Portrait B&W

Kubabilder

The librarian in Matanzas

Jovellanos

Central Australia, in the backgrounds the ruins of the old sugar mill

The above pictures from Cienfuegos -”The Pearl of the South”

Gustavo från Trinidad

     Señora Ofelia Rodriguez Hernandez. Sancti Spiritus

Casa Ofelia, Sancti Spiritus

Elena from Switzerland

Playa Giron

Happy kids in Matanzas

Cykling-page about Cuba:
Read Michael R Ayers interesting and well written website here! http://www.terminalia.org/cuba/http://www.terminalia.org/cuba/http://www.terminalia.org/cuba/shapeimage_1_link_0shapeimage_1_link_1shapeimage_1_link_2
PHOTO GALLERYKubanska_portratt_b%26w.html
PHOTO GALLERYKubabilder.html

Portrait Colour

PHOTO GALLERYKubanska_portratt_farg.html

Portrait B&W

Cuba Pictures

PHOTO GALLERYKubanska_portratt_b%26w.html
PHOTO GALLERYKubabilder.html

Portrait Colour

PHOTO GALLERYKubanska_portratt_farg.html

Portrait B&W

Cuba Pictures

PHOTO GALLERYKubanska_portratt_b%26w.html
PHOTO GALLERYKubabilder.html

Portrait Colour

PHOTO GALLERYKubanska_portratt_farg.html

Becoming boxers in Cienfuegos

Elena with a cuban friend in Baracoa

Portrait B&W

Cuba Pictures

PHOTO GALLERYKubanska_portratt_b%26w.html
PHOTO GALLERYKubabilder.html

Portrait Colour

PHOTO GALLERYKubanska_portratt_farg.html

I myself together with a ”happy” Cuban friend!

Malecon, Havana

Portrait B&W

Cuba Pictures

PHOTO GALLERYKubanska_portratt_b%26w.html
PHOTO GALLERYKubabilder.html

Portrait Colour

PHOTO GALLERYKubanska_portratt_farg.html

Hairdressers in Guaimaro

Senora Miriam Guerra de la Cruz

Former medalist in boxing

Portrait B&W

Kubabilder

PHOTO GALLERYKubanska_portratt_b%26w.html
PHOTO GALLERYKubabilder.html

Portrait Colour

PHOTO GALLERYKubanska_portratt_farg.html

If you like to see the

CUBAN PICTURES in full size go to RYDINGS PLANET - Newsblog

where they also can be shown as slideshow!

Hasta la vista!

Pictures from Yaguaramas

CYCLING CUBA 2006
I started from Havana, the 1st of February and ended my trip in Havana March 21st. Then I had been pedalling about 1500 km in 21 cycling days. This is my diary and elements of the e-mail correspondence.

	
Diary notes, memories and general comments:

Wednesday February 1
PLAYA JIBACOA

Had planned to make it to Matanzas today. But a tormenting headwind changed that intention.
Havana in the morning: Bicycles along the Malecon in the daybreak through a newly awaken city to the bus station behind the El Capitolio National, the landmark in the centre of Havana. The sunrays are breaking on top of the roofs of the big grey buildings and cast long shadows. We are a dozen early bicycle passengers, several have racing bicycles and the bus will take us to the Casablanca side.
(Read in Granma (Cuban newspaper) that the famous former cyclist Eddie Merckx has donated twenty racing bicycles to Cuba's national bicycle team and one to El Comandante himself - Fidel Castro!)


The first major city I pass is Guanabo, a suburb in shoe-box-architecture. The buildings are constructed in a typical 1960-style. They are painted in pastel-colours that flakes and seem to be a bit worn. The road is good and it is partly flat as a saloon floor. Cycling along the coast. Everywhere along the shore you pass large oil pumps looking like giant black dinosaurs in the backlight. They rhythmically pump and fill the air with a pungent smell of crude oil. 
The headwind is significant and I became soon aware that I am not in best shape. I'm getting tired even in the most modest hills. Stop for a rest at a peso restaurant in Santa Cruz for a beer and a sandwich. We are a dozen guests, mostly workers taking a break. The waiter informs me that I cannot get any beer until he has got an empty glass. After a short while a few workers leave and I get my beer! 
(The beer costs six pesos and the sandwich three. (20 peso equal to one U.S. dollars that is equal to one Convertible Peso – CUC.)

There is no Casa Particular in Santa Cruz otherwise I would have stayed there. But some of the guys in the restaurant recommend a campismo at Playa Jibacoa, some twenty kilometres further east along the coast.
I arrive at the campismo at midday and rent a cabaña - a cabin. It includes a large bedroom, a small kitchen with necessary equipment, a nice bathroom with shower, air-condition and refrigerator. Price: 14 CUC, equal to $ 14!

On the campismo there is a swimming pool, a bar and a cafeteria. Jumped into the pool after having had a cheese omelette and a beer. Price 1 CUC!
An English couple, both doctors, live in one of the houses next door. They cycle on a "mini" – tandem, a "Bike Friday" one of the most popular mini-bikes. They had taken the bus east to Trinidad about three weeks ago and started the journey from there and are now on their way back to Havana.

Wednesday 1/2 Havana – Jibacoa
Distance: 56 km, Time:  3 h, Av.speed: 18 km/h 


Thursday February 2
MATANZAS MEANS SLAUGHTER!
(And the Taino-indians were the victims!)

Arriving in Matanzas at midday after having started just after eight o'clock in the morning. It has been a hell of a headwind and slightly uphill all the way. I feel quite worn out in the end.
A friend in Havana has recommended me a Casa Particular, owned by a certain Señor Miguel. I find the address and Señor Miguel. He has no vacancy but helps me to find another accommodation, whose owner is a solo violinist in the Matanzas Symphony Orchestra. He and his large family (mother and father, a cousin and a brother, wife and several children) have a big house in an old Spanish colonial style with huge rooms and high ceilings with elegant ornaments and windows as big as gates.
He has an old beige car of an unrecognisable make in the garden.
Half of his garage has been converted into a nice guest room. I stay two nights Price 25 CUC/night.

Thursday 2/2 Playa Jibacoa – Matanzas
Distance: 42 km, Time:  2 h 40 min, Av.speed: 15km/h 

Friday 3/2 Matanzas
Rest day


Saturday February 4
SALSA IN JOVELLANOS

Carretera Central, the main road between Havana and the provinces in the east, passes through the thoroughfare-village Jovellanos. When I turn up there at noon on the rest area at the intersection there are a few truck drivers hanging at an outdoor bar. I take a beer and ask the drivers if the city has any Casa Particular. They ask around but there seems to be no Casa in Jovellanos, but a kiosk owner who sells pizzas next to the bar has a tip on an available room opposite the rest area.
-Truck drivers often use the room overnight, says the pizza baker and after a short while the owner shows up and does a quick cleaning of the rubbishy room.
The room is simple but has a shower (a tap and a hose) and a toilet. I pay 10 CUC for the room and promise to give the key to the waitress in the outdoor bar tomorrow.

