In search of the perfect beach - We'll Follow the Sun - CycleBlaze

January 30, 2019 to January 31, 2019

In search of the perfect beach

We had arranged with our airbnb host, Rolando, to meet at 9:00 this morning to hand over the keys. As we had not met in person, just over the phone, so we of course, took time to chat and talk about the recent events and how close we had been to total disaster as well as how much we enjoyed our stay.  We asked if we could come back for a few days and he offered to check and if that wasn’t possible, to find us something nearby – how very kind!  We needed to move the gear and bikes down to the street level and Rolando pitched in, carrying my bike down – what a wonderful host!  We are totally enchanted with this part of Havana and are looking forward to returning for a few days before we head back to Cancun.  If you ever come to Havana or Cuba, booking with Airbnb is a good way to find a place we have found, but you need to book before you leave your home country, or, as I mentioned before, have someone at home who can book for you as you cannot do it from Cuba.  Once you’ve made a booking, if possible contact the owner and ask if there’s something you can bring down for them.  They will happily pay for what you bring, but it is very hard to come by many of the things we take for granted.  Rolando’s next guest is bringing a set of sheets with them.  We will for sure book with them again and happily purchase what they need as a way of helping and saying thank you to these wonderful people – we LOVE CUBA!

The view of our little deck
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Ok, on to the day.  Leaving Havana and heading to Varadero by bike you have two choices.  You can put your bike on a special bus that goes through a tunnel under the harbour or take the little ferry across.  We chose the ferry and it was a simple matter of cycling down to the terminal.  We went around the old area to avoid the cobble stoned streets of Old Havana, but all in all it was a couple of km at most.  Once there we lined up and, with the help of a gentleman who made sure we got on the right one, got on the ferry to Casablanca.  The cost for our ferry ride was $2.00 each and it was a pleasant ride across the harbour to the other side.  These ferries go every 20 minutes and the ride is about 15 minutes.  Once on the other side we rode up the hill and, of course, missed our turn!  We ended up by the old fort, but managed to get a nice picture of Havana from this side before heading back down and through the little town of Casablanca.

A nice calm morning to cross the bay
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Lots of room!
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From the ferry
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Ah well, at least we got a nice view from that little miscue!
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For a bit of time we were on a nice rural road before joining the more major road, the Via Blanca, which would take us out to our goal for today, Guanabo.  Although it is only 25km from Havana, it is the town that worked for stopping locations as along this route the locations of Casas and hotels are pretty limited.  We expected some wind in our faces but found it surprisingly quiet on this day – hurray!  However, shortly before we reached Guanabo, after cresting a long incline, I noticed that Jim had disappeared from my mirror.  I stopped to see him really struggling up behind me and when he reached me he quickly dropped his bike, telling me that something was wrong.  Indeed, something was!  When we took the front panniers off and tried to turn the tire it just stopped – not spinning at all!  Oh my!!!! Poor Jim had been cycling along with the brake pad fully engaged!  We don’t know how it happened or how long it went on for as he noticed the change gradually, but it sure did make that last hill a monster one for Jim!!!  We took the tire off and changed the way it was tightened until it would roll freely, then put all the gear back on.  Before we finished, a nice guy from across the road asked if we needed any help, but by then we were good so we just thanked him for his concern and were on our way.

A cactus hedge! Don't fall over here!
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A long line of classic cars heading to Havana
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Before his epic struggle with the brakes I'm pretty sure.
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We finally reached the small town of Guanabo and after coming down the hill and turning the corner were greeted with the sight and sound of horse carriages.  There are so many in this town and many of them have bells!!!  It is beautiful and quaint and apparently a very normal way for people to get from one end of town to another!  
We pulled up at one Casa on the beach but they had no rooms available.  Shortly after we saw a sign for the Viazul Playa Hermosa.  Since we’ve stayed at a few, we knew what to expect more or less so pulled in to see if they had a room and sure enough they did!  $28.00 for the room and this included breakfast!  We were not holding out hope for much at this price but happily signed up and went across the street to wait at the park for an hour for our room to be ready.  Once officially signed in, we found our room to be quite spacious!  We have a little porch out front, complete with chairs and a coffee table, a front room with a sofa, chairs and tv, a bedroom, bathroom (with toilet seat and wait for it….. 2 ply tp!!!) and a closet.  Wow!  What a find!!!  The bed was not the most wonderful in the world and the pillows a little flat, but hey, we brought our camping pillows for times such as this and we’ve learned we can sleep on pretty much anything, so all is good!

