something…money. It is a custom in Cuba that when someone recommends, or brings you to a Casa, to ask for, and I guess sometimes receive money from the Casa owner. This gets passed on to the gringo. So if a Casa is $20CUC a night, all of a sudden the price jumps to $25, all before you ask the price. The difference in this case, is that we had reserved our Casa back in Banes, and that is why they had someone waiting for us at the edge of town. Poor Jose, had to ride 70km back to Guardalavaca. Oh, did I mention that he brought us the long way? 70km instead of 50km like it was supposed to be. Maybe he took the shortcut on his way back. We dunno.

After a quick snack, and doing some laundry we went for a walk around Gibara. It’s a nice town, it has a very old feel to it. Some say/believe that Christopher Columbus originally sailed into Gibara when he “discovered America”, back in 1492. It was a big sugar port at one point, but now it’s just a sleep little Cuban town. While we were walking around, we saw many Casa Particular right on the malecon, facing the water. Probably another reason why we shouldn’t bother with reserving ahead. Amanda would have preferred being on the water. Our Casa is nice, but it’s tucked into the ‘hood somewhere deep in the bowels of town.

Beach day tomorrow. It’ll be interesting and fun to ride out to what is described by Lonely Planet as some of the nicest beaches in Cuba.

Amanda writes: This could be an easy 40-50 km days ride with the wind at your back. We made the mistake of following a local fellow who took us the long way that ended up in being massive head winds for over two hours because of the route. It was flat but very frustrating. We were told by our Casa on our arrival that there was a far easier route along the river that was at least 20 km less with the wind behind you the whole way. The road was nice.

Today’s Photographs

Beach Day Redux
Life's a Beach!