There are worse things than getting fruit stuck in your teeth
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APRIL 18, 2015

What happened…

Amanda writes:

The day started with a bit of tension in the air. We’re still working at losing the tendency of get packed up as fast as we can and ride a minimum of 15 km/h. While the words were never spoken, it again was a race to ensure the bikes were loaded in a timely manner. I wonder if we’ll ever be able to eat breakfast and read our books before venturing on our bikes.

We set off riding again with few words and just rode where the roads seemed to lead us. We have evolved in that regard, riding without knowing exactly how we will get there. It was nice, however there always seems to be this lingering aura of ‘must go faster’ in the air.

We chose to try the auto pista (main highway in Cuba) for the first part of the day just to try it out. It wasn’t bad. Cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles and horse drawn carts all yield to the bicycle. It’s fabulous! It is however a bit busy at times. We ventured off in search of the side roads. We found some lovely farm roads that meandered through the farmers fields. The road started with old worn pavement, and regressed to pavement with big pot holes. Then it became more gravel and less pavement followed by gravel only. Then the farm roads became dirt strewn with the occasional rock and then full blown dirt roads.

They were passable by bike at the beginning. They were mostly used by horses and cattle and carts pulled by horses so the dirt was quite lose in some spots. As we continued traveling, there became ruts in parts that were so deep our panniers hit the side of the ruts. At one point the dirt was quite thick like sand and I bailed. I think I was more frustrated than hurt and just picked my bike up and started pushing. We finally took a break after a few hours of this under a nice shady tree and had what was left of our mangos from the day before. We were able to laugh even at this point, what an awesome adventure.

We continued down the dirt road and the conditions improved. We came across a pipe that was spitting out fabulous clean water and we parked our bikes to take a closer look. The owner of the water came out and introduced himself and offered us some of his delightful cold clean water; what a treat after a hard pedal. We continued on into the town of San Antonio for our next adventure of trying to find food and a place to sleep.

Andrew writes:

Amanda did a great job describing the first half of our day, so I’ll take a poke at the latter. It begins with a saying, “There is no adventure without adversity.” Thus begins our adventure…

We rolled into San Antonio around 4:30pm, and we hadn’t gone too far before I asked a man if there was somewhere to buy food to eat. He said something back to the effect of, “That person in that house over there.” Ok, fine, but is there a cafeteria? “No, just that person in that house over there.” So he took us over and introduced us to Elia. Elia was more than happy to prepare us some food, and told us to come back in two hours and it would be ready. I asked about camping nearby. It took awhile to get across that we could camp anywhere, as we had a tent. We were directed back whence we came, to a farm on the outskirts of town.

Omelio, the farm owner, was fine with us camping on his land, and we setup in his barn. Over the next 90 minutes we took time to talk to a lot of the workers, and family, and even went for a swim in the local swimming hole. It was a really nice relaxing time. Then “Jefe” showed up. Jefe (boss) is some sort of local municipal official. He arrived in an army-green Jeep, driven by some dude in aviator sunglasses; real official looking. He started asking us a lot of questions, and he didn’t seem too happy that we were camping on his turf. Incidentally, camping is illegal in Cuba, as is paying someone to sleep on their property, unless they have a license. I try to tell him that we’re staying for free, we’ll be gone in the morning, etc.. After seeing our passports Jefe leaves, and we think all is well.

7’o’clock approaches and we hop on our bikes to ride to Elia’s house. As we cycle down the road, Jefe rolls up on his motorcycle with another guy, the local veterinarian. Jefe is concerned about our health, since the farm where we have setup our tent kinda smells like, well, farm. It didn’t bother Amanda or I, but it bothered Jefe. So much so in fact that he had decided we should move, immediately, to a “better” location. Jefe leaves and the Vet watches over us as we spend 30-minutes or so packing up. Then we follow him into town on his bicycle.

San Antonio is a fair-sized town, lots of houses at least. We passed by a beautiful baseball diamond, then past a small park, and finally arrived at a dilapidated old factory. This was to be our new home. Jefe returns on his motorcycle. We pick a spot, and have some final chit-chat before he leaves. The Vet leaves too. Amanda and I decide to go to dinner, and return here to setup camp afterwards, in the dark. We ride back to Elia’s house, and of course, the shitshow follows.

No sooner had we gotten into the house than the Vet shows up, and two minutes later, Jefe. It was explained that we were here to eat, and that seemed to settle everyone down. We gave Jefe our passport information again which seemed to make him less grumpy after he wrote down our credentials. Dinner was wonderful, and included chicken broth, bread, rice, juice, and sweet bananas for dessert. We paid Elia $6CUC ($6CDN) and left. It was great sitting and talking, with a Cuban, inside their house. It felt really intimate.

We rode back to our designated camping spot and no sooner had we arrived than Jefe rolled up, with another woman in tow. She was to be our “Companiera”, or bodyguard; whether she was protecting us from others, or protecting the town from us was unclear. It was also unclear to us whether Jefe’s concern for our health was genuine, or what his motives were for moving us in the first place. I think it is because he thought we were going to pay the farmer to sleep on his land. Perhaps with the temptation removed, he felt better about it. I just wish he had picked a better spot for us.

It was a long night. A long, hot, muggy, loud night. The whole town seemed to be having a party. We could hear the thumping of music, many voices raised in raucous fashion, and it went late. Then the dogs started barking and howling. Of course, every house had at least 5 roosters, and if one rooster crowed even in the middle of the night, they all crowed. The stars were aligned; it was going to be a long night.

We were visited twice by people, the first time had actually managed to fall asleep, and Amanda woke me. Our bodyguard, and what appeared to be a police officer of sorts, he was armed, were standing near our bikes. He didn’t even bother to speak to me. He just pointed at the bikes, and gestured that he could see them from the road, and I had to move them behind the tent. The second time left me with nightmares. Our senses were primed, and we could both sense him, or hear him walking towards us. We peeked out of the tent and saw an older man, with his machete stumbling towards us. He looked around for a minute and then started talking to us. I didn’t understand what he was saying. There was no sign of our bodyguard, and all I could do was stare fixedly at his machete. He gave up trying to talk, and stumbled off. About two minutes later, we stopped holding our breath. Amanda could see that the stumbling machete man had then seen our bodyguard and she must have said the right things to him because he finally left us alone.

The rest of the night was punctuated by barking dogs, and crowing roosters. I think I slept for an hour or two, during the witching hour, but Amanda wasn’t so lucky. When the sun came up, we hastily broke camp and got the hell out of dodge, or in this case, San Antonio.

Today’s Photographs

There are worse things than getting fruit stuck in your teeth
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