Vuelta a Cuba - guest contribution by Andres Roldan

A cross-Cuba bicycle tour - unsupported and with minimal gear

Written by Andres Roldan at roldanes.inc@gmail.com

The daily log was written on my Blackberry at the end of every day. My thumbs are officially numb.

Bienvenidos

index:

Intro Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5 Day 6 Day 7

Pre-Journey / Introduction

My long distance riding was inspired in the fall of 2004 after reading a book by Gary Erickson the founder of Cliff Bar. After reading his book, I picked up the phone and enrolled some of my biking friends to ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles unsupported, using light road bikes with 20 lb loads attached to the seat post. It was a great adventure.

Now, a year later, we are ready for more epic riding. A three week planning period should not be legally called “planning”. Hans and I started talking about different options of places to ride: Baja, Peru, Bolivia and finally settled by Hans’ suggestion to find some of his family roots in the Communist Caribbean Island. We will use the same battle tested formula used in the trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles, using our road bikes and light loads attached to the seat post. That’s all we need to know.

Hurricane season is almost over as shown by the damage done by Wilma over Cancun and there are some concerns about safety, but we are lucky enough to have two Italian beauties, both named “Bianchi”, that are willing to travel with us into the unknown.

The plan is to ride from east to west across the island to take advantage of the easterly winds this time of year. We know our starting point, Santiago de Cuba, and our ending point, La Habana, but we have no idea, nor do we want to have an idea about the route. I bought Lonely Planet’s Cycling Cuba and a map of Cuba, these two pieces of paper will take us across Cuba or serve as toilet paper somewhere along the way.

One thing is for sure. We know it will be an epic adventure.

Pre-ride departing weights:

  • 18 lbs of gear
  • 3.5 lbs Cliff/Luna bars and powder
  • 1.5 lbs seat post attached rack
  • 19 lbs bike Bianchi Giro (later renamed Giron in honor of a Cuban town)

Packing list:

  • Giro Bianchi w/ Bontrager 700x28 tires and 535 Shimano wheels (rusty)
  • Topeak quick MTX track bag with fly for rain protection
  • Topeak type E MTX rack (attached to seatpost)
  • Helmet, Gloves, Windbreaker, Sunglasses 2 sets (riding and reg)
  • 2 compression bags large and small
  • Flip flops, convertible pants, shorts, long sleeve, Hawaiian shirt (not taken) 2 exofficio t shirts, 2 exofficio underwear, cycling jersey green cannondale, Adidas running shirt, 3 pairs of socks, 2 pairs of cycling shorts, swimming trunks, cycling shoes nike, pack towel, bandana, swimming goggles, first aid kit, nail clipper, deodorant, toothbrush and paste, water purification tablets, 12 sheets of baby wipes, Camp Soap, shampoo, liquid laundry soap, hair gel, foot powder in zip loc bag, floss (no container), plastic mirror, razor, 2 small containers of CK one and B, pen, bug repellent, sun block 2 in 1
  • Flask with 8 oz of 8 year old rum, 12 luna and cliff bars, gum (2 packs of dentine hard shell), powder to make 5.5 gallons of gatorade (22 scoops)
  • Three water bottles, 2 spare tires, 2 spare tubes, spare shims for rack attachment, rear light, electrical tape, zip ties, pump, pedal tool, Leatherman multitool, glueless patch kit and regular kit, chain tool, Pedros tire levers, knife, 3 CO2 cartridges, CO2 pump, Specialized mini pump
  • Sony cybershot P100 with 1 gig, Sony charger, tripod, Blackberry with charger, 2 emergency ponchos, headlamp, extra zip loc bags, bike rag, Lonely Planet "Cycling Cuba", foldable map of Cuba

The following log was written at the end of each day before going to bed. Enjoy...

