Hunger is the best sauce - "Show me your skin now!" - CycleBlaze

March 23, 2022

Hunger is the best sauce

Classic "dad" move

In trying to plot out a route, my approach prioritizes minimal backtracking and keeping to secondary, less busy roads. With these two kids, I was also forced to take into account their extreme aversion to climbing. 

So with these three priorities in mind, I used my trusty off-line maps app to work out a roughly 40km route to the next stop ; Palma Rubia. The route I chose looked like it eliminated about 10-15km of backtracking, not to mention skipping the gradual climb back to, and up, the highway*.

*We had quickly learned that when we say "highway" in Cuba, it really just refers to the width of the road and the speed at which cars travel. All the roads we encountered were traversed by all sorts of traffic. Pedestrians, horse carts, bikes, scooters, motorbikes, cars, trucks, buses, you name it. Cars were so infrequent that I would have felt relatively safe on even the most major "highway". We were about to find out if the opposite was true; how comfortable would we be on the most rustic of tracks?

The morning started out relatively cool and as we turned left off the main road from Puerto Esperanza to begin our short cut, Amelia felt compelled to exclaim, "I wish we were mountain biking!". Well.

A few KMs down the road, the pavement turned to dirt, which turned to rough 4x4 road which turned to, well, single track. I was confident (9/10 confidence level) that we were headed in the right direction at least and repeated consultation of indicated that, yes, this was indeed the route I had plotted. 

Totally part of the plan
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One small problem was that the map also indicated a previously un-noticed river, the Rio Rosario, bisecting our track. All of which begged the question, "What will this small track do when it encounters the river? Is there a bridge?". 

Sin puente. But look; there's the trail on the other side!
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Given the thorough planning on my part, you may thing that I just jumped in and started across, or tried to just ride across fully loaded. But no, we scouted up both sides of the water in search of a narrower or easier way across before carefully prodding the bottom with a long stick and reconnaisance a walk across. The water was murky enough not to be able to see the bottom. Xavier's repeated warnings about crocodiles were particularly helpful for his sister's state of mind at this point. The 13 year old was not happy. 

It didn't take too long to ferry, first bikes and panniers, second kids, across the non-rushing torrent while fighting off the crocs. In truth, the water was warm enough and the bottom was stable enough that we all could have just walked across on our own. 

Just call me Saint Christopher
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Most of the crossing was about 4-4.5 ft deep.  Thankfully it was the dry season - during the rainy season, this probably would been impassable. The stonehenge-like concrete blocks indicated that there had probably once been a bridge at this place. If only we had arrived before the Revolution!

More single tracking and some wrong turning ensued after our successful crossing of the grande Rio Rosario. We seemed to be in a quite a remote area....

This time, a bridge!
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It's no small feat in a small island country with over 11 million in habitants, that over the course of about 15km we saw exactly one human being and one horse. The horse was pulling a cart with the human being in it.

Distant mogotes
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It wasn't all torture
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After reuniting with society in the tiny hamlet of Verracos, that road was alternately good - from the hard packed, fast dirt roads we took in beautiful scenic panoramas out over the fields to the sea - and absolute shite. The final 5 KM towards the town of La Ceja was particularly heinous. At this point, the road was paved with giant round stones that I took to calling Cuban Cobbles. They were so rough that the horse carts, scooters, motor bikes had woven new, alternate paths around these bits of "pavé" to avoid having their brains addled. Amelia had got her wish; we'd been mountain biking all day!

Out of water and surviving on warm clif bars, we were very thankful for a slight tailwind up, and then down, into the tiny town (wouldn't even call it a town - a settlement of half a dozen houses and a ferry dock) of Palma Rubia. We were all quite sunburned and chapped having been on the road/trail for almost 6 hours. Mutiny was brewing among the crew. Sunburn and dehydration were obvious. Outright sunsickness was imminent. 

We rolled all the way down to the ferry dock where we were able to purchase a giant bottle of orange pop and some water. Partially rehydrated, we rode 500m back up the road to the most charming casa particular; Casa Mario y Antonia, where for 2000 pesos/night we got a comfortable room, breakfast and the most gracious hosts, including the charmingly precocious 3yr old Sofia.

Rehydration in progress
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We were happy to pay extra for dinner and it was well worth it; the best chicken we've had on the trip and the salted yucca chips, mmmmm. We left the dishes clean, because you know what they say kids; "hunger makes the best sauce".

"Shut up dad! Nice 'shortcut'"!!!!!

But you know what they say kids, "all's well that ends well".

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Today's ride: 48 km (30 miles)
Total: 97 km (60 miles)

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