I planned to go to bed early, but I don’t. Early in the evening someone is knocking on the door. I think it is the police since my accommodation is not legal. But it turns out to be a few young ladies, who explain in Spanish with occasional elements of English that there is ”a grand fiesta” down in the village. We take a horse-drawn down to the centre, which pulsates in rhythms and colours. Dancing and partying is going on all night and I come home at wee hours when the sun begun to dye the sky red in the east.

Saturday 4/2 Matanzas – Jovellanos
Distance: 55 km, Time: 3 h., Av.speed: 18 km/h 



Sunday February 5
WHEW! So much rumba!

Luckily, just smooth flat cycling and pleasant mild tailwind most of the day. 

Most of the way down to Central Australia is straight as a razor cut through giant orange plantations. On the roadside, half high trees with wide crowns are weighted down by large ripe fruits. A couple of guys in baseball caps have taken a break in the morning heat in the shadow of an orange tree. I point at a few full ripe fruits on the ground and the boys nod in agreement. I pick some oranges from the ground. Sweet and juicy. The plantation belongs to a collective and has a name that I have forgotten but it reminds me of something that has to do with the war in Vietnam. 
As a break halfway to Australia is the village of San José de Marcos. In a small café next to the road, I order a coffee and a ham sandwich. Large horse-drawn carts pass fully loaded with oranges as glowing in the sunshine.
The owner asks considerately if I want a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice!

I pass Jagua Grande and cross Autopista National towards the nearby city of Central Australia. A few kids on their bikes returning home from school would like to challenge me and we are playing racing cyclists for about a kilometre. I could hear their joyful laugh when they leave me behind, as I brake and stop in the outskirts of the city looking for a Casa.
Almost immediately I find Orlando’s Casa Particular. He is standing on the porch to his house in his Nike outfit and offers a room. For 20 CUC I get a nice room, even if it is somewhat showy decorated. Flashy paintings on both sides of the bed, one with a fake Paris motive and the other is a colourful illustration of a birchwood. There are two bedside lamps. They consist of lit up purple-coloured plastic roses, which rotate in a plastic box. 	
Behind all the gaudy decorations I can imagine the family's concern for their guests.

Señor Orlando Hernández Caballero works as a cook at the large hotel in Playa Giron. In the evening he and his wife grill crocodile with rice and beans, a fresh salad and a big bowl of fruit!
Casa Orlando’s well-filled guest book shows that there are strikingly many cyclists who have stayed by Orlando’s. Germans, Dutch and Canadians dominate.

Central Australia, just about a kilometre south of Autopista National was once a prosperous centre for the sugar industry. Nowadays the ruins of the large sugar mill built in the early 1900s, during the sugar boom, dominate the centre. 
Fidel Castro had his headquarters in the old mill-office and organized the resistance during the invasion 1961; The Bay of Pigs Invasion (known as La Batalla de Girón in Cuba), was an unsuccessful attempt by a U.S.-trained force of Cuban exiles to invade southern Cuba with support from, and orchestrated by U.S. government armed forces trying to overthrow the Cuban government.
Find more on Wikipedia.

Sunday 5/2 Jovellanos – Central Australia
Distance: 45 km., Time:  2 h., Av.speed: 20 km/h.



Monday February 6
BAY OF PIGS

After about half an hour of cycling, I arrived at El Carmelo, which is the gateway to the Zapata Peninsula, a nature conservation area and national park. It is a huge wetland area and an eldorado for ornithologists and nature lovers.
Here is almost no traffic. Something like one vehicle every 15 minutes!
Somewhat later, I arrive at the Boca de Guamá - a tourist attraction with a crocodile farm as the main attraction. But there is also a built up copy of a Taino village. (Tainos, as well as Arawak and Siboneys, were the Indians tribes who inhabited northern Antilles islands, which include Cuba.)
There are also lot of stores and shops whose most exposed products are T-shirts and baseball caps with the Che Guevara-motif. When I pass, it is still early morning and the bus parking area is pretty empty. Just a few tourists are having a coffee break.
The stores have just opened up and "ghetto blasters" thunder out traditional Cuban rhythms.

At Playa Largo, I enter the beginning of the famous "Bay of Pigs" (Bahia de Cochinos) and just after midday I cycle into the township of Playa Giron. The place consists of a huge hotel with a nice soft sandy beach, which unfortunately is walled-in of a kind of breakwater in concrete a hundred meters off shore. Regrettable and apparently a consequence of the invasion. The hotel and the nearest surroundings are occupied by a lot of Cuban youths when I pass by.
Next to the hotel there is, of course, also a museum, which depicts the resistance and the consequence of the invasion. Otherwise, Giron is mainly one long street along which there are lots of Casa Particulars, restaurants and other tourist services. Playa Giron is obviously visited by many tourists. 

Stayed at Casa Vilenta on Calle 16. 

Monday 6/2 Central Australia – Playa Giron (Bay of Pigs).
Distance: 66 km, Time: 3 h 40 min, Av.speed: 18km/h 



Tuesday February 7
AMONG VAQUEROS IN YAGUARAMAS

I realize at the start in Giron that it will be unnecessarily tiring to hang on the almost 100 kilometres to Cienfuegos, since I usually want to quit cycling during the hot hours just around noon. Instead I decide to stay overnight in the little dusty town of Yaguaramas, which lies halfway to Cienfuegos.

The road to Yaguaramas passes, apart from the small village of Bermeja, through a landscape just as desolate as the inland of northern Scandinavia. Throughout two hours of cycling passes one car and a guy on an old motorcycle. The elderly man on the motorcycle wants to talk while he runs alongside me and asks from where I come, my destination, my thoughts about Cuba etc. He is very sympathetic but hard to understand since he has a large lit cigar in his mouth while talking.  I also meet three horse-drawn carriages, one Viazul bus and three cars.

Just before reaching La Horquita just about 12 kilometres from Yaguaramas, I meet a big furiously red belching motorcycle with a sidecar. When the driver sees me he makes a u-turn, slows down and stops next to me. He lifts of a pair of old motorcycle glasses and bursts out in a broad smile and asks in good English where I am going.
I tell him and we have a short chat and I ask where I can get a cup of coffee. He points at the first houses in Horquitas.
-There you can have your coffee. 
We say good-bye, he wishes me a nice ride, turns around his big bike and disappears in a dust cloud as a loud buzzing red insect in the opposite direction.

