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Published: February 5th 2019
Cuba. 2019. Summary
Cuba, an island of contradictions. Havana is a busy city where there are obviously people making a reasonable living and some taxi drivers etc. wearing heavy gold and using smart phones and yet you see beggars on the street and older people with lowly jobs looking impoverished. I think most people are quite industrious and willing to make money wherever they can but there appears to be working age people stood about, or queuing up for meat or something. These paradoxes also apply to the countryside but with the emphasis of more on the poorer end. Much farm work is done by horse and pony and old Russian tractors. A few farms had larger and more modern tractors but I suspect these were government owned and run by cooperatives. There are large area of very fertile land, especially in the south, but also much scrubland. Whether this just needs ploughing and fertilising I don’t know. I would suspect that 50% of the vehicles on the roads are up to 70 years old, including lorries and buses. The newer ones, I think, are government owned and out for hire to tourists. We saw some modern trucks, such as DAF,
Scania and Chinese articulated outfits but not sure who owns or runs them. They have the number plates with CUBA down the left side in blue, which usually signifies Government. The old American cars are everywhere and mostly 1950’s and 60’s Chevrolets many which have more modern engine/gearboxes and axles. It seems a prerequisite that the diesels are underpowered and belch out diesel smoke, especially the old trucks.
Local buses are very old lorries with a cabin on the back with a ladder to get in and bench seats down each side. Tuk-Tuks are plastic bubble affairs and there are many pedal powered rickshaws in use. Motorcycles and sidecars are also used as taxis, mostly two stroke twins but some old Russian Urals. Thumbing a ride is a frequent means of getting about in the countryside.
The people are pleasant and try to please and the private bed and breakfast houses are clean and serve good food.
I have never been to a country where so many people have been ill, whether it was the food or water (bottled) or something that passed between us we will never know but I suspect a virus passed between us. During the two
weeks we only had a full complement riding on three days with two thirds of us going down at some stage.
WIFI is available in most places for 1CUC (90p) for one hour but can only be used close to where the card is bought.
Our guide, mechanic and driver were very good and did a good job of educating us and getting us settled in everywhere. However I think some things need changing for any future cycling groups touring Cuba, mostly relating to the midday meals and mileages. Rather than a long ride with the large meal at the end, often at 2pm or later, we need light snacks every two hours with a small meal at lunchtime and then more cycling to the finish. The snacks could be nuts, biscuits, cake, bananas, fruit etc, cold drinks and hot drinks from a flask. The meals could be just a sandwich with hot drink, or spaghetti/noodles/pizza/soup etc. The lunch sandwiches could be taken with us. Hills should not be avoided and quiet country roads are preferable.
One or two beach days are ok but the emphasis should be on cycling and short cultural visits.
Overall, a great trip to a
country still partly in the past. Well worth a visit.
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