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cuba’s lack of power

As I the dirt track I am following emerges from the forest and re-approaches the highway a huge building, looking something like an enormous modernist mosque, appears on the horizon.

As I ride along the coast, a huge edifice appears on the horizon.

... which soon looms gigantically to the right of the highway.

I am intrigued by the structure which is, according to the LP guide, a nuclear power station that was abandoned before completion when Russia’s aid to Cuba dried up after the collapse of the Soviet Union. As I ride past the station I spy a road leading towards it and circle back to investigate. I approach stopping periodically to take photos. I am still some distance from the building when I see a couple of guys approaching me staggering under the weight of a metal beam. They greet me as I pass.

A little further I cross a small bridge over a ditch and notice some words scrawled on the concrete under my wheels: “No pase!” I look around. A makeshift sign repeats the message with the additional information that the area is a military zone. No-one is around so I go on and then hesitate. The two guys reappear.

“Can I go and look?”

“You can go a bit further,” they say.

So I ride on. I stop again and the men catch up with me. Two more men appear from the direction of the building and they all watch me take photos.

“I’d love to go inside.”

“Come on. Follow us.”

We make our way towards the building. The men gesture towards the left and tell me that is the military area. They direct me along a road that skirts an open space while they cut across diagonally it and then make a signal for me to be quiet. We are standing now between too smaller building near the entrance to the monolithic core building. I lean my bike against a wall to take another photo. One man creeps forward and peers around the corner of the building and them beckons us across the open space.

A cryptic inscription*, in both Russian and Spanish, adorns the wall above the entrance to the building...

We enter the building. Inside is a huge echoing cavernous space and I stand gazing up into the dark void above me in awe.

“Would you like to go up?”

“Yes!”

The men tell me to bring my bike inside and we hide it in a dark corner.

“Light!,” one of the man demands.

I rummage in my handle bar bag for my headlamp and hand it to him. He leads the way to a pitch black stairwell and, grabbing my hand, starts upwards into to darkness.

...which is filled with mysterious structures...

...and cavernous spaces.

We leave the stairwell and walk through a confusing maze of hallways and chambers. The floor is strewn with debris which we stumble over, noisily, in the dark.

“Shhhh.”

There are irregular openings in the outer walls of the building and we stop at them to admire the view. Voices outside alert us to the presence of the not-so-watchful military keepers of this place and we crouch down until they pass. They men show off their favourite views to me and insist I take photos studying me carefully as I do.

My guides insist that I take photos....

... of all their favourite views.

An incredible amount of resources must have been invested here.

We return down the stairs and into the main space but our lookout signals for us to retreat again into a side hallway and we sit in the semi-darkness. Conversation keeps arising when we forget that we are supposed to be hiding quietly. I question the men about history of the power station and the nature of their clandestine recycling business. They tell me if they are caught scavenging for scrap here the penalty is a relatively small fine and they don’t seem very concerned by the prospect.

Eventually we creep out of the building and the men accompany me back to the road before returning to their stealthy gradual dismantling of the enormous structure.

* If anyone can work out what the inscription above the door says, I would love to know.

{ 3 } Comments

  1. Matt K | September 6, 2010 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    wow.

  2. nicola | September 26, 2010 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

    Amazing

  3. Will Kemp | April 18, 2011 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

    My Russian friend, Sonia, thinks the Cyrillic writing may mean “let atom be god’s not people’s” – but she can’t read all the words properly from that angle. Cuban anti-nuclear graffiti?

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