11/11/05

Departed Santa Barbara at 2 in the morning, drove to my friend Sergio's house and took the flyaway from Van Nuys. Check in and flight to Mexico City went on with no incident. We flew over "Canon del Cobre" and it was an amazing sight, deeper than the Grand Canyon, this place will make a great place for expeditions. Departing Mexico city proved to be a little bit of a hassle since I was using Aeromexico and my ticket was booked through Delta. Apparently, these two companies didn't know that they were partners. I took it upon myself to make it official, and let them know that, indeed, they were partners. Finally, they agreed to let me aboard, and I left Mexico City with a great sense of accomplishment; creating a partnership that, hopefully, will last until my return next week.

In preparations for my arrival, Hans instructed me to bring plenty of food and drinks because the airport in Cancun had no restaurants open; Due to the aftermath of Hurricane Wilma. I followed his instructions to the letter: Ate breakfast at LAX, ate breakfast during flight, ate lunch in Mexico city, and ate lunch en route to Cancun, just in case. When I arrived in Cancun the restaurants were open, so I ate again, just in case I was missing something. After this eating frenzy, I was pretty full . Now I was sure, that the 3.5 lbs of food and Gatorade that I had been carrying all along for the hurricane emergency, were, in fact, untouched. Now, on to La Habana... (Havana)

Arrived in La Habana after a short flight from Cancun, 50 min. Customs was very slow, I was surprised to see how modern the airport was. I took a cab to Vedado were Hans was staying, this place was very close to el Malecon, after arriving there, I found out that the 20 minutes ride was worth 25 dollars. Just a taste of things to come in terms of prices. I arrived well past midnight and found Hans on his deathbed. Apparently, a stomach flu had gotten the best of him and he had been in bed the whole day. Even though we had an early flight, I decided to go and take a walk to the world famous Malecon. The social scene was amazing, young, old, gay, every type of person was around el Malecon drinking, talking, singing, and having a good 'ol' time. I walked around, went to a bar and had some rum. I decided to call it a night around 2:30am. We have an epic ride tomorrow.

11/12/05

Woke up at 7:00, packed the bags and put the bike together for our flight to Santiago, upon arriving at the airport we found out that our flight had left. We had not checked the tickets the day before. We went to another airline and got in their waiting list, after a long wait in front of a counter, the friendly attendant gave us seats. Maybe she felt sorry for the two bikers that were about to attempt something crazy, or she felt some sympathy for us due to the fact that her husband was a former member of the National cycling team. No matter what her reason was, Heredia saved the day. The flight lasted two hours and we arrived at the airport in Santiago, eager to ride, at least me, Hans was just eager of finding a clean bathroom. How do you spell diarrhea ?

The baggage handlers were impressed with our Italian made bikes and asked us tons of questions while we put them together. One in particular, Marcel , offered us his cousin's “casa particular” in downtown Santiago, $10 a night sounded like a good deal anywhere. We arrived at Leonel's and Estelas' house and the friendly man offered his services and a wide ranging menu, from lobster to chicken. He had it all. He even applied "Ben Gay" to my foot after a sprain that I suffered on my way from the airport.

We went around Santiago and found it to be a charming town. The locals were friendly but wanted money for just saying hello. A local named Carmen offered a picture and then charged us $1.50 for her modeling time. The only thing that we got for free was a Cuban cigar at a local bookshop where the owner was proud to show me a Colombian bill that somebody had donated on his wall. Dinner was at Leonel's house at 7:00 pm, chicken, congris (rice and beans), fried plantains and orange juice. We were ready for bed...

Day 1 - 11/13/05 Santiago de Cuba - Ocujal

Total distance covered 75.3 miles

Day One on the road

Breakdown: 47.4 miles to lunch at Chivirico at 13.8 avg speed, 27.9 miles to lodging at Ocujal at 12.9 avg. Woke up, had a good breakfast with Estela and Leonel. During breakfast Leonel suggested we go back to our original plan and take the coast route. We knew it would be longer and we knew that the road was bad, but climbing would be less and it would be more scenic. After a few minutes we decided to take the coast route and we left. We paid $52 convertibles to Leonel for his lodging, dinner, breakfast, and three bottles of water. The foot massage was complimentary. After pictures, hugs, email address exchanges and some soliciting from Leonel for my lycra pants we left for the coast route.

