We'll take the low road - We'll Follow the Sun - CycleBlaze

January 21, 2019

We'll take the low road

You can keep the high road!

We LOVED today!  I mean it was just fantastic from start to finish!  What a great decision we made (sorry mountains) coming down to the flats and cycling here!

We got up a little early, but as the weather has been a bit cooler lately, we weren’t as concerned about getting out at the crack of dawn.  Also, breakfast isn’t served until 7:00, so we figured we should get our money’s worth out of this little hotel stay.  Breakfast was the same as yesterday, nothing to write home about but adequate to keep us fuelled for the day.  We packed up the gear and headed down to the lobby to check out, only to be stopped by Hanya from Toronto.  She lived in Havana for 25 years as a tour organizer before moving back to Canada – I’m not sure how she’s liking those winters in Toronto, but maybe that’s why we ran into her here.  She is now looking at doing some organizing from Canada of motor home tours around Cuba and is driving a motor home to see where people can go.  Interesting, although I think we prefer our mode of transport.  After chatting with her for a bit, we finally managed to get on the road at 8:30.  

Turning right instead of left out of the driveway meant a nice long downhill for the start of our cycling day.  Normally I’m not too keen on early morning downhills as you get quite chilly as you haven’t used your muscles yet to warm you body.  However, this morning it was lovely.  The temp outside was just right and with our light jackets on we were plenty warm.  With a few small exceptions we pretty much coasted down for 10 km, which was a whole lot better than riding up for 10 in our minds!

Coming down from the hills
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And into the flats
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Once we reached the relatively flat area we were aiming for, we turned onto the Carr. Central de Cuba, which is the secondary highway that we cycled on before.  We again crossed over the autopista and it was fun noticing the two car lanes and one horse lane below us!  For the rest of the morning it was just beautiful cycling through lush green farmland.  We kept talking about how happy we were with our decision to come this way.  It would have been a shame to miss all of this.  In the distance were the mountains that we had left behind, but they made a lovely backdrop for many of our photos.

Yep, that's a right busy freeway!
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Complete with horse/bike lane!
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On this journey, we were going to be away at Christmas and had told the grandkids that we would be handing out some sports equipment in Cuba instead of sending them gifts this year.  We originally wanted to bring soccer balls, but the logistics of getting them here and then inflating them made that idea a no go.  Instead we purchased some frisbee type discs.  We had given a couple to the grandkids at Villa Juanita the other day and forgotten to take pics.  Today, we stopped by an elementary school and asked the teachers there if we could give them some of these as well as some of the Canadian flag stickers we had brought.  They were very thankful to have them but unfortunately made it clear that no pictures could be taken of the children or even the school. Oh well, we know where they went and that the kids will enjoy playing with them.  Later in the day, we stopped and handed out stickers to a little girl who looked about the same age as our youngest grandson, Liam.  Her mom was fine with us taking a picture, of lovely Emily.

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At one point we passed through another of those busy towns I have written about and we took some time to take pictures.  They really are busy places with so much happening all at once.  It is interesting to also note the crumbling buildings everywhere and yet, people take so much pride in these places that they keep them clean despite the fact that they are literally falling apart in many places.  

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This is a bus!
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Later in the morning we stopped at another small town to try and find some coffee.  We had exchanged a $20 CUC (pronounced “kook”) for some pesos – 250 for the 20 so that we could buy from smaller places along the way.  Jim was sent on coffee patrol and soon returned with the smallest cup of coffee I have ever seen – but it cost 1 peso for both, so hey, we can’t complain!  We enjoyed our tiny coffee with a couple of snack bars before heading out of town.  

It's about a mouthful of coffee!
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Steve Miller/GrampiesNope. Smallest cups of coffee are still to be found in Europe.
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2 months ago
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The people in these smaller towns away from Havana seem so much more friendly.  We have been initiating much of the “hola”s and “Bueno Dias”s for the first couple of days but today we were getting so many of those and also a handful of “hello”s from people and children alike.  It was wonderful to feel like people were happy to see us and we happily returned their calls.  One man asked “where are you from?” so I stopped, thinking he might speak some English, but that was the extent of his English – about as much as my Spanish!  I pointed to the flags on our bar bags and called “Canada”, then waved as we moved on.

