A short distance but a world away - We'll Follow the Sun - CycleBlaze

January 17, 2019

A short distance but a world away

Our morning began with yet another fantastic breakfast of fruit, juice, sweet buns with meat and cheese and coffee.  The coffee I should note, is not brewed but espresso and served with milk on the side.  You get a very small amount of very strong coffee and it takes a bit of getting used to, but we are both enjoying this little it of European flare to our mornings.  The caffine hasn’t seemed to bother either of us – so far so good, I guess.  This has been our first experience with a Casa Particular and I have to say they set the bar pretty high.  We shall see if our experiences vary much from place to place, but this one certainly has a warm spot in our hearts.  They come into your room before settling the bill to assess how much of what was in the fridge you used and then present you with your bill.  For two days we had one dinner each and two breakfasts as well as a few beers and some water (I will explain the issue with our Steripen later) and it all totalled $51.00 (about $65.00 Cdn).  Considering how much we ate and the quality of the food, we were pretty pleased.  Again, we shall see how it all goes later on, but for the moment, Casa Particulars are pretty great!  Sadly though, we had to say goodbye to our wonderful hosts but we will see them again as we have booked two nights here before we fly back to Cancun in February.

Heart 3 Comment 0

On the road, we had carefully plotted a ride that would take us up and over the main highway that we missed yesterday.  It was still a highway, but the most efficient way of getting us to the Playa Barocoa area where we are booked tonight. We thought it best to go a short distance today and place ourselves in a better position to begin climbing tomorrow, rather than have a long ride out of the city along with the climbing.  One of the nice things about having this much time is we can plan like this to avoid overloading ourselves.  

We stopped briefly at an ATM to try and get more cash with little results.  I am not sure what the heck is wrong with our bank card, but will sure have some words for the good folks at CIBC when we get back.  We checked before leaving Canada and were assured that we should have no trouble in Cuba or Mexico, but that has not been the case.  Undoubtably they will blame the bank machines here, as the always do, but really, it is such a headache and will end up costing us as we have to withdraw from our credit cards where we incur an extra fee – grrrr!

That accomplished (or sort of accomplished) we rode up the ramp and onto the highway.  At this point there was a moderate amount of traffic and it seems kind of chaotic with people coming on and off at different points, but drivers here, as in Mexico, are used to all sorts of traffic in our lane (bikes, scooters, horse carriages) and so they just go around you.  We have found that our cycling in Mexico has been an excellent preparation for this and so have not been too bothered by it.  However, if you come to Havana, our suggestion would be to stay more towards the Vedado area just west of the Old Havana neighbourhood as then you can cycle out along the malecon and avoid some of the heavier traffic.  This would also put you in a better spot to explore Old Havana.  We are considering trying to get a place in this area on our return from Vinales, but with the continued difficulty we are having with wifi and an uncertain return date we aren’t totally sure how that will all work.  As always, I guess we shall see!

Cycling along our chosen route was not overly difficult and as we moved further out the traffic lessened considerably.  We went up a few little hills which I found quite easy as I was now carrying only two panniers.  Jim told me later in the day that I needed to slow down as he is carrying four – oops!  Sorry!  

Before we knew it we were over in the north Nautico area of Havana, not far from where we would be staying tonight.  As we had a lot of time, we went down the main boulevard a ways looking for another ATM as well as a place to sell batteries.  It seemed that when I bought some batteries in Mexico, they might have been used ones as when Jim went to put them in the Steripen, it wouldn’t work – awesome! We found a place and Jim bought new ones and luckily there was an ATM right next to it where I got more cash.  While waiting for Jim to return with his batteries I was treated to the sight of two men loading a washing machine onto the roof of a VW bug!  The machine was a very compact model from Italy I noted and between them they had little trouble getting it tied down.  If we ever settle down and build a tiny home, I will be looking for something like this!

We meandered down the boulevard looking for a café, but didn’t find anything open.  We did manage to see an amusement park which is closed down (not sure if its for the season or for always).  As we moved away, we began to see bigger houses and the boulevard was lined with palm trees.  We could have been in California except for the constant stream of vintage cars interspersed with older Ladas – what an interesting mix of vehicles they have here!  There are, by the way, newer cars too – European models that you would find anywhere else, but they don’t have quite the character of the other cars.