Our plan today is to cover as many miles as possible. We departed Santiago at 0931. The road had holes all over the place from the beginning but finding the route was an easy task. We reached the ocean and were taken by the turquoise colors and beautiful surroundings. Everybody said hello around here, cars, buses, trucks, bikers; we even had a support car offer us beer, and of course, I drank it. The further we got the less cars we saw, the further we rode, the more beautiful the countryside became.

The road was good in some areas, then bad, then good again. However, never a big challenge for our skinny tires, so far... We met a couple from Switzerland, biking in the other direction, and we took the opportunity to find out about the route ahead; Since they were coming from Varadero and Matanzas, one of our possible routes. They showed us the map and gave us excellent tips on the road ahead, water stops, towns to visit, and hazards. They had been biking for a month already; they had even adopted Cuban names by now, Miguel and Jazmin. After a snapshot of our guides we left and continued a little concerned, Miguel had looked at our bikes in disbelief that we could make the terrain ahead.

We stopped for lunch at Chivirico and got the worst lunch for the highest price so far, $13 for pork and two portions of rice and beans, and "natural" (tap) water. At lunch we made the decision to stop at around mile 80. We would ride to Campismo La Mula and call it a day. We rode through more beautiful coastline and lonely roads; every turn was a different sight, a different sound. It was definitively a treat to be here. Not a single tourist, the road to ourselves.

We reached the campground at La Mula and to our surprise it was closed, however they sold us badly needed water and gave us directions to find lodging in the next town, 5 km away. We arrived at "Ocujal" and went to the house of Migdalia," the public phone house" as referred by the locals. There, Migdalia offered us a room for $5 each and we took the bargain. After unloading, we went for an ocean dip, the ocean was choppy, and we just got in and out. Dinner was a fancy mini feast, $5 dollar lobster, rice, and fried plantains, prepared by her daughter Yamile. After dinner we played with Robernando, "landi", the biggest pain in the ass 5 year old that I've met in my life. He drank Hans' water from his Camelbak, drank my gatorade, used our bathroom stuff and asked questions on the functions of all our gear, again and again, while calling us "Tio" (uncle in spanish). Luckily he fell asleep.

Casa Migdalia

Before going to bed I watched "The day after tomorrow" on DVD with some of her family and then I talked to Migdalia in the backyard of the house, surrounded by a beautiful night. She told me about how happy she was of living there, the good neighbors she had, and how wonderful Fidel was when hurricanes struck Cuba, because he personally reported on TV. I also found out that she had two daughters in Switzerland that had married two Swiss guys passing through town years before. Migdalia was lucky enough to have visited Switzerland, she liked it, but it was too cold for her Caribbean taste.

Day 2 - 11/14/05 Ocujal - Campechuela

Total distance covered 79.5 miles

Breakdown: 3:43 to Pilon 41 miles 11.6 avg 1740 ascent, 3:22 to Campechuela 38.5 miles 11.4 avg 1320 ascent. Our alarm was set at 0600 am but we both missed it; I had earplugs , and Hans was having dreams with Bradley, a member of our biking club. At 6:40 we started getting our gear together, got some breakfast and prepared for departure. We paid $25 for lodging, lobster, and breakfast. After some pictures we said good bye to Migdalia and started day #2.

The ride started with some of the most impressive countryside so far, no cars, and an incredible sense of remoteness. We did not encounter anybody for most of the morning. The major change was that hills kept getting longer and bigger, something that we did not expect. We purified water at a stream, and that was enough to get us to Pilon after 3:43 min of riding and 41 miles.

At Pilon we found the Cuban version of the 7/11, a 24 hour service store but very little inventory, however, we found water for 70 cents and Malta with Olives which were good to stay hydrated. Hans really enjoyed the Malta, he might start developing a Malta drinking problem. We left Pilon and encountered the biggest hill so far, called "La Herradura", this hill was about 3 miles long but after a long day of riding it was the last thing that we wanted to do. Once the hill ended, we started looking for places to eat. Media Luna was the next town and it did not look very far; to our surprise, headwinds were coming our way and this made the ride twice as hard, our average speed dropped, and our strength diminished.