We were cycling along and looked over to see what looked like an elevated road that was cut in half.  Stopping to look, we saw that it was a canal from a dam.  Since we were in no particular hurry, we rode up the dirt side road, wondering if we would be called out for being there (there were no signs at all).  We parked the bikes at the end and walked up to find a nice little lake which I guess is a reservoir.  The water wasn’t too high but I imagine in the rainy season it fills up.  This must be very helpful to the farmers in the area.  It kind of reminds me of the Mayans and their aqua duct systems.

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We were beginning to wonder about the turn we needed to take to get to San Diego de Los Banos, so when we came to a corner with a few little kiosks open, we stopped and asked a couple of young men.  Lo and behold, we were at the corner we needed to turn on!  We were glad we had stopped to ask as there was no signage at all and we could have kept going for quite some time before realizing our mistake.  The road up to town was not long and as we came into town we had our first experience with jinteros (guys who will lead you to a casa).  A couple rode up next to us and asked if we needed a room, but we said we were headed to the Hotel Mirador (another suggestion from the guidebook).  One of them pointed that we should just keep going straight so we thanked him and kept going.  We weren’t actually sure if we would be getting a room there, but wanted to stop there first and it turned out there were plenty of rooms open so we happily paid for a night (price includes breakfast) and Jim very kindly carried my bike up the flight of stairs to our room for tonight.  

This is a funkily older resort hotel.  On the outside it looks really quite nice, but once you get into the rooms well, they are ok.  But twin beds?  And no toilet seat!  That’s something we haven’t seen for a while!  However, the beds aren’t uncomfortable and there is semi-hot water in the shower, so we are content.  We went down by the pool to enjoy a beer while working on the blog and route planning, having picked up a couple of wifi cards as we checked in.  See? We are totally getting the hang of this stuff!  Blogging and internetting done, we took a quick nap before heading down for  dinner and hopefully an early night.  Tomorrow we will head to Pinar del Rio for a night before making our way up to Vinales, which looks like it will be a bit of a climb – oh well, we can’t avoid them all!

No toilet seat
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But such a pretty setting!
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Just returned from dinner and wanted to add a quick note about that before turning in.  The restaurant opens for dinner at 7:00 and we showed up shortly after.  There were a couple of tables already eating and as we were the only non-Cubans in the room, it felt a little awkward.  We chose our food (very similar to the food at the last place which I believe is the national hotel chain) and when it arrived, well, there just isn’t that much to say.  It was ok, possibly a little better than yesterday, but not a lot.  However, what was interesting was the table behind us.  It was set up for a large group and we both joked as we were eating that it would be so funny if it were a table of the same birders we had seen at the Villa Soroa.  So, when they started to file in and were quite obviously bird people, just based on their dress, we were surprised.  Was it the same group?  No, different people.  They all sat and proceeded to go over what they had seen that day, but this group was so much different than the other group.  These people were laughing and having so much fun!  They were Americans too!  What’s with that?  We finished our meal and determined that we would crash their meeting to ask.  They were so funny and nice!  They have come to Cuba from all over the States to come and see the many varieties of birds to be viewed here in Cuba and boy are they making the most of their adventure – we almost wished we could join them!  So, if you are American and are looking for a way to come here, check out Road Scholar.  I have no idea of the cost, but if you get lucky and have a bunch like these people, you will have a blast.  Of course, you could also end up with a group like the one in Soroa and maybe that wouldn’t be quite so much fun, but you would be here!  I heard them say they have seen 58 species so far!  And wait! It appears that Road Scholars does bike tours too! Well, now there’s no excuse for you Americans! Come now before it all gets ruined with MacDonalds and Starbucks!

What a fun bunch!
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I wish I had unlimited wifi so I could add all the pics we have taken - it is just so gorgeous here!
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Today's ride: 58 km (36 miles)
Total: 1,214 km (754 miles)

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Scott AndersonSaw the news about the tornado in Havana today, and am thinking about you. Hope you’re fine. Safe travels!
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2 months ago