A little blurry to too pretty to leave out
Heart 5 Comment 0
So many cars that are in various conditions - it's kind of amazing how some of these cars are even running!
Heart 2 Comment 1
Tiffany EllisonThey were better made in their day. Cars now are disposable .
Reply to this comment
2 months ago
Heart 1 Comment 0
Heart 0 Comment 0
Heart 0 Comment 0

Eventually we arrived at the Hemingway Marina and turned off to have a look.  Images of Earnest Hemingway are all over the place but it was a pretty quiet marina overall.  Possibly because it is January and officially off-season?  When we reached the breakwater we were treated to the giant splashes of water that I had wanted to see yesterday.  What fun to see the water just bursting up and over!  We stayed well back and still managed to get spray on us, but it didn’t matter as it was quite warm out.  Wandering further into the marina we found Papa’s  a little café named after Hemingway.  We ducked in to get out of the sun and ordered a couple of café Americanos, which gave us a slightly larger cup of coffee to enjoy.  We noticed a sign for wifi and gave it another try but no go.  Oh well, its not the end of the world if everyone has to wait to see our pics from Cuba, but we sure would like to share them in real time!

Heart 1 Comment 0
Heart 2 Comment 0
Heart 1 Comment 0
Heart 0 Comment 0
Heart 1 Comment 2
Steve Miller/GrampiesHey, this guy looks a bit like Hemingway!
Reply to this comment
2 months ago
Sue PriceTo Steve Miller/GrampiesAwwww! My very own Hemingway!
Reply to this comment
2 months ago

It was moving towards noon and so we left to see if we could find tonight’s Casa without the use of anything other than the physical map we had and the address I had written down.  I knew basically the area, which is a housing development just past the marina, and hoped it wouldn’t be too hard to find.  We took one road but it led to a dead end, so we went up and around to try again.  As with Cancun, there was a dirth of street signs and we were becoming a little concerned.  We stopped and asked two young men sitting by the roadside and after thinking about it, they directed us down the street to the end, turn right then left.  This, of course, was all done in Spanish, so even though we still don’t understand a whole lot, we area getting better at directions – yay!  Sure enough, within a few minutes we pulled up to Villa Mar Havana.  It was a little odd because on both sides of the house as well was across the street it looked like an area under heavy renovation.  Fingers crossed we knocked on the door and were met immediately by our host Mabel.  She seemed very happy to see us and quickly showed us to our home for this night.  Oh boy, do I wish we were here for more than a night!  We walked in to the little kitchen and were immediately drawn to the doors at the back which led right out onto our own private patio on the sea!  We walked out and saw that we were right on the breakwater and there were two inviting lounges just waiting for us to sit and enjoy the gigantic splashes of the ocean – heaven!  Our bedroom upstairs is very comfortably furnished and the bathroom is pretty swish.  We paid a little more for this place and it will be worth it!  I’m glad we got in early enough to enjoy the day here.  We arranged with our host to have dinner and breakfast here, although she looked a little dismayed when I told her we would need to eat at 7:00am.  Tomorrow will be a longer day with some climbing and we want to get an early start for sure.  

Once our things were put away we retired to spend a happy couple of hours reading and watching the waves crash over and over again.  It’s funny.  Watching crashing waves for me is like watching fireworks.  You can watch them over and over again and always be impressed with the power and spectacle displayed before you.  We are looking forward to our dinner and a quiet evening here and hopefully tomorrow will find us up in Las Terrazas or Soroa, depending on how far we get.  From here on we have no reservations so will be flying a little blind.  We have read that the towns we are headed to have lots of Casa Particulars, so hopefully we will not have any trouble finding a place to lay our heads each night.  After the extreme scheduling of Mexico, it is a little unnerving though to have no reservations at all!  Hope it all works out!

Ah, now this is living!
Heart 4 Comment 0
Heart 1 Comment 0
Heart 3 Comment 0

Today's ride: 30 km (19 miles)
Total: 1,077 km (669 miles)

Rate this entry's writing Heart 8
Comment on this entry Comment 3
Steve Miller/GrampiesI see Villa Mar Havana in booking.com - is that how you found a place this time? Booking has not heard of CUC's. When I asked it for prices in the "local currency" it gave $US. I read that the CUC is pegged to the $US 1:1. Is that what you have found? Are you paying in CUC? Could you in principle pay in $US? The booking price was about $37 and $8 for breakfast. Did they get that right?

If you just buy water by the roadside, or something, would you still be paying in CUC? Would a tourist ever use a regular Cuban peso?

Ok last question - obviously Villa Mar Havana has wifi. Is it free? Is it fast?
Reply to this comment
2 months ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesHa ha, you thought you were done with me for tonight, but one more question!:

About the Steripen and its batteries. For their "main" models - the Classic, Emergency, Traveller, and Defender, they recommend lithium AA batteries. With a name brand of these, they say you will get 80-100 cycles. I would be surprised to find lithium batteries even here, let alone there. What kind are you using? What model Steripen do you have?

Then they also have four more models, that use CR123 batteries. Say what?

p.s. 4 lithium AA on amazon.ca are $8
Reply to this comment
2 months ago
Sue PriceHahahahaha! Steve!! Limited wifi! ) will answer your questions when we are back in Mexico with unlimited wifi (they call it ‘weefee’ here)
Reply to this comment
2 months ago