Once we reached Media Luna we found out that there were no restaurants open and we had to wait two hours for service. We ate some bread and I drank beer with two locals, after declining their offers to get us hookers and food we decided that riding to the next town would be best.

Campechuela was 12 miles away, with the head winds it would take us at least one hour to reach it. We reached Campechuela tired, hungry, and thirsty. We found that the Hotel would not serve food until 6 pm, another 30 minutes of waiting. We decided to wait for the sag wagon to Manzanillo but no trucks passed to give us a ride. The roach motel was the only choice, we were stuck in Campechuela. Again, we had no water pressure, and no toilet paper. The menu offered pork and beer, Hans' favorite items (he does not eat red meat or pork). After walking into the dining room and getting our food served, the power in the whole town went out.

They moved our table outside and we were lucky enough to have a full moon with a nice breeze to go with our dinner, Hans even got his chicken wish. Having just enough light to see the food was actually good, we did not want to look to close. During our dinner we met Azucena, a 70 year old woman that came to town to sell produce from her farm. Her friendly demeanor and good attitude made us forget all the crap that we were going through. She was spending the night at the bus station before going back to her ranch. We, at least, had a bed. Good night.

Day 3 - 11/15/05 Campechuela - Las Tunas

Total distance covered on the bike 61 miles

Not a good night in Campechuela, mosquitoes, ants, no water, no breakfast. We left the Hotel after cleaning ants from our packs, and left with no water or food. We stopped in town to get some food at a local restaurant. The bread was fresh, and for the first time we were drinking local juices, we were THIRSTY. Fritaduras with bread were also in the menu. Now we found out that using Cuban money is the way to go. Seven juices, bread, and fritaduras; this entire feast for less than 25 cents. We just need somebody willing to change our money for Cuban money, they are usually afraid. The ride started with the same headwinds as yesterday, the difference was that this time we are tired, and thirsty. Arriving in Manzanillo was good, after going to the local hotel and finding no service, we found a convenience store that sold pizza, cold water, and Malta; we were happy. Cupet Mart, saves the day, once again.

Cupet Mart

Leaving Manzanillo, our destination was Bayamo but when we got to the intersection of Las Tunas, we decided that the headwinds would be less on the road to Las Tunas, we were wrong. Headwinds persisted and the ride did not get any easier, the distance to Las Tunas was 54 miles. After riding for about 10 miles , Hans suggested hitchhiking for a truck, I did not mind the idea. We stopped a truck and there we got the opportunity to meet Don Pepe, who was a former member of the combat troops in Sierra Maestra, he fought side by side with Fidel Castro. Don Pepe did not hesitate to give me his Communist doctrine during this pork meat delivery truck ride at 40 mph on the bed of a ten wheeler holding our bikes, and holding on for dear life.

The truck put us in a road with fewer headwinds and in our way to Las Tunas, we stopped at Vado de Yeso for lunch and to our surprise we found the best lunch facilities so far, a brand new restaurant called Oasis. At Oasis we were treated like royalty, the food was good and the change was great. Continuing our ride to Las Tunas was not easy, our butts and hands are sore, each mile is a victory.

Arriving into Las Tunas we found the biggest treat so far, a good hotel with showers, pool, internet, and a restaurant! The price: $12 each. We took it, no questions asked. Dinner was good; $12 got us chicken/beef, rice, water, tomatoes, plantains, and dessert.