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School bus!
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Michael ReynoldsThat is awesome looking. Who needs cars?
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After settling in we went for a walk through the town to check it out.  The horse carriages coming and going are a constant and along with the many pedicabs they seem to outnumber the automobiles!  We were looking for wifi cards since our hotel did not have any (a first) and were directed to the very end of the long long town’s Main Street where we found the official office that sells them.  Upon arrival though, we found that in order to buy wifi cards we needed our passport, which of course, was back at the hotel!  We wandered back, stopping for ice cream along the way ($1 for two scoops) and once back we took the bikes out and rode over.  It’s always so much shorter on the bikes!  We had a short wait before I was allowed into the office (there is a guard out front and they only allow so many people in at once) where the lady at the desk informed me that I could not purchase 5 one hour cards but that I could purchase a 5 hour card (actually, two, one for Jim and one for me).  We had been hesitant to try these cards as it seemed impossible to log out and we worried our time would be wasted, but as it was the only choice we gave it a go.  Back to our room, we dropped off the bikes and went for a walk along the beach which looks small but very nice.  

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The intention was to head back to our room for a quick snooze and then go to the wifi park after dinner, but by the time we got up and out it had cooled off considerably and I had developed a headache (too much sun I think), so we put it off until tomorrow.  We stopped at the local store on the way back to pick up some snacks for later while we played cards.  Grocery stores here are very interesting.  They seem to stock a whole lot of a very few things, most of which don’t go together and there is no dairy or fresh food of any kind.  For that you have to go to the specialty store (panadaria for bread, butcher for meat and I don’t know where for dairy).  They do, however, stock an amazing amount and variety of alcohol and snack food such as chips and cookies.  The prices are also very very different from at home.  For example, in Vinales, we bought a small bottle (a mickey) of rum for a whole $3.10.  In Havana, we bought one whole pineapple and 6 bananas for $20 pesos, which is about $.10.  Here in Guanabo, we bought a tube of Pringle knock off chips for $3.90.  So, fresh fruit, very very cheap; rum, very very cheap and chips, very very expensive!  If we had opted for cookies, by the way, they also would have been cheap.  It was just the Pringle thing I guess – go figure!

Back at our little space we settled in for a quiet evening of cards and watching a soccer game on tv.  We are right by the pool and there has been music blaring all day long, so we are wondering about tonight’s sleep – I guess we shall see!

Jan 31

Well, amazingly, we slept very well indeed!  The music went off at 10:00 and since there was a room between us and the pool, once the door was closed everything was quiet – yay!  We woke up refreshed and went to find our “breakfast included” breakfast.  The hotel restaurant was actually a home across the street that had been converted to a restaurant, with the three front rooms becoming eating areas.  It was quite cute and the tables were all nicely set with white table clothes and white platters just awaiting customers – so far so good!  We sat down and a very friendly waitress came over to tell us the options for breakfast.  She was understandably proud of her good English as she recited, “for breakfast you have three options.  You can have a ham and cheese sandwich, a ham sandwich or a cheese sandwich.  To drink you can have espresso coffee, coffee with milk and juice.”  Well!  That was an interesting choice indeed!  We both chose ham and cheese, coffee with milk and juice and off she went to put in our order.  A short time later she returned with our ham and cheese sandwiches.  They were on buns and had been toasted, so they were kind of breakfast like I guess.  She placed the little plates containing the sandwiches to the side of the large white platter and went to get the rest of our order.  I immediately put the little plate on the bigger one, making it easier to eat, but when she returned with our coffees, she asked that we leave them on the side and put the coffee cups in the centre of the big plate, explaining that this way no coffee would spill on the tablecloth.  Well, that did make sense, kind of!  Lastly she came back with our juice.  We have become very spoiled with the fresh juices we have been having both here and in Mexico, so it was a bit of a shock when she gave us each an apple juice box!  Of course, neither of us had brought our phone with us, so I have no photo evidence.  But I am sure you can picture this strange breakfast in your mind!  Ah well, it was only $28.00 for everything, so I guess we should not have been surprised.  

We finished our meal and as we always do with breakfast included meals, left a little tip for the waitress.  We didn’t see her so just walked out only to be called back. She wanted to thank us for the tip and tell us that they served lunch here as well so we should come back!  We thanked her for the offer and said we might (we won’t) and went back to our room to gather up the ipad for a marathon wifi session in the park.  The weather was good and we found a good connection, so spent a satisfying 1 ½ hours online where I got a whole two days up!!!  It takes a long time to load pics and I forgot at one point the golden rule – save after each group of pics goes up – so of course, I lost a whole day and had to start over again – grrrrr!!!!  

Internet done, we took a break to walk over to the local sports shop to check out what they had for sale, which was pretty limited. We weren’t looking to buy, just wasting some time so we could see if the wifi had turned off.  We went back and logged back on and it looks like we have success!  With the 5 hour cards (and I guess with the 1), when you finish your session, turn off the wifi on your device and that seems to suspend the clock on your card.  When you log back on it should tell you how much time you have remaining.  Hurray!