A couple of pedal revolutions and I can have my coffee. I note that the road so far is in pretty bad condition, but the stretch between La Horquita and Yaguaramas turns out to be better. On this section of the road I pass a monument erected in memory of the place where Henry Reeve fell in combat in 1876 when serving as Brigadier General in the Cuban Army against the Spanish. He was called “El Inglesito” - The Englishman, although he was born in Brooklyn, United States. The monument is an obelisk-like stone surrounded by lush green lawns. 

I arrive along the dusty main street in Yaguaramas by midday and meet a bunch of vaqueros on their horses. They bind their horses outside a shop at a junction.  It clinks from the spurs when they walk the few steps into the bar. 
I park my bike next to the horses. Inside the dark shop a big fan keeps the air cool. I order a beer. It comes in a large brown 70-centilitre bottle. It’s a peso-beer, cheap but quite all right. 
I ask if they know if there is any Casa Particular in the village. They shake their heads, but give me the tip to ask for Senora E.
-Follow the street and ask for Señora E (as it is a non-legal casa I can't reveal the whole name), they say and nod towards the main street.

Señora E and her husband are in their 40’s and their two young daughters in their teens. Their house is close to the very end of the street not far from where it meets the main road towards Cienfuegos. 
I like the family very much even if none of them speaks much English. (I revisited the family later on my trip.) Señor has an old bluish Chevy from the 50's and is very proud of of it. He wants to show me the "wonder" but has problem to make it start. Finally after a few coughs the car shakes and makes a giant roar. The engine starts with a bang and the immediate surroundings disappear in a big black cloud. His dark sweaty face lights up by a broad smile. 

Afternoon sun is merciless and is like a red-hot rivet on the deep blue heaven when I take a walk along the main street. I get the same vibrations as when I look at an old western reel; suddenly a somewhat scarred western hero will pop out of the dark shadows. 

Yaguaramas is a real hole, a dusty rural-village, but very laid-back and likeable.
In the middle of the community where an unused rusty rail track crosses the main street, at a junction near the trade shop/bar where I had my beer earlier, the men in the village gather. They sit in the shade with their wide-brimmed cowboy hats or baseball-caps and smoke big cigars. One vaquero gets his black cowboy boots polished by a shoeblack, an elderly man who tries to keep his perspiration away with a small fan.
Nearby is a mobile lemonade sale and parents (mostly women) and children on their way home from school are queuing.
I make a visit to the shop/bar asking for another beer.
Sold out! More beer will arrive tomorrow or the day after tomorrow or... They do not know!
I join the queue for homemade lemonade.

Despite the language problems, I have a nice evening and a good meal with family and I promise to come back if I pass the village again.
Yaguaramas - a fascinating place!

(Note. From Playa Giron, you can instead of cycling inland through Yuagaramas to Cienfuegos choose a ride along the coast. You will then arrive at the Castillo de Jagua and can from here take the ferry either to Pasacaballo and continue further or take a ferry direct to Cienfuegos harbour. The road is considered to be in poor condition periodically, but current information is available in Playa Giron. A useful map can be found at Lonely Planet’s Cuba p.263. 4th edition 2006.))

Tuesday 7/2 Playa Giron – Yaguaramas
Distance: 46 km, Time: 2 h 40 min



Wednesday February 8
CIENFUEFGOS - LA PERLA DEL SUR

Smooth cycling and almost no wind! Huge sugar cane fields line the road southbound. I pass an agricultural collective called "The Heroic Vietnam."
In the light tailwind I reach Cienfuegos already at noon on a wide two-lane road. I pass the University and approach the city centre that is guarded by a huge portrait of Fidel and end up on the main street, Calle 37, popularly called "El Prado".

Cienfuegos means literally "Hundred fires" but is called "Le Perla del Sur" - Pearl of the South, and has about 170 000 inhabitants. It is a beautiful and welcoming city at the Bahia de Cienfuegos, a natural port guarded by the old fortress, Castillo de Jagua. 
Many young Scandinavian youths are studying at the University due to good relations with the Scandinavian countries.  When I arrive I am told that about 50 Norwegian students just have arrived.
In 2005, UNESCO inscribed the Urban Historic Centre of Cienfuegos on the World Heritage List, citing Cienfuegos as the best extant example of the 19th-century early Spanish Enlightenment implementation in urban planning


Excerpts from an e-mail:
Cienfuegos Monday the 13th of February
Ola Amigos
The weekend is over. The party has ended. The dancing is over and the music is silent.
Back to reality and it's Monday again.
Many Cubans are dancing through the weekends. In almost every corner you will hear pounding and beating on drums, trumpets wail ingand howling and there is plucking and playing on guitars. And those who do not make music, they dance. Everywhere. Absolutely everywhere!

Yesterday, a Sunday I went on a tour together with my friend Omar and his family and an elderly Danish couple who study Spanish at the University where Omar is their teacher. We went to Castillo de Jagua, a boat trip for fifty minutes to the estuary of Bahia de Cienfuego.
The fortress was built by the Spanish during the mid-1700s as a defence against the pirates, El Bucanegros, who devastated the Caribbean in those days.
For today's "pirates" it is much easier to enter. Despite embargoes, blockades and other misfortunes, there is actually a direct flight between Miami and Cienfuegos! But only for so called "Dollar Cubans."
Some of these” Miami Cubans” can often be seen strolling around on Avenida 54, called El Bulevar, a large pedestrian street and the city's commercial centre. They are easy to recognize since they are dressed as Christmas trees. Showy as German chocolate boxes with gold chains around necks and wrists dangling as festoons.
There are Cubans who claim that these modern age pirates, are smuggling drugs. I do not know if that is true. They are in all cases closely watched by the police, who every now and then check their identity.
The matter may be anyhow, but the picnic was a disaster!
The day started out as a clear morning with the sun as an orange fireball that grew large over the Escambrai Mountains in the east, but ended in a perpetual rain, half storm and cold as a traditional English summer day.
We sat crouching under a leaking roof made of palm leaf at the depopulated beach and ate delicacies that Omar's wife Mimi had brought with her.
Soaking wet and frozen we had to wait a couple of hours for the ferry and we arrived home late afternoon to Omar's minimal apartment where we squeezed in and drank apple wine which we had bought on our the way home and in a flickering TV we saw and listened to Isaac Perlman who was playing Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto.

Wednesday 8/2 Yaguaramas – Cienfuegos
Distance: 50 km, Time: 2 h 50 min



Thursday February 16
MAGIC TRINIDAD

It is warm and clear in the morning even though the TV news has predicted cold, north-easterly wind and possibly rain. It would however be one of the hottest days and the toughest cycling on the whole trip.
Already after half an hour I meet another cyclist - Elena from Bern in Switzerland. She is 28 years old and on her first long bike tour.
She has borrowed her boyfriend's mountain bike, had one pannier and carries a huge rucksack on her back!
We decide to ride together to Trinidad, where she has friends waiting for her. I myself had not planned to pull all the way to Trinidad since I intended to overnight after about halfway in the vicinity of the beautiful Playa Yanuagabo. But ...
We start with choosing the wrong road. After some ten kilometres a group of young cyclists from Cienfuegos bicycle school, who were on a training tour, drew our attention to this fact. We are heading south, towards Pasacaballo, opposite the Castillo de Jagua instead of eastbound.