We were tired; it has been a long three days with pain. However, the people that we encounter on the road always return a smile, a wave, or a simple "buenas" (hello). Riding is tough, but this is the only way to experience the people side of Cuba. For example, today, while riding by a food stand in Vado de Yeso, some girls offered us Naranja agria (grapefruit) for free. Yulinda and her friends made our day; they made us laugh and gave us energy. After meeting them, our day changed, the ride got easier, we found a good restaurant, a clean bathroom, and the wind shifted, just a little bit. Oh, the power of a smile:)

Yulinda and friends

Day 4 - 11/16/05 Las Tunas - Camaguey - Ciego de Avila -Sancti Spiritus

Total distance covered biking: 69 miles

Breakdown: To train station 1.8 mi
Leg 1: Taxi to Camaguey
Leg 2 before lunch 3.6 mi, after bike 4 hrs 63.6 mi 17.3 avg 70 cadence
Leg 3 taxi to Sancti Spiriti
We left Las tunas after a good breakfast at the hotel, clothes were not dry but we were not planning to ride until the afternoon. We went to the train station and after finding no trains until midnight, we started looking for private transportation. A local offered a ride to Camaguey for 30 dollars which we did not bargain for, big mistake. The ride was actually nice with Gustavo and Victor, later on we picked up Manuel, another character who had been in Colombia for two years, we talked about the usual topic, politics, we have learned that it is not good to state your position until you hear the other side. In this case these guys were pro-Castro. But they asked for honest criticism which I politely gave them.

Manuel told me about his Colombian experience, he described Colombia as a country "carved with the hands of god". Probably the nicest thing that I've heard a foreigner say about my country. Usually, people get their information about Colombia from the six o' clock news. Manuel was a book author that teaches about track and field in different places, after exchanging emails, he said good bye and the cab dropped him off.

Once we arrived in Camaguey, we could see that it was a big city, traffic, noise, and lots of people. As soon as we got off the taxi, we found our way through the city with the help of a guide on a bike, Kenny. Our guide was very impressed with our Italian bikes, he told us that he loved cycling but it was very hard to find the equipment in Cuba. After many twists and turns we found the main highway to Ciego de Avila and we said good bye to Kenny three miles later we found a place to eat, and we had a nice but expensive lunch once again, $20 for the both of us.

We finally got on the road at 1:42 pm and we had 64 miles to go. The tailwinds helped a lot to keep a steady pace. Our paceline was good and we kept the stops at a minimum. One for maltas and water, one for pizza, coffee, and water. The wind got us to Ciego de Avila just at sunset, we rolled into the bus station to look for transportation to Sancti Spiritus. There we met Guillermo and his buddies, taxi drivers of the local town. Guillermo offered a ride to Sancti Spiritus for $20. We put our bikes in the trunk and left Ciego de Avila, not much to see there anyway.

Arriving at Sancti Spiritus was not impressive either, before finding a casa particular we stopped at another two casas that were full. Rebeca our host offered a room for $30 we bargained for $20. Food and drinks were extra, even though the sign said breakfast, lunch, and dinner included. The owner said he did not mean that, and he was taking the sign down tomorrow, we won't be there for that ceremony. Rebeca made us lobster dinner for $9 each which was a good deal, beer $2, and juice. After doing sink laundry we went to bed.

Every day we meet a different character that crosses our paths and makes us count all of the blessings that we have in our lives. Today it was Guillermo, our last taxi cab driver, a computer scientist by trade; Guillermo has tried and failed to escape Cuba twice. The first time, his cousin dehydrated during the boat ride and he made the choice to return and spent two months in jail. The second time, he was caught by the US coast guard 6 miles away from Florida, and returned to Cuba. He cannot work as a Computer Scientist anymore as a penalty for his crime. He drives a hack cab (illegal cab) and makes just enough to survive. Guillermo's cousin (the one he saved his life) became a police officer and does not talk to him anymore.

taxi

Day 5 - 11/17/05 Sancti Spiritus - Trinidad

Total distance covered 64 miles

Breakdown: 35.5 miles 2.12 hour 16.3 avg to Manacaiznaga, 11.4 mi 55.37 hour 12.4 avg to Trinidad, 7.4 mi 31.18 hour 14.3 to La Boca, 9.5 mi 53.19 hour 10.8

