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trying (quite unsuccessfully) to get the hang of cuba

I set off from Playa Jutias with my new French friends, Sylvia and Regis, but our ways diverge soon enough – at the end of the causeway I turn west while Sylvia and Regis head east towards Vinales and Havana.

The Gunahabibicanes Peninsula is still a couple of hundred kilometres away so I have a few days riding ahead of me to reach it. I ride, nursing my injured hands as best I can, in blistering heat or, alternatively, pouring rain.

I am riding parallel to the coast, but perhaps ten to fifteen kilometres from it. Towards evening I turn off the main road and head towards a beach that I can see marked on the map about seven kilometres away. Tractors, trucks, buses, cars and horses with carts, all crammed with sunburnt Cubans in swimming attire, are heading along the track in the opposite direction.

Eventually, I reach a short, unremarkable, beach that I access through a gate next to a bar and restaurant. I ask a man behind the bar if I can camp on the beach and he assures me that it is not a problem. As the last stragglers leave, I admire the stormy sky while lounging in the shallow luke warm water of the bay and then put up my tent in front of the restaurant.

Rain out to sea.

Sun going down.

The caretaker is soon the only person, apart from me, remaining on the beach. He sits on the verandah of the restaurant building listing to the radio and after a short conversation with him I escape the mosquitoes by retiring to my tent and eventually drop off to sleep.

Some time after midnight a vehicle with blazing head-lights roars up, circles my tent and then pulls up beside the restaurant. Heavy booted feet clump about and raised voices ring out. In my sleep befuddled state I try to decipher the questions being asked – I know they refer to me but their exact meaning is not very clear. I decide to ignore the situation completely and go back to sleep but the volume of the radio increases and the newcomers settle in, conversing loudly. I lie in my tent, sleepless, until dawn when the truck rumbles off again.

As the sun rise and I start to pack up my things the caretaker inquires how I slept.

“Fine.”

“The military came in the night to protect you,” he informs me.

I nod, thank him and leave.

I am at this stage feeling slightly the worse for wear. I don’t seem to have got the hang of finding a suitable camping spot in Cuba yet. My hands hurt and are showing signs of infection and I haven’t had enough sleep or enough to eat for the last three days. I ride back to the main road wondering how the rest of my month in Cuba is going to pan out.

I head for a lagoon I see marked on my map. This lagoon receives faint praise in the LP guide but it is the closest place that looks like it might have reasonable food available – I have been living off a diet of crackers from my panniers and pizza and bread rolls from roadside cafeterias since I left Havana – but when I arrive I find, in my sleep-deprived state, the lagoons hotel/restaurant complex’s closed gate too daunting and the boisterous Cuban holiday makers too intimidating and I retreat along a gravel road alongside the lagoon to a deserted area a couple of kilometres away. The lagoon’s cool water revives me slightly and, after snoozing away the rest of the afternoon with a book in the shade of some trees, I light a fire and cook myself a decent meal.

More stormy weather, over the laguna, this time.

Cooking my first decent meal in a while by the shores of an unremarkable but blessedly peaceful and deserted lagoon.

You might have the impression. by now, that I don’t like Cuba very much but that is not the case. However, I would say that Cuba is not the easiest place to negotiate for someone who is unfamiliar with it and is travelling independently and alone on a low-budget.

{ 4 } Comments

  1. seth | September 4, 2010 at 1:19 am | Permalink

    I enjoyed your posts about cuba. Glad you are back in Mexico. May I ask how you care for your bike while you sleep? Do you keep it inside the tent somehow?

  2. anna | September 4, 2010 at 1:23 am | Permalink

    There’s more to come and it gets better – I did actually have a good time in Cuba.

    With the bike, it depends where I am but I lock it to something immovable or slide it under the tent vestibule so that I’m pretty sure I would wake if anyone messed with it and put the lock around the wheel and frame so that it can’t be simply wheeled or ridden away.

  3. Alan | September 4, 2010 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    Hi Anna,

    Well written as always. You’ve covered a lot of ground since my last visit. You have my empathy regarding your hands, I peeled mine in a similar way once and it’s not nice.

    Here’s hoping your trip is still enjoyable.

    Al

  4. Melda | September 4, 2010 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    I’m very glad to hear that it got better – so far the Cuba posts haven’t seemed all that positive! But I guess that’s part of travelling, and if there weren’t not-so-good parts, the good times wouldn’t seem quite so good!

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