Although we are cycling along the southern edge of the Escambrai Mountains the landscape is very hilly with a lot of short but steep slopes. Moreover, it is excruciatingly hot and the sun burns as mercilessly as unrelenting.
Elena is tough and struggles hard and indefatigable and we reach Trinidad in the late afternoon.
Trinidad is a unique and beautiful city. It can be found on UNESCO's World Heritage List and is visited by lots of tourists. For that reason it is very easy to find good accommodations.
I pick a Casa Particular close to Plaza Mayor and Elena searches for her waiting friends.
In the evening we meet at the popular Casa de Musica. She has decided to leave the bicycle in Trinidad and continue the trip by bus together with her friends. (We will later meet in both Santiago and Baracoa, but that is a later story.)

Thursday 16/2 Cienfuegos – Trinidad
Distance: 95 km. Time: 5h 40 min Av.speed:  16,5 km/h  



Friday 17/2 Trinidad.  
STOMACH PROBLEMS!
 
Today I made a tour around the town. At some point I drank fresh juice made from tamarind and served from a small street shop. Almost immediately, I got a peculiar, queasy feeling in the stomach. The juice was apparently diluted with water, which most likely contained bacteria that are alien to the stomach. (Probably Escherichia coli, which is the most common cause of so-called tourist diarrhoea also called Cairo Quick, Hong Kong Dog, Delhi Belly, Montezuma’s Revenge or Greek Galloper.)
I cannot eat during the day but munch stomachics like Imodium and Lexinor, which successfully put an end to the worst misery.
In the evening I meet Elena and her friends at the Casa de la Musica. I eat nothing but drink a few of the outstanding popular drink in Cuba, the Mojito; light rum, lime fruit, syrup made from sugar cane, mint leaves, soda water and crushed ice. It looks like wash water but tastes refreshing. The music makes the night magical and I return home to the casa very late.
The rest of the night I spend on the toilet most of the time..



Saturday February  18
TO SANCTI SPIRITUS WITHOUT POWER

Despite all the problems, I feel in good shape when I bike through a nearly empty Trinidad in the morning but that is a misjudgement. It is going to be a difficult, a disastrous, day!
In the beginning, I feel no problems after last night. Cycling goes smoothly and I make good speed. A light annoying headwind keeps the air cool as I pass newly awaken small villages and everything makes me feels hopeful. I am on my way to Sancti Spiritus, some 70 kilometres ahead. 
But gradually, I feel that I am losing more and more force. I realize that I am about to "run into the wall" as they say. I am running out of power and do not really know what to do. At about the same time a young racing cyclist turns up at my side. It is Gustavo Isquierido from Trinidad bicycling school. He is 16 years old and is out on a training tour.
Since my Spanish is extremely limited and as Gustavo does not speak English, our conversation consists mostly of sign language and other choreographic expression. 
I try to explain to the young cyclist that I get along fine and he does not need to spoil his exercise for my sake. But he has obviously noticed that I am in a crisis being completely emptied of energy and in need of help. 
In the increasing headwind he bikes in front of me so that I can be in shelter behind and uphill he presses his arm and hand against my back pushing me forward upward. 
There are no shops on the road and Gustavo supports me all the way to the village of Banao, 50 km from Trinidad. I have only had an orange during the whole day. 
In the junction in Banao centre there is a so called "dollar store" where I walk in and buy an imported lemonade. I tell Gustavo via sign language that I want him to choose something to drink or eat, but water is good enough, he says.  I persuade him to have a bottle of imported juice.

He also asks around on my behalf if there is any Casa Particular, but unfortunately there isn't. Otherwise I would have stayed there.
Gustavo wants me to confirm that I'm okay before he turns back home to Trinidad and eventually I succed to cycle the last 20 kilometres to Sancti Spiritus.

It has never happened to me that I have so completely drained my energy, neither before or after. It was likely a direct impact of the stomach problems I had the day before.
But without the young Gustavo, I hadn't done it.
Thank you, Gustavo!
(If anyone reading this will be visiting Trinidad, ask for Gustavo Isquierido on Calle Simon Bolivar and tell him about my gratitude for his valuable and unselfish help.)

From an e- mail:
…
 Saturday in Sancti Spiritus, late afternoon
There was a crackling stage show when I came pedalling into the large central plaza in Sancti Spiritus. Parque Serafin Sanchez was stuffed with people who turned their heads towards me with eyes filled with amazement and dismay when they regarded my sudden and surprising arrival.  For a moment I became the main attraction and was met with significant curiosity. The band began to play, a female singer in a red snakeskin took a firm grip on the microphone, the audience turned their eyes towards the stage again and I continued into Calle Maximo Gomez Norte to find Casa Ofelia.

Saturday 18/2 Trinidad – Sancti Spiritus
Distance: 72 km. Time: 4 h 40 min Av.speed: 15,5 km/h 





Sunday 19/2 Sancti Spiritus

The stage show last night continues with a grand fiesta in the main square today. The Restaurants in the city fill the square with tables and chairs, beer barrels and mobile or temporary charcoal and gas grills.
Far into the night you noticed the glow from the Charcoal grills and the smoke from the cuts of meat and chicken and the clinking beer glasses.

I stay at Casa Ofelia, owned by Señora Ofelia Rodriguez Hernandez, and is near the centre and Parque Serafin Sanchez on a small cross street between the pedestrian street Independencia Sur and Plaza Honorato.
A Casa to recommend!
In the room next to mine there is a young couple from the U.S. They must take the bus to Santiago de Cuba this afternoon. I follow them to the bus and inform myself about a ticket to the night bus tomorrow.
I am fed up with the eternal headwind and plan to take the bus to Santiago and continue my cycling from there.

From an e- mail: 
It becomes two days of rest and recovery in Sancti Spiritus. I visit the big book fair that currently is touring all over Cuba and which now has reached Sancti Spiritus. I have never before seen such an enormous interest in books. People line up to buy.
This is the 15th book fair and has the Venezuelan literature as theme. All kinds of literature can be bought, even if literature for children and young people attracts most attention. The books presented are made in simple binding and cost 5-20 pesos.

Monday 20/2 Sancti Spiritus – Santiago de Cuba by bus


Tuesday 21/2 Santiago de Cuba
EXTENDED MY VISA IN SANTIAGO

The Viazul night bus arrives at Santiago around 7 o'clock in the morning. It is hazy and the morning sun sweeps the impressive Antonio Maceo memorial in gold opposite the bus terminal in gold and people are on their way to their jobs. The air is cool and I cycle towards the centre and find a Casa Particulars in the vicinity of the Plaza de Martes on Calle José A. Saco, which is a major shopping street, leading down towards Parque Cespedes and the city centre.