Woke up at 6 am and got ready to leave, clothes were dry and breakfast was not ready. We took some time to clean the bike while breakfast was served, after breakfast we paid $52 to Rebeca for her lodging, dinner, breakfast, and drinks. We left to Trinidad knowing that it would be a short day in the saddle. We looked for water at the historic district in Sancti Spiritus, there we met Don Oscar, a colorful local that enjoyed getting his picture taken. After loading water, we took off to Trinidad, the terrain was rolling hills and the winds were good, 40 miles would be an easy ride. On our way there we stopped at a tourist spot called Manacaiznaga, there we took pictures drank rum and sugar cane, and reloaded water for the remaining trip. Arriving in Trinidad was an easy ride overall. After getting some lunch at the historic town square, we found a casa particular. Our host Norelvis pointed our way to the local beach where we snorkeled and sunbathed for awhile. After our beach trip we discovered that Norelvis, besides being a great host, was a great cook as well. The best food in Cuba so far was at his house. Shrimp and lobster kabobs, served with rice, pumpkin, salad, and mashed potatoes. After that, he gave me coffee and the greatest mojito ever. Hans and I went to check out the night life in Trinidad and we found a lively spot, outdoors, called Plaza de la Musica. Here we listened to the music and I drank some Mojitos and water. The night ended early when a heavy urge to go to the bathroom (#2++) came over me. So many people so little time. We have seen the whole spectrum of Cuban people. As Hans and I discussed today, if it wasn't for the bike touring, we would not be meeting so many different people in so little time. Biking rock stars, that is how we are treated as we ride by any town, curiosity towards our trip is the main reason that we are approached, and at the same time it opens up the bridge for our curiosity to wonder about their lives in this vortex of time.

Day 6 - 11/18/05 Trinidad - Giron (Bay of Pigs) - Playa Blanca

Total distance covered, 94 miles

Breakdown: To Pasa Caballos 50 mi 3.24 hour 50.8 mi 14.8 avg
To Giron 3.33 hour 44mi 12.4 avg
To Playa Larga, taxi ride $12
Good morning! The toilet is still clogged, last night I perfected the toilet clogger recipe: three mojitos, two beers, cuban coffee, and just before getting ready to clog the toilet add sparkling water to the mix. Leaving Norelvis' house was a tough decision, at his place we had great food and service at an affordable price. We have to keep riding, there are more toilets waiting for Hans all across Cuba.

The riding plan looks simple, take the coast route towards Cienfuegos, and bypass Cienfuegos using the ferry at Pasa Caballos, then depending on time, push on towards Giron or a town in between.

First, we got a late start, 09:15 am, the first leg towards Cienfuegos was relatively easy, we found water and food when we needed it and the wind conditions were favorable. The coast had similitudes with the coast west of Santiago but we saw a lot more people around here. The Cuban people were friendly and helpful as always, we had an easy morning on the bike. Pushing towards Rancho Luna and Pasa Caballos was easier than expected, the hilly route that everybody forecasted was actually rolling hills, tailor made for our bikes and loads. We made Pasa Caballos at 1:30 pm and before crossing the bay a local roadside restaurant offered lobster for $6, we were in.

The downside is that it took them an hour to serve it; we would pay for this dearly later on. After eating our lunch, we were lucky to catch the ferry immediately, and started our confusing journey to Giron. The directions towards the dirt road were a little hard to follow and we missed the turn by half a mile before realizing it.

Once we found the route the dirt did not seem so bad, however the dirt turned into coral, sand, rocks, sticks, and sharp brush. We kept a good speed adjusting to the conditions but Hans got a flat, then a branch bent his derailleur, and finally another flat just when the mosquitoes were waking up. Giron was nowhere to be seen and no one around to ask directions from. The only soul that we found was an old man dressed in his old and ragged military shirt with blue jeans, clearing brush, he told us that the road would get better and that Giron was still quite a way to go. Pedaling became harder, mosquitoes became clouds, and daylight was gone. Just as the night rolled in, we rolled in into Giron. This is probably the first time in my life that I was afraid of mosquitoes.

off-road tire repair

A friendly local guy named Norberto offered to find us a house, no luck, everything was full. We needed a shower and a meal soon. Norberto offered his house, even though he could get into a lot trouble for this, maybe the rum in his system was affecting his judgment; however, his wife was pretty sober and she did not like the idea.

