We go off the charts - We'll Follow the Sun - CycleBlaze

January 18, 2019

We go off the charts

Or The hills are alive but are our climbing legs?

 403 meters climbing

A quick word about last night before today.  Our Casa is run by a young couple.  We were met by Mabel yesterday upon arrival and later we met her husband Yasiel.  Thankfully, he speaks fairly good English and we were able to confirm details about dinner and breakfast.  When our dinner came, we were more than a little impressed.  We started off with a lovely pumpkin soup and it was followed by red snapper with rice and for dessert some grilled pineapple with ice cream and topped with butterscotch.  Oh and wine with the dinner.  All of this for $8.00 each!  I don’t know where people are eating when they say the food in Cuba is boring because honestly, we have just had such good meals from the start!  After dinner we decided to bring the blanket from our bed downstairs so we could sit out on the deck and watch the waves crashing in the dark – what a great way to finish of a wonderful day!

Our fantastic hosts at Villa Mar Havana
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Cozy bedroom
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It's all about this view, though!
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Today the day began early(ish).  Our poor hosts had looked so horrified last night when we suggested breakfast at 7:00 that we decided 7:30 would be fine and they were very relieved.  Actually, it was a good thing because we had a later night than we had anticipated.  After watching the waves for about an hour we decided to take ourselves off to bed to read for a bit.  Well, a bit ended up being a lot longer due to the exercise class going on across the street.  They were banging out that Latin beat until about 10:00 which wasn’t really too bad.  It was good music too! We both slept well and when the alarm went off at 6:45 we were ready to pack up and enjoy another wonderful breakfast.  There was so much food once again, that we ended up making sandwiches with the buns, cheese and meat for later, as well as packing up the extra fruit.  Too bad we had already filled up the water bottles as we had some delicious freshly made watermelon juice that would have been pretty tasty along the ride today – rats!

We said goodbye to our wonderful hosts at Villa Mar Havana and headed off to find some hills at long last.  It has been quite some time since we’ve really done any hill climbing and we were wondering how our legs would fare.  Today would be not so long and not too many hills, so hopefully we will be back in shape and ready for the real challenge in a couple of days.  

Very quickly we were out of the city and cycling along rural roads.  We stopped to take pictures of horses and interesting buildings along the way.  Up until partway through this day my phone still had a map of the area we were, but as you can see, we were coming to the place where it dropped out altogether and we would be on our own with the paper map and our guidebooks.  After being so dependent on checking the phone to know where we were, it will be an interesting experience to not have that crutch to help us know where we are. Hopefully the guidebook will still be relevant – it was published in 2002 and you know, sometimes things change – just not in Cuba?  

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Scott AndersonThat sky is incredible.
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1 month ago
Sue PriceTo Scott AndersonIt’s a never ending post card here!
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4 weeks ago
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Steve Miller/GrampiesGood alternative to bicycle travel.
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1 month ago
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Yep, we are really out there now!
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We came to the town of Bauta and it was quite a revelation!  All of a sudden we went from quiet rural roads to a busy busy town!  There were some cars on the road, but it was really clogged with people either walking, cycling or riding in all sorts of carts.  A total mishmash!  Strangely enough, we just cycled along going around where we could an not being too bothered by anything.  Soon we were out of town and back on the country roads, which now became rolling hills.  None were too much and it was nice to have some downhills to enjoy for once!  At one point a couple of guys in their horse cart called out “Canada!” to us.  We hadn’t really gotten too many friendly waves or hellos, so Jim stopped to say hi to them.  One of them came back from his cart with a little something for us to enjoy along the way – a head of cabbage and some lettuce!  Well, that certainly was very kind, I have to say, but we aren’t sure what to do with it given we don’t have any cooking gear with us!  

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Our gifts!
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Scott AndersonI’m jealous. No one has ever stopped and offered us a cabbage before.
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1 month ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesReally nice looking produce!
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4 weeks ago
Sue PriceTo Scott AndersonIt was odd but so nice of them! And so sweet that our Casa hosts used the cabbage!
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4 weeks ago
Sue PriceTo Steve Miller/GrampiesYou should see what they have in Viñales!!!
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4 weeks ago

The next small town we rode through had a very similar feel as Bauta but this time we noticed lines outside of banks, money exchanges and stores.  I guess when stuff comes in everyone lines up to buy whatever is available.  Carlos had mentioned to us that many stores have empty shelves.  It was an odd feeling cycling through and knowing that we have everything we need.  Quite a difference between these smaller towns and the larger centers too.  