Santiago de Cuba was founded in 1514 by the Spanish conquistador Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar and from 1522 until 1589 it was the capital of the Spanish colony of Cuba.
After being plundered by both French and British forces Santiago was destroyed almost completely by an earthquake in 1766.
Santiago early developed an exciting mix of European and African culture, where voodoo seems to have had a great significance. 
On July 26, 1953, the Cuban Revolution began with an ill-prepared armed attack on the Moncada Barracks by a small contingent of rebels led by Fidel Castro. 
On 1 January 1959, Fidel Castro proclaimed the victory of the Cuban Revolution from a balcony on Santiago de Cuba's city hall.

Extension of visa
As earlier told on this page, you can only obtain a visa for one month with a possible extension on site. When I arrived in Santiago I needed to extend my visa for a further month. It works as follows:
First, go to a Bandec Bank (available in all cities), and buy stamps (Sello) for US$25. Then try to locate the Immigration Office. Here an official will paste the stamp you bought on your visa, which consists of a loose patch (U.S. citizens will be imprisoned if they have a Cuban visa stamp in their passport). Validity (another month) is entered and an appropriate stamp finishes the ritual, which takes a few minutes.
The only problem in Santiago is that the Bandec Bank and the Immigration Office are located on each side of town!
The bureaucracy probably prohibits having the stamps (sellos) in the same place where the visas are issued! It might be too easy?


Wednesday 22/2 Santiago de Cuba
CHANGE MY PLAN

My plan was to cycle westwards and follow the coast around the Sierra Maestre. I had, however, to give up this plan after having visited HavanaTour (a travel agency) where an English-speaking lady informed me that the road to Granma, Manzanillo was impassable and that Campismo La Mula (where I had planned to stay overnight) was closed. 
It was a result of Hurricane Dennis the year before (2005.) Cuba was hit twice and the hurricane caused at least 16 deaths and $1.4 billion in damages. The citrus and vegetable industries were devastated and so was part of the infrastructure.
I change my plan and decide instead to cycle further north towards famous Guantanamo and to popular Baracoa, and from there via the mining town of Moa to Holguin. This means that I have to climb one of Cuba's steepest and longest hills, La Farola. Or as they put it in Lonely Planet's Cuba:
The spectacular highway snakes its way through the Sierra del Puril Mountains from the arid coast of Cajababo to the tropical paradise of Baracoa covering 55 km and rising to an elevation of 600m. It is listed as one of the seven man-made wonders of Cuba (and one of only two outside Habana). Cyclists take a deep breath... (page 437 4th edition 2006).


Thursday February 23
GUANTANAMO

Quite easy cycling in the light tailwind. Guantanamo, already the word is loaded, but only discrete graffiti and some banners remind of the U.S. presence in the nearby naval base when I cycle into the city. 
After "nine-eleven" when the base was turned into a concentration camp for alleged Al Qaida fighters, Guantanamo is mentioned in the international news almost daily. 
Formerly Guantanamo was best known among non-Cubans for the song "Guantanamera" written by Jose Fernandez Diaz. It is a song about a girl from Guantanamo. Most Cubans I meet would have liked Guantanamo to be remembered for the popular song and not for the notorious prison camp. They want U.S. to leave Cuba and return the area.

(Lonely Planet's Cuba travel guide has a good and initiated description of the US Naval Base and its history on page 436 but there is also a lot to be found on Internet as Wikipedia).

You are not able to see much of the US base. The area around the fence is crammed with mines and security installations and the area is extremely well protected.
Jack Nicholson in his role as Colonel Jessop in the Hollywood movie A Few Good Men says: I have breakfast 300 yards from 4000 Cubans who are trained to kill me. That is fiction.
Fact is that the people of Cuba in general and the residents of Guntanamo regard the presence of approximately 7000 military personnel, two airstrips, dozens of high security watchtowers and docking space for more than 40 warships, as a serious threat to Cuba.
 If you want to see the base, the best place is Mirador de Malones, a viewpoint on a hill just west of the base. It is runned by Gaviota, a cuban tourist organization.
Just before the viewpoint (mirador) there is a bunker where you can see a scale model of the base.

Thursday 23/2 Santiago – Guantanamo
Distance:  77 km. Time: 4 h 10 min.



Friday February 24 
BARACOA BY BUS
	
A heavy tropical rain in the morning and a not so promising forecast for the rest of the day made it easy to choose the bus to Baracoa. 
The bus-trip takes a couple hours but stops temporarily on top of La Farola, where you can buy refreshments and local souvenirs, bunches of bananas and other fruits.
Baracoa is one of the earliest settlements in Cuba. The name has an Amerindian origin and tainos inhabited the place when Europeans arrived in the end of the 15th century.

I rent a room at Dulce’s (meaning sweet) and José’s at Calle Máximo Gómez 140, near the entrance to the city not far from Baracoa’s Malecon and the city’s marketplace. 
Since I intend to continue within a couple of days, via the nickel mining metropolis Moa "backdoor" to Holguin, I do need a night along the road. According to my information, there shall be a campismo, Rio Cabonico, about halfway. But it has to be booked in advance at nationwide "Reservade Campismo Popular", which is said to have a small office in Baracoa. José helps me to get there. On a plate on the door we are informed that the small discrete and almost invisible office is open for reservation Monday-Wednesday! 
Not so funny when you come on a Friday!
José makes a phone call to Reservaciones Campismo in Holguin, the district capital. They declare that there might be a room to rent on Wednesday, but they cannot get any confirmation because of problems with the telephone connections to the campismo.
(At this time I unfortunately was unaware of the hotel Miraflores, a “modern” hotel in Moa. I should have understood that there ought to be one, because many foreigners visit Moa. Most of them are Canadians, as the nickel mining is operating in cooperation with Sherrit International, a Canadian mining company. Sherritt is one of the largest foreign investors in Cuba.)

I'm not sure if the campismo by the river Cabonico had been an option. The Canadian cyclists Alana Cassidy and Patty Tetreault from Saskatchewan who cycled in eastern Cuba in March 2008 tell the following story:
“After 125 kms of riding, we ride down a very rough road to our intended sleeping spot for the night - Campismo Rio Cabonico. There is a gate with a chain around it. Nobody seems to be in a rush to talk to us. After a few minutes a guy comes over and starts rattling off in Spanish. We understand a few words...they are full. We ask if they can please find a spot for us. They reply that no they can't, no tourists allowed. We bring out Wally and Barbara's book, Bicycling Cuba, and they look at the year it was published (2002) and tell us no tourists for the last 2 years. Well, crap, what are we supposed to do? It is now getting dark. 
Push our bikes back up the hill and start asking around for someone to help us find a place to stay. A man says yes, I know where you can stay. We push our bikes back down the hill but the woman says no, you can't stay here and waves us away. Patty remembers a 24 hr place a few kms back so we ride back there in the almost dark. We tell them our predicament in our very broken Spanish and a man comes over to help us. It is now pitch black so we walk with him to a friends house who says they can feed us. A very nice woman brings us food. When we ask to pay her, she says $3 for both our meals. We give her $10, even though she refuses to take that much. During our meal, we get our Spanish English dictionary out and she is enthralled with it. She offers to let us sleep at her house and gives us their bed. I wish I could show her picture because she was so kind to us but I don't want to get her into any trouble.”