We left his house to ask permission from the local authority for lodging with Norberto and to get a bite to eat. While eating some pizza, we offered Norberto a drink and he accepted, but he specified that he wanted the whole bottle, not just a glass. At $2.50 a bottle we got him his wish, during this time, we kept looking for options for lodging and nothing seemed to work. When we were just about to give up, we asked Norberto for a car ride to the next town, Playa Larga. Norberto woke up Gustavo, a friend of his that owned a car. Gustavo gave us a ride in his small car with the two bikes, Hans ended up carrying his bike on his lap. If we crashed, the paramedics would have to extract the bike out of his behind.

long day on the road

We arrived at Campismo Victoria de Giron after the car ride and found the campismo workers less than willing to help us, finally they gave us a room with no sheets, just bare mattresses. We paid $2 for used sheets (bloody), and asked for the water to be turned on for 30 minutes to be able to clean up. Not an easy night. After the hardest and longest ride on this trip, the last thing we needed was a room with no sheets. However, we did not have time to be grateful enough to Norberto for offering his house to two dirty guys on bikes, or risking his house for lodging us, or even for getting in trouble with the boss -his wife- . Norberto was willing to spend the night outside with us if we had to, his helping hand was very special. He did not know how tired we were or what kind of day we'd had, he offered his used soap wanting nothing in return, just cheap booze. Thanks...

Day 7 - 11/19/05 Playa Larga - La Habana

Total distance covered 115.5 miles

Breakdown: To breakfast at Crocodile farm 50.24 minutes 10.6 miles 14.5 avg
To lunch 2.59 hour 52.9 miles 17.6 avg
To Habana 3.16 hour 52 miles 15.9 avg
After a hard night at Campismo Giron we woke up with good energy to finish this adventure. We have some water and no breakfast, but we are ready to go. 11 miles after our start we found a good tourist restaurant with a great breakfast to get our legs back, a little expensive, but we needed this food badly.

We continued pushing towards Australia where the main highway to La Habana intersects; we know it is all downhill from there! Once we reached the main highway at Australia the wind at our backs was just perfect, our speed increased and we could see the light at the end of the tunnel. 3 hours after breakfast we stopped for lunch, another good spot, now we are riding with happy stomachs and sore legs. Hans is having a good time with his MP3 player, we are pacing each other and celebrating our soon to be milestone. We have not seen any signs of La Habana and this helps at this stage, we just want to get there. The scenery is not impressive; this is just a long flat road with empty flat land all around. The road is amazing, two wide lanes a landscaped divider and a really wide shoulder for bike traffic.

I did not carry an MP3 player but the music in my head was always going, especially when we saw the sign that read "LA HABANA 13 KM" , 6 miles !! We were home, well, almost home. Once we reached La Habana we had to look for a place to stay, in the meantime, Hans sold his bike and we walked through old Habana. Hans found a great place to spend our last night in La Habana. We went out to dinner at Plaza de la Catedral with some of his classmates from Spanish class. After dinner I went dancing to a great local spot with no tourists at all, La Habana, what a place !

During most of our trip we were tired, sometimes thirsty and hungry, but always excited to see what the next day was going to bring. The people we met along the road made it possible, just like the people in our daily lives. A few weeks ago we thought it was impossible, planning an adventure to celebrate the anniversary of our previous OTB 500. Riding across Cuba was probably the hardest ride of our lives to date, and the greatest biking experience ever. We rode everyday, living each day like it was our last... Happiness one pedal stroke at a time.

victory maltas



chile30 Also check out Andres' Tour of Baja California and video! It pays to be bilingual.chile30