Really, really on the road again
Sleepless in San Antonio: Dirt farm roads, Policia escorts and men with machetes!

April 17, 2015

What happened…

Andrew writes:

Breakfast was set for 8am so that we could get an early start on riding today. We didn’t have far to go to our next destination, only about 35km, but we knew that we wanted to get it done before it got too hot out. Yet somehow, one thing lead to another and we didn’t leave until 11am.

One thing was that we wanted to go to the CADECA (money exchange) to get Moneria Nacionales (CUP), or the peso that regular Cubans use to conduct a lot of their transactions. Tourists typically use the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) which is worth/equal to $1 US. The peso is valued at 24 to 1. The benefit of using this currency is that for a lot of food items from vendors, we can buy a hamburger for instance, for 6 pesos, or $0.30. Heck, even a pack of smokes is priced at 7 pesos, or $0.35, just like Dad used to pay back in the day.

Ok, so at breakfast, Natasha, our hostess, suggested that instead of riding our bicycles to CADECA, we walk, and get a feel for the streets. I’m glad for her suggestion. Walking can be a lot of fun here in Cuba, especially in a city. The vibe is incredible. The sidewalks are kept-clean by home and shop owners, and everyone was either standing halfway inside a shop buying something, or standing outside the shop talking with the friends. Imagine growing up in a society where your mode of transport between two places is your feet, a bicycle, or horse-drawn cart. How much of hurry do you think you would be in to get anywhere?

Fast-forward to two hours later and Amanda is finally finished loading up her bicycle. Mine had been loaded since 8am. Maybe I should pick another day to talk about Amanda’s bad habits. So it’s 11am or so, and we eke our way out of Moron, heading south towards Ciego de Avilo. There are two ways you can get there, the first is on a highway. The second is on more rural roads, through several small villages. We chose the scenic route, naturally. It ended up being a really nice, flat ride, with a slight head-wind.

The small villages sort of blended in together, all of a sudden Amanda would announce that we were in the 3rd, or 6th one on our map, with no way to know when we entered or left the others. Along the way we stopped in Ciro Redondo to take a few pictures, and to buy some juice ($0.05/glass) I had like 5 classes, and Amanda had a beer, which she couldn’t finish, because, well, maybe she can describe the taste better than I.

When we stopped for lunch, and I looked at my thermometer, it was pushing 40C. Yikes! Maybe we’ll leave earlier tomorrow and try to escape the heat. The food was really good, and I think that now that we know how it works, we could manage to spend more pesos, and less dollars, and come closer to meeting our $30/day budget.

We arrived in Ciego de Avilo, just after 2pm. It was scorching hot, but there were clouds on the horizon, which suggested rain. A passer-by called out to us, and helped us to find a Casa in which to stay, and then afterward asked for a finders fee. The Casa seems nice, and was only $20, and we’ll have breakfast in the morning here for another $4/each. We took showers, washed and hung our clothes outside, and then went for a walk around the city. We walked around for about two hours, passing museums, stores and restaurants. Halfway through, it started to rain.

All of a sudden, the streets were empty, and the sidewalks full, as everyone sought protection from the downpour; because you know, when it rains, it pours. We sat outside of a cafe, reading, and people-watching for the better part of an hour. The streets are quite slippery when they get wet it appears, as we saw a horse slip, a motorcycle slide, and nary a cyclist was seen. Even the bicycle taxis all took a break.

Amanda writes:
The day started later than we had planned, but what’s the rush? As Andrew mentioned we walked to the bank and looked around town. On our return we were packing up our bikes. While I certainly don’t have the routine of loading my bike down pat, I was ready before Andrew as he struggled with his kite board. It also took a bit longer because our host was making conversation and to be quite honest, I was enjoying it. What a great opportunity for me to practice the language! I had a woman who knew that I speak very little Spanish and was still willing to engage me in conversation and take it slow. So while capitalizing on these opportunities may slow our travels, c’est la vie.

The riding was nice today. A much quieter road than yesterday with far more bicycles, horse drawn carts and motorcycles; only a few passing buses and few cars. Perhaps it is the fact that we clearly look like foreigners but very few people approach us to make conversation. They all stare and point and some will even venture forward to get a better look at us and our bikes. We’re accustomed to looking like we don’t fit in with the loaded bikes, but more used to people asking us lots of questions. I figure it’s because they know we don’t speak very good English and it would be a challenging conversation. So far the only people that have spoken to us typically ask for something; money or food. I look forward to people talking more openly with us without an ulterior motive.

Today’s Photographs

Really, really on the road again
Sleepless in San Antonio: Dirt farm roads, Policia escorts and men with machetes!