Saturday 25/2 – Monday 27/2 
BOOK FAIR IN BARACOA
	
On Saturday I met Elena, the Swiss girl. She had taken the bus with her friends from Trinidad via Santiago to Baracoa. We all went to a paladares and had a meal, and then to the Casa de la Trova listened to the music and had a few mojitos.
Elena intended to go to Holguin on Tuesday and on Sunday we went together to Cubatour and booked tickets for the bus that would takes us there via Moa.
She also rented a bicycle (her own is still in Trinidad) and we went along for a tour in the vicinity and the outskirts of the town. We cycled through dense rainforests and along scenic river valleys and tried to get to El Yunque mountain. El Yunque was mentioned by Christopher Columbus in his chronicles and is an almost 600 m high mountain shaped as an anvil ("yunque" in Spanish). It is recognized as a National Monument and situated between the banks of the rivers Duaba and Toa about seven km west of Baracoa. 

We found it not very peculiar that Baracoa is one of the most popular places to visit among tourists and sometimes called “ A pearl on Cuban's crown”. To find out more about Baracoa, click here. 

On Monday, the nationwide and touring book-fair reaches Baracoa. The whole central part of town is filled with bookstalls and there is a festive atmosphere in town.
At the fair I meet a Norwegian, Vidar, married to Yudenia, a Cuban lady. They have also a child and live in Camaguey. I promise to visit him and his family when I pass by.

Tuesday February 28 
BARACOA-HOLGUIN BY BUS!

The sun-rising side of the island, the Taino Amerindians would have called it. In Baracoa, Plaza Independencia is in sun-haze early in the morning. 
The bus to Holguin is a small beige-brown thing, which has seen its best days. It is rather worn and of east-European origin, probably. The bus is full of passengers and goods and on top there are quite a few bicycles and one motorbike firmly lashed. The road to Moa is really rough and bumpy and the overloaded bus’ fatigued springs make the trip really shaky. After a couple of hours we arrive at the dusty small mining town of Moa. Moa has about 60.000 inhabitants and “Important, economically and horrendous ecologically, Moa is a big, ugly mine at the foot of the verdant scarps of Cuchillas de Moa. Unless you’re a Canadian mining technician, or an environmentalist investigating impending ecological disasters, there’s absolutely no reason to come here. ”A better world is possible,” proclaims one of the billboards as you leave the town behind. Absolutely!” (LP Cuba page 369).
Before we arrive at Holguin, we have to jolt and jump another three hot hours.

Holguin
Elena and I rent a room each at Casa Angelica. This "casa" is a conventional triplex apartment. But Angelica has considerably more space than she needs for herself and have state permission to let two rooms. They are nice and clean and close to the main road to Las Tunas, which is the next stop on my trip. I will start tomorrow and Elena will stay a few days more.
The weather was grey and gloomy when we left Moa a few hours earlier, but in Holguin shines the afternoon-sun shines from an unclouded sky. The City prepares for the arrival of the big book fair, which always seems to be close to our heels.
Scenes and stages are built in several locations in town and people are hanging up decorations. On some scenes, bands are playing to test the sound. It sounds promising.

In connection with a walk in the centre, we ask a man on a bench where we can buy some fruit. He shows the direction to a shop near the railway station. It proved, however, to be closed and on the way back we meet the same man and when he asks, we tell him that the shop unfortunately was closed.
He begs us to wait for him, as he wants to give us "un regalo" - a gift! He disappears. After a short while the man returns and hands us a bag of bananas!
The man is another of many examples of Cuban people's helpfulness and hospitality. They have an every day struggle to make both ends meet, but they do not hesitate to share their scarce resources. Incredibly!
 

In the evening we visit an elegant restaurant near Parque Calixto Garcia together with a Dutch couple. Outside in the park bands are still soundchecking. Guitars are howling and there is a rhythmic thumping on drums. 
Suddenly it becomes completely silent and pitch-black. The electricity supply has conked out. 
Some of the guests beleive that it probably depends on the musicians who play "too loudly" while others mean it is due to a short circuit in the cables and wires providing the musicians and book fair with electric power.
Waiters and waitresses quickly distribute candles and I do not care so much about the cause. My main problem you must know is that I wear dark sunglasses in the restaurant's semi-darkness since I have had no opportunity during the day to replace them. I guess I look weird. 


Wednesday March 1
LAS TUNAS

Señora Angelica insists that I shall have breakfast before I go. Since she tempts with freshly boiled Cuban coffee and freshly baked bread I do not leave until after eight o'clock. Holguin is a large city, Cuba’s fourth largest with little less than 300.000 inhabitants. It's a dense traffic on the highway in the morning with mainly workers on their way to their jobs. As usual it is easy to find the way out of town in spite of the traffic. 
(Cannot find my bicycle computer until and in connection with a break after about 50 km). 

I circulate in Las Tunas before I decide to rent a room at the Casa Blanca at Señor Rolando Reyes Quintana at Lora # 7 - Altos. (Entre Emilio Gonzales y Gonzalo de Quesada.)
Las Tunas is half as big as Holguin and appears more like a sleepy suburb with mainly low-rise houses. It's more of a laid-back atmosphere than a bustling business spirit.
Señor Roland calls Guaimaro Hotel in the evening to order a room on my behalf. According to my information, this is the only possible overnight stay in Guaimaro. It turns out, however, to be fully booked, but Señor Roland knows a Señora Maritza Garcia who has a Casa Particular. He calls her and books a room for tomorrow.

Note: Guimaro is not even mentioned in the LP's Cycling Cuba, but in LP's ordinary Cuba guide, That confirms my opinion that the latter is a much better travel guide than the first, also for cyclists! So if LP plans to release a new and updated version of Cycling Cuba, there is much to take into consideration!