As we moved along, the traffic was noticeably less but there always seemed to be an extremely old car or truck chugging up a hill just ahead of us which meant as we were sucking air trying to make the top we were also challenged with trying to avoid the fumes spewing from their tailpipes and wow, do they spew a LOT of black smelly fumes!!!  Ah well, better than in Havana where there are so many cars you can’t hold your breath and avoid them!

Of course, along with the hills came fantastic views and we stopped time and again to both admire them and take pics.  It is a surreal feeling to be out in the total backroads of Cuba now, far away from the “tourist zone”.  We love it!  The small towns are so interesting and it is a pleasure to once again stop in a town square and look around, knowing we are amongst real people not tourists.  Life here is different from Mexico and so very different from home on Vancouver Island and we feel so fortunate to be able to enjoy this adventure and see this beautiful country as it is right now.

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Of course, we are not totally alone out here, tourist wise.  Sometime after our lunch break we saw ahead of us two touring bikes coming the other way.  We were so excited we pulled over to have a chat.  They were a Dutch couple and had been in Cuba for 5 weeks but only cycling for 2.  We compared notes about where we had been and where they had.  The road ahead sounds challenging but doable – good to know, and they had loved everything they had seen even though some of the roads were pretty rough.  Well, we certainly have had our fair share of rough roads in Mexico, so we will get the chance to see how Cuba’s rough roads stack up!  While I was chatting with the Dutch folks, another couple of cyclists pulled up and Jim talked to them.  One of them from Montreal and the other from Italy.  They are staying somewhere locally and rather than touring they were doing day rides out into the countryside.  They had been here for 2 weeks and had 6 more to go – that will be a lot of day rides!  We wished all of our cycling friends a good ride and away we all went – without taking one picture!!!!  Oh boy!  

Shortly after saying goodbye we came upon the most challenging part of this day.  It wasn’t the elevation as much as the road, or should I say lack of it?  Ha!  We really thought we had seen it all in Mexico, but I have to say, Cuba puts all of those roads to shame.  There were sections of the roadway that were nothing but a pile of rocks strewn all over, and big rocks too, not gravel.  This would go on for a ways and then we would be back on a sort of road and then back to the rock pile.  Up and down we went for probably a good 5km.  As Jim says, “that’s a LOT of rock!”.  

Obstacles everywhere you go!
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You know it's bad when you totally abandon the actual road in favour of the dirt track next to it!
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When we finally reached the end of the rock pile and were on solid pavement again, we were pretty hot and tired.  The main guidebook we are using, Bicycling Cuba, mentioned a good Casa Particular just 4km away from Las Terrazas and this was our goal for today.  When the sign for Villa Juanita magically appeared on our left, we turned in and were greeting by Juanita herself – a very friendly host who took us in and showed us the room we could have for tonight.  Exhausted from the rocky road, we said “si” to the place and to dinner and happily brought our bags up to the sweet little suite up in the trees.  It wasn’t until Juanita left us to do the paperwork (they have to register your passport number at each Casa – government regulations) that we looked at the clock and realized it was only 1:30!  Oh!  I guess if we had wanted to we could totally have continued on to our next destination of Soroa a mere 25 km from here but then again, we would have missed out on the opportunity to meet wonderful Juanita stay at this lovely little spot.  And hey, we aren’t in a hurry!!!  We are thinking that we may not get to the central part of Cuba at all on this trip but save it for a separate trip. More visits to Cuba will sure work for us!

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Out little piece of heaven for tonight
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As we sit on our little tree top patio enjoying a cervesa, we are feeling pretty content with our lives.  What a great way to live and what a fantastic way to avoid Canadian winter!  

On the roof just next to us we saw this little guy
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Yep, not bad at all!
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Today's ride: 52 km (32 miles)
Total: 1,129 km (701 miles)

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Wendy BeaudoinAs fellow Vancouver Islanders and cyclists, we have enjoyed your blog immensely. We are particularly interested in your Cuba trip as many others have had very mixed reports about cycling there. It sounds like you are off to a great start!
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1 month ago
Michael ReynoldsTo Wendy BeaudoinI second that! Glad you found a way to upload some pics, so we can all see what it's like. Especially us U.S. citizens who are officially forbidden from travelling there.
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1 month ago
Sue PriceTo Wendy BeaudoinFirst off, this is a fantastic place to cycle and there is something for everyone - hills, flats and ocean. Secondly, I know quite a few Americans who have come here so I think it's not a total no, you just have to figure it out. We will be back, absolutely, and probably more than once!
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1 month ago