Making friends along the way - We'll Follow the Sun - CycleBlaze

January 22, 2019

Making friends along the way

This morning we got up early to try and get our breakfast right when they opened at 7:00.  Fortunately/unfortunately our birder friends were all there at the door waiting when we arrived, which assured that we would not be able to have a quick breakfast after all.  The table for them was set already and the one man who was serving for the whole breakfast room had his hands full getting their orders in as I guess they had an early departure.  We understood – they make these arrangements well ahead of time, so we were ok with waiting for our order to be taken and our food to arrive.  We managed to have a chat with more of the folks from the bird group in the mean time, so all was good.

We said goodbye to our new buddies and brought the bags and bikes down from our room on the second floor.  Heading out of town we stopped for a few more pics of some of the Revolution murals that we have seen pretty much everywhere here.  

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It was again, a lovely morning to cycle and we happily rode up and down hills, taking in the fine scenery and enjoying the many little homes we saw along the way.  We enjoy being able to tell the difference now between palm trees and banana plants.  In the beginning, they all looked kind of the same, but when we stopped to really look, the differences were obvious. 

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Banana (or plantain) not coconut
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We are wondering about the Royal Palm trees though.  They grow to great heights and seem to have new green growth at the top before the palms spread out.  However, we have seen several that look like all of the green new stuff just fell off.  We wonder if this is a normal part of their growth or if there is something that happens occasionally to a few.  Any palm experts out there?

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Partway through the morning, what did we spy on the horizon but a couple of actual bike tourists!  We have been fooled several times by people with all sorts of bags hanging off only to get close and see that they are locals with their groceries or other items packed onto their bikes, not tourers.  But these two were the real deal and we happily stopped for a visit.  They are a couple from Germany (sorry, I forgot to get their names) and have been in Cuba for about a week and will be here for another 4.  She had been to Cuba several times before but it was new to her cycling partner.  They were both very much enjoying the biking and had come from Vinales this morning.  When I asked how they enjoyed the mountains, they just laughed and said “oh, you mean the hills?  Those are not mountains!” – ah yes, those Germans!  They reminded us of a Swiss couple we met on our way down the coast who said something similar as we rested at the top of what we thought was a really tough hill.  “Oh” they said, “that is nothing! In Switzerland that is just the beginning of the hill and then it goes on and on!”.  Ok, I guess those Europeans really like their mountains or hills – unless they are from the Netherlands, of course!  We finished our roadside chat and remembered to take a picture this time before saying goodbye and wishing each other happy travels.

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Later in the day, as I was beginning to tire, along came Gilles from Montreal!  He has been on the road for a few weeks and had ridden up the north side of the island.  He has been to Cuba many times, not always cycling, so knew lots about places we wanted to visit either this time or in the future.  We spent a happy 20 minutes talking about all things Cuba before again taking a pic and wishing each other well.  What a nice change of pace!  We have seen so few cyclists along our way and we always appreciate time spent with others who love to travel as we do.  Before he left us, Gilles gave us a card for a Casa Particular in Pinar del Rio that he had stayed at.  We were thankful for the person recommendation as Pinar is either a very big town or a small city and we weren’t looking forward to trying to find a spot to stay.  

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Gilles
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Eventually we arrived in town and after stopping to gather our strength with a pop and some cookies we asked for directions from the shop owner and tried to follow what he told us, ending up on the main road in town – progress!  We were stopped to see if we could sort out the rest of the way when a young man came out of the restaurant near us and asked where we were from.  Upon hearing Canada, he launched into a very friendly conversation, eventually asking where we were staying.  We gave him the card and he laughed, saying that this Casa was right next to his house and he knew the owners!  Small world!  He insisted on helping us get to the Casa, making sure that the owner knew what we wanted and waiting until we were settled to say goodbye.  I’m pretty sure that he gets a cut of what we pay the Casa tonight, but honestly, it was worth it as we would have wandered around for quite some time before finding our own way here.  We arranged with the owner to have dinner but not breakfast as we want to get out early in the morning to beat the heat as we climb up to Vinales.  As happens with Casa owners here, of course they have family in Vinales who run a Casa and so we are now set to stay there for three nights.  It makes it so much easier to have arrangements ahead of time and we are happy to contribute to the local economy instead of using Booking.com for things like this. Booking takes a commission, so the owners don’t make as much.  At least this way all of the money is staying in Cuba!

As with our place yesterday, this place does not supply a toilet seat and in addition, the shower head is the kind that you have to turn on a switch right near the water source to get hot water.  These things really scare the heck out of me, so Jim kindly turned it on so I could have a warm shower, which I did for all of 30 seconds!  After that it was either deal with a cold shower or risk electrocution by hitting the switch again.  I chose the cold shower and so finished rather quickly as did Jim. Kind of showered and settled in, we went for a stroll through town, looking for a couple of murals we had read about. We also wanted to check out the local architecture which is quite strange.  Someone in the early years here was either a little confused or just really liked columns because there are many styles of columns all over the place!  Greek, Roman, you name it! After our walk,  we stopped for a light lunch so that we could write some postcards and mail them on the way back.  As we looked for the post office, we ran into our buddy again and he ran across the street to the post office and went in to help us purchase stamps, even helping to lick them before showing us where to mail them – what a thoroughly nice person!!!!

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We wandered around a bit more before stopping to buy some water and a few snacks for tomorrow.  I don’t remember if I talked about it or not, but it turns out the batteries were just fine, our Steripen has died, which is quite annoying as we were wanting to avoid adding to the plastic pollution here during our time.  As it is, we are trying to buy only large bottles and then fill all of ours with the water from that but it is still a big disappointment to have to do that at all.  The only snack type things in the store were cookies, so we bought cookies, juice and water before heading over to the bakery we had seen on the way in, thinking to buy some buns for our breakfast tomorrow.  Oops!  That’s apparently not how it goes.  I guess they sell all the bread and such until its gone and then the only things for sale are …..more cookies!  Argh!!!  Unless we can get some bread from our Casa it looks like we will be eating a very unhealthy breakfast tomorrow.  

At dinner, another fabulous Casa dinner after some very boring hotel dinners, we asked the owners about possibly getting some bread from them.  The told us that the people renting the room upstairs had asked to have breakfast at 6:30, so us getting up early wouldn’t bother them.  Assured that we weren’t causing them to miss their sleep we thankfully agreed to breakfast at 7:00.  We will now get up and get everything ready to go, enjoy a wonderful breakfast and then head out and up to Vinales.  I’m pretty sure that will beat eating cookies for breakfast any day!

Another yummy Casa meal!
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Today's ride: 50 km (31 miles)
Total: 1,264 km (785 miles)

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Steve Miller/GrampiesOh, I had been reading along without referencing the dates, and assuming that the entries were current. The brief report from Havana sort of fit into this misconception, assuming that today (Jan 29) we would learn about an emergency return to the city. So it took a while to recognize that "today's" post describes events of a week ago (Jan 22). Ok, got it. It means that further tornado reporting will come after another 6 or so posts. I'm happy, now that my head is screwed back on straight!
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3 weeks ago