Wednesday 1/3 Holguin – Las Tunas
Distance: 35 km + 45 km



Thursday March 2
WATER PROBLEM IN GUAIMARO

It is satisfying to have an accomodation booked and ready when I pull on towards Guaimaro. (Later however it will turn out that there are more Casa Particulares in Guaimaro.) Cycling is easy along the wide main artery Carretera Central that cuts across the entire country between Pinar del Rio and Oriente, as the Santiago de Cuba Province formerly was called. 
It is coming along nicely and I arrive at Guaimaro fairly early.	
I find immediately Señora Maritza Garcia's Casa. After a shower I take a walk in town. The highway Careterra Central or CC, cuts straight through the city which is located as a cluster along the road, consisting of a few shops, a ladies `hairdresser, a bus terminal, a couple of small restaurants and cafes, a couple of ice-cream salesmen and a gas station in each end of the city.

Water Business
I need to buy water. Usually I buy one-and-a-half-litre plastic bottles. You can normally buy them at the small dollar-shops which can be found in most villages and towns, but also elsewhere. I consume two or three each day. Water is essential during hard work cycling in a hot climate. 
There was however no bottled water to be found in Guaimaro! Apart from for westerners treacherous tap water there was absolutely no water! I visited all the shops and petrol stations. I was sent back and forth, but nix. Not a drop of clean, bottled water! 

Communist Party of Cuba - PCC, has an office in the vicinity of a small plaza. I had seen it earlier in my hopeless quest for bottled water. I went there and asked the party officials in poor Spanish if they knew where I could get hold of the vital bottled water. Immediately I realized that I was disturbing the prevailing peace in the small and simply furnished office. Suddenly, there was a frantic activity. Questions and answers were thrown back and forth through the room.  
When I had explained my unsuccessful efforts and declared that I had visited all the shops they recommended, one of the present at the office was instructed to make phone calls. 
Finally, after several calls they got a lucky brea. In the nearby City Hall there were a couple of bottles to be used in connection with representation and foreign visits. I was driven there in the back of a car and was solemnly presented to the officials and received what was the last water in Guaimaro.
Gracias, companeros!

Thursday 2/3 Las Tunas – Guaimaro 
Distance: 50 km, Time: 2 h 20 min


Friday March 3
NORDIC ENCOUNTER

The fog is dense when I leave Guaimaro just before eight. The visibility is limited and I turn on the red back light on the bike.  When the sun becomes visible above the horizon and the fog lifts, the entire landscape bathes in an early reddish light. A small group of vaqueros on horses reveal themselves out of the mist.  They ride through an invisible gate in a fence. One of them whistles sharply and out of the fog on top of a green hill, some twenty horses come galloping. They swirl up clouds of red dust.
	
Otherwise, it will be a pretty rough day. I cycle along a flatland and the road is lined with pastures. The sun burns mercilessly and the water from Guaimaro is very useful. There is not much traffic but the road is patchy by provisional repairs and is full of holes. I bounce forward through the countryside.

Almost exactly twelve o'clock I pass Camaguey city limits. There is quite a large restaurant by the road, and I have a half fried chicken and a glass of beer before I continue.
I get a text message on my cell phone from Vidar, the Norwegian I met in Baracoa, when I'm on the road towards the city centre. "Welcome to Camagüey.”
Vidar and his wife Yudenia have arranged a room at a Casa Particular close to their home. This turns out to be the best accommodation so far.
Engineer Miriam Guerra de la Cruz meeta me with a smile and shows the room neat and clean with colour TV and radio. I pay 20 CUC.
Here is the address: 
Joaquin de Aguero No.525
e/25 de Julio y Perucho Figueredo
Rpto. La Viglia

Friday 3/3 Guaimaro – Carmaguey
Distance: 85 km. Time: 4 h 45 min, 


Saturday-Monday Camagüey



Tuesday March 7
AT HOTEL FLORIDA

Easy relaxed cycling most of the day. Arrives in Florida at midday in spite of the fact I start late in the morning, and workers are adding new asphalt on the road - the entire road at the same time!
Vidar's wife Yudenia has called and booked a room at Hotel Florida in Florida for me.
If the accommodation at Señora Miriam's casa was the best, is the hotel in Florida is perhaps the worst. 

Hotel Florida is pretty run down and there is not much that works. The toilet works badly and so does the shower. It sprays in all directions except where you direct the shower nozzle. None of the two bed lights is working and one of them is dangling in its non-insulated cables.

Certainly there is a swimming pool surrounded by a number of previously white, now dirt-grey, sun beds in plastic. Most of them are occupied by a classic set of guests. They are elderly flabby or obese men accompanied by young, sunburned and well-formed giggling young ladies!
This is very much a playground for the Cuban half lord. Here everything is paid in hard currency and the immediate vicinity is marinated in as loud as cheap tourist music. 
I pay 25 CUC for the room and 10 CUC for a buffet that consists of meat, rice and beans and tomatoes and cabbage. There is salt but no pepper, oil but no vinegar.
Okay there is plenty of fruit, bananas, papaya, other ... and good coffee!
The service is invisible.
Thanks for the Casa Particular!

Tuesday 7/3 Camagüey – Florida 
Distance: 45 km



Wednesday March 8
FIESTA IN CIEGO DE AVILA

As I previously said, Carretera Central runs practically along the entire length of the island, from Pinar del Rio in the west to Santiago de Cuba, a distance of more than 1200 kilometre and touches the coast in only three places, Havana, Matanzas and Santiago de Cuba. It was built in the late 1920s to facilitated faster sugar cane transportation and effective inter-province commuting and it remains the main artery for the island's communications.

The part of the Carretera Central that I have cycled so far is for a bicycle tourist a terrible dull road. It cuts nail straight through gigantic dry pastures and endless sugar cane fields. Through its route over the central Cuban highlands there is not much shade. It passes only through a handful of sleepy small communities between the larger cities. The road is all you find as far as the eyes can reach and it seems never to end.
I suspect however the more than 70 kilometres from Florida to Ciego de Avila to be the most boring part. It's more of a mental than a physical challenge. One has to try to put up with it by the help of a vivid internal monologue or by bringing an MP3 player with engaging material. Traffic is sporadic. It consists of passing Viazul buses, occasional cars (mainly with tourists) and horse carts.

I arrive at Ciego de Avila shortly after midday.
In this context I should perhaps mention  that it could sometimes be tricky to find Casa Particulars in a city or a village. There are no large signs outside, just a small white plate with a green triangle, nor is there a Tourist Office. If you ask somebody the price of the accommodation increases by 5 CUC! It is namely customary that the person who shows you to a Casa should be paid 5 CUC by the owner, who has to raise the price to cover that extra cost. For that reason, there are a great many people at entry points, particularly to the major tourist destinations, who want to direct you to a casa, to earn some money. A business as good as any!

After some cycling around I find a Casa, with a good location near the highway. It is however fully booked. The owner recommends another Casa (thats another 5 CUC!), which is quite okay but s geographically slightly inferior. When cycling you should try to find an accommodation situated so that you need not to pass through the entire town in the morning traffic.

