As most of you know, our plans to stay in Spain for a bit didn’t work out, as it was going to take months for me to get a work permit. Luckily we made a good Plan B: return home via cycling some more. So after Kath finished work in December we did a quick goodbye tour of Europe and hopped on a plane to Cuba. We were sick of ham anyway and cycling is way more fun than working.
We started off in the south east of the country, heading west from Santiago de Cuba.
because there aren’t many vehicles in Cuba, and this is bridge is too scary for them anyway:
It was awesome. Cycling is best when there are reasonable roads, few cars, beautiful landscapes, and an interesting place. This part of Cuba provided all them and is apparently in the best ten cycle rides in the world (I believe anything in The Guardian). We loved it.
There was no advertising in Cuba, which was a very pleasant absence once we noticed it, but plenty of propoganda:
And even more exciting, a crocodile farm! We got to pick up the little ones and throw fish to the bigger ones, which caused a writhing mess of tails and teeth.
After a long slog across the plains in the centre of the country we found the coast again, and made it to the famous Bay of Pigs. That wall is in case the Cuban-Americans try and land here again, and spoiling a lovely beach.
We were drawn to Cuba to escape the European winter, and to try and understand the place. But Cuba is a really hard place to understand. It’s a funny mix of 1st world and 3rd world, and a tropical paradise with some Soviet style architecture. Everyone gets a good education and healthcare, but no money, or not enough to buy stuff with. Even if there was stuff to buy, which there is not, thanks to the US embargo and etc. It is changing though: for a few years now small private enterprise has been allowed, (which meant we got to eat lots of pizzas and other treats from roadside stalls), tourism is encouraged, which brings in foriegn currency and a sometimes unseemly battle amongst touts who try and get it off you; and now you can even buy and sell property, apparently. We were told that this economic liberalisation is becuase of Raul Castro who has taken over from his bro Fidel.
After crossing through to the north coast, eventually we made it to Havana which has some sweet Spanish colonial architecture and old American cars. The cars are awesome. So awesome that even cyclist blogs say they are awesome. They are all old American things, still running, or old Soviet ladas, still running. Some probably have no original parts left. Some have been converted into stretch ladas. Havana also has lots of music venues and art galleries and museums and all sorts of stuff to make it fun to explore, but was the only place in the country where cycling wasn’t really fun.
After Havana we finally found some mountains on the way to Viñales. Kath got a flat tyre here, her first since we left Wellington. Don’t judge me too harshly for feeling very happy about this. As far as I am concerned, the world is now a much fairer place.
With a few days to spare before flying out we went back to Havana for some more mueums, mojitos, and progoganda…
and Kath drew a map:
The food in Cuba was pretty good and hearty, but was bland and always the same. We ate beans and rice, fried pork or chicken, and a pile of starchy veges (potato, yuca, green bananas, or a Cuban kumara) for more or less every meal.
And that was Cuba.
This blog post is lame, but we’ll write something either funny or interesting soon, promise. This just in: a new witticism from Ms. Haines: Cuba is a mix of Tonga, Eastern Europe, Spain, Just Juice Ads and Southwards Car Museum.