While I was working, Jim was taking pics. This little girl's grandmother was trying to braid her hair. Hey Annie, remind you of anyone? Lol!
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Annie HeppHaha painful memories of hair pulling!
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6 months ago
Oh! And did I mention our pool came complete with its own pool pelican?
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The management was not impressed, but it was highly entertaining watching them try to get this guy out!
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Satisfied with our work for the day it was time to play!  We put our electronics away and changed into our swimsuits, grabbed the snorkels and masks and headed to the beach.  When we got there, we realized that we had not timed that well at all as the waves had built up to be huge and snorkelling was not going to happen.  “Oh well” we thought “we’ll just go in and get wet”.  We waded into the incredibly warm and clear water and started playing in the waves.  Neither of us has ever been much for jumping in the waves, mostly because the waters off the coast where we live are freezing.  So, it was so much fun to discover that jumping the waves and getting crashed around could be so fun!  We played like a couple of 10 year olds for as long as we could before returning to the beach where we rented loungers ($2 each) for a while.  How very pleasant to just lay there and watch the waves crashing onto the shore!  Being careful to not get burned, we stayed for as long as we thought safe before heading back to our room for a shower.  

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Of course, we didn't find out until later how dangerous these guys are! Good thing there weren't any in the water where we were playing!
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Bill ShaneyfeltAnd they look so innocent! Tempting to mess with, even.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portuguese_man_o%27_war
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6 months ago
Sue PriceTo Bill ShaneyfeltI know! We had no idea how bad they were, but yikes! I sure wouldn't want to come across one now!
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6 months ago

Cleaned up, we went across the street to the little open air bar to enjoy a couple of beers and watch the town go by.  We were just about to finish and head back when two familiar faces turned the corner.  It was Kris and Dave!  We waved and they happily came over and pulled up chairs.  We ordered more beers and spent our time catching up with each other’s adventures since we last saw them in Vinales.  They had ridden down to Pinar the day after we left them and continued on staying in the same cities we had on the way out.  Fortunately they were not near Havana when the tornado struck, but had experienced very high winds and rain as we had. It was so fun to catch up with these two and we might yet see them again as they are also headed towards Playa Jibacoa tomorrow.  They have reservations at the hotel there and told us they had had a hard time finding a place as it was all booked up – yikes! That is a little unnerving as we don’t have any reservations at all!  They also commented on the wind, as they had ridden out today as opposed to us yesterday.  I guess we hit a lull in the wind along the coast and if this afternoon is any indication, we might be in for a tough ride tomorrow!  We will shoot for the Playa Jibacoa tomorrow but might bail early in Santa Cruz del Norte, which is about 10 km shorter if we can’t do it.  It’s hard to say, but we shall see how it all goes.  Hopefully we will run into Kris and Dave during the day, though!

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They left to go and have dinner at a place they had read about but we had already decided to try a place called Luna that we had seen, so we wished them a good night and went off to dinner.  The little restaurant had a great upper deck which had been our reason for choosing it and we both wore our jackets in case it was chilly. Turns out it was colder inside the restaurant than outside as they had the ac cranked!  We loved the upper deck and found our waiter to be very attentive and helpful.  I ordered the carbonara and Jim breaded shrimp.  We were both very happy with our selections and most heartily recommend Luna to anyone staying here!

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So good!
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Annie HeppThat mojito looks pretty tasty!
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6 months ago
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Annie HeppThis shrimp looks amazing too!
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6 months ago

It was a short walk back to our room where we found a family enjoying some time by the pool. The children were running all over, including onto our deck, but their mommy collected them as we returned and we weren’t bothered at all.  As a matter of fact, we still had a few goodies to give out, so we collected the remaining frisbees, the snorkels and mask and a bunch of Canada stickers and returned to hand them out. The kids were so pleased as were their parents.  Many thanks were offered and they took our picture (of course, we forgot to get one of them!).  Wishing them a happy evening, we went back to our room to commence with the dreaded packing up of gear.  It seems that wherever we are, we just spread out all over the place, so it’s a chore to get it all ready to go again.

Packing done, we played cards for a bit but soon went off to bed.  Tomorrow might be a tough day so we will hopefully get a good night’s sleep tonight.  

Today's ride: 27 km (17 miles)
Total: 1,370 km (851 miles)

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Michael ReynoldsI see you've been playing cards to pass the time. Jeff and I had many card games during our Europe ride many years ago. It seems that bike vacations and playing cards just to together.
I also see you're developing a new avocation: restaurant reviews. Would be so fun to find and try the different eateries you've written up!
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