Moreover, Ciego de Avila is actually a very likeable city of just over 100,000 inhabitants and the capital of the province with the same name. The city is also well equipped with sleeping accommodation, several restaurants, clubs and discos.
From Ciego de Avila, you can bike northbound towards Morone, about 40 km, and further north to the popular Cayo Coco, which is Cuba's fourth largest island and the main tourist destination after Varadero. 

But as I stay overnight in Ciego I go out in the evening to have dinner. Parts of the city centre, mainly around Parque Marti, are furnished with tables and chairs. Portable charcoal- and gas grills are rolled out. While people eat and drink a rumba band walks around playing. There is a lot of barbequing and dancing that night around Parque Marti. 
I myself order some kind of grilled pork with rice and something that resembles potatoes and a salad made of cabbage and banana chips! Tasty! 26 pesos! I.e. just over 1 CUC! (That includes a big glass of beer).

Wednesday 8/3 Florida – Ciego de Avila
Distance: 75 km., Time:  4 h



Thursday March 9
BACK TO SANCTI SPIRITUS

Carretera Central in the morning. Tailwind. I fly in the fresh but pleasant breeze. 30, 35 km per hour at times. I am heading for Sancti Spiritus and have to leave the CC near Jatibonica. 	
Jatibonica is not much to write home about: A small (approximately 50,000 inhabitants) melancholic industrial community, while the route between Jatibonica and Sancti Spritus is as great as CC is boring.
I rent a room at Senora Ofelia where I have stayed before.

Hotel Colonial is a so-called “peso-restaurant” and is situated on a small cross street opposite the Parque Serafin Sanchez, which is the city's great natural focal point and centre.
Peso restaurants are mainly for Cubans. Here simpler food and "worse" (says those who know) beer is served than on the so-called 'dollar-restaurants'.  I myself have largely chosen the simpler peso places, or exceptionally the privately owned paladares, mainly for the reason that I am more interested in meeting "ordinary" Cubans than tourists and the so called "dollar-Cubans", who populate the more elegant restaurants.

When I enter Hotel Colonial I am met with a certain curiosity from the restaurant's rather few guests, a small group of men and women are taking a beer in the afternoon.
I ask for the menu. The covers are made of wood and hide a fairly lean menu; beef with rice or chicken with rice and beans and something that I interpret as fish. I choose the steak and a glass of beer.
Sure the meat is not of the same class as served at the tourist restaurants, but quite okay for me. It is served with rice, of course, a small tomato salad and a kind of purple-coloured paté.  Probably it consist of mixed and minced vegetables, but the strange colour made me not eat it. 

World Baseball Classic/Classico Mundial de Beisbol replaces the earlier World Championship in Baseball which is currently determined in San Diego in the U.S. For sports-mad Cuba, baseball is the most popular sport, and Cuba is the reigning world champion. When the matches are shown on television people sit as glued.
-Beisbol is more important than everything else, including war, declared my friend Humberto already when I visited Matanzas in the beginning of my trip.
Tonight Cuba will face reigning European champions, the Netherlands in the champion-ships.
-A piece of cake, says Senora Ofelia and does not reveal any doubt. 

I will aim for Cienfuegos on Saturday.

Thursday 9/3 Ciego de Avila – Sancti Spiritus
Distance: 80 km, Time: 3 h 50 min. Average speed: 21 km/h


Friday 10/3, Sancti Spiritus
To be able to reach Cienfuegos in one day I decide to buy a bus ticket to Santa Clara. The distance between Sancti Spiritus and Cienfuegos is about 190 kilometres and that is a bit too far for a one-day-stage. The bus will leave early tomorrow morning and I will arrive at Santa Clara a couple of hours later.

Santa Clara is called “the City of Che” and was the site of the last battle in the Cuban Revolution in late 1958. There were two guerrilla columns that attacked the city, one led by Ernesto Che Guevara and the other led by Camilo Cienfuegos. Guevara's column first captured the garrison at Fomento. Then, using a bulldozer, Guevara's soldiers destroyed railroad tracks and derailed a train full of troops and supplies sent by Batista. At the same time, Cienfuegos's column defeated an army garrison at the Battle of Yaguajay not far from town. On December 31, 1958, the combined forces of Guevara and Cienfuegos (along with other revolutionaries under William Alexander Morgan) attacked Santa Clara. The battle was chaotic, the defenders were demoralized, some fought, others surrendered without a shot. By the afternoon, the city was captured. This victory for Castro's troops is seen as the decisive moment in the Cuban Revolution as Batista fled Cuba less than 12 hours later.
Guevara was executed in Bolivia October 9, 1967 with nine shots. This included five times in the legs, once in the right shoulder and arm, once in the chest, and finally in the throat. 
Santa Clara is home to a mausoleum which houses the remains of Che Guevara.
 

Saturday March 11
CIENFUEGOS MEANS ”HUNDRED FIRES”

The Viazul bus's luggage compartment is so large that I can keep the bike upright. It departs on schedule at seven and is almost empty. Most of the passengers are on their way to the tourist hub Varadero.
I arrive at the bus terminal in Santa Clara at about nine o'clock. After having breakfast on a terrace-café, I am on to Cienfuegos via Autopista N1. It will be a pleasant ride in light tailwind along the lush pastures and through small vibrant villages.
20 kilometres before Cienfuegos, I get the journey's first (and only) puncture. I quickly throw in a spare hose and arrive at Cienfuegos just after noon.
I find a good Casa on Avenida 54 near the Parade Street Prado.

Saturday 11/3 Sancti Spiritus – Santa Clara buss ca 85 km.
Santa Clara - Cienfuegos 
Distance: 70 km, Time:  3 h 10 min Average speed: 22km/h

I remain in Cienfuegos over the weekend and when cycling back to Havana I essentially follow the same route as when I arrived. That means a journey via Yaguaramas, the western-style village with all its vaqueros to the dusty flat Jagua Grande (a twin city to Australia) and Matanzas (without paying a visit to the ladies in Jovellanos) and the last phase to Havana after a night in the nice campismo in Playa Jibacoa.

I am back in Havana Tuesday 21st of March after ca. 1500 kilometres in 21 cycling days, which gives an average of about 70 km/day.
Note: Cuba beat the Netherlands but lost to Japan in the finals of the Classico Mundial de Beisbol and as big sadness haunted the country as after having lost a war!

Tuesday 14/3 Cienfuegos – Yaguaramas
Distance: 55 km, Time: 3 h mar 20 min.
Wednesday 15/3 Yaguaramas – Jaguey Grande
Distance: 60 km., Time:  3 h 
Friday 17/3 Jaguey Grande – Matanzas
Distance: 95 km., Time: 5 h 
Sunday 19/3 Matanzas – Playa Jibacoa
Distance: 47 km., Time:  2 h 30 min
Tuesday 21/3 Playa Jibacoa – Havana
Distance: 60 km, Time:  3 h 10 min.




























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