Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Eastward from Matanzas

Our kind hostess in Mantanzas found us an adress to stay on our way to the southeast. It was only 44 kms, it was a finca (farm) called 'La Coincidencia'. And it was. A romantic place, where they have some cows and horses, grow their own vegetables etc. But the most important was the ceramics workshop. Tey make all kinds of pottery and huge vases, seem to give workshops for groups as well.
Our dinner and breakfast was all 'home grown' and delicious. We agreeably shared the table with a young cycling Canadian couple, coming from the very remote west coast near the Alaskan border. Of course we advised them to come cycling in Europe, and visit Breda. They promised us to do so :-)
From there it was a 76 kms ride to Playa Larga, the most northern beach in the Bay of Pigs. The ride was long and not interesting. Had some stops for fruit juice and chats with the locals.
Playa Larga is famous for the failed landing of the contra-revolutianaries in 1961 (supported by the US, under Kennedy). Memorials galore. Unless the 'help' of a jinetero (a hussler, in touristic places they are a nuisance) we found a very nice and clean casa particular. There are scores of them here, price mostly 25 CUC (=€).
Next stop was Playa GirĂ²n, a short ride against the wind. A simple casa in a small, and boring sleeping wide spread settlement, with a museum of the invasion and a big hotel, which also was 'tote Hose'.
The day after brought us to Cienfuegos, 80 kms to the east. A busy and not unagreeable town, where we landed in a very beautiful casa particar with Victor and Elena, right in the historic centre. Like ourselves they are abuelo and abuela (grandpa and -ma), which caused a lot of sharing :-) We spent an extra day here.
Remarkable: there are ATM's here that allow creditcards to take out cash! Until now our information was that this is not possible in Cuba. We tried and it worked perfectly.
Next stop: Trinidad. A small, very historic and very touristic, town. It was founded not long after the discovery of the Americas and collected its wealth through the sugar trade. Now it's a Unesco-heritage settlement, with one storey houses along cobble-stone streets (impossible to ride a bike on). Here again we spent an extra day, just another couple among the thousands of tourists.

Note: using the internet remains extremely difficult.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Stormy winds

After perfect flights we landed in Havana a bit before scheduled. Our bikes came out quickly, boxes unharmed. Alsways a bit of a worry, so much depending on the condition of the bikes. Our man in Havana was waiting with a sign “Frons and Eveline”, so within the hour we were dropped off at a Casa Particular (the Cuban version of B&B). Surprise: not the one we had booked. But this seems to be normal practise in this country. Of course I disagreed and finally we agreed on a discount. In the end it appeared to be perfect, a spacious appartment (bicyles parked in the kitchen) in the very centre of the medieaval city centre. When we got out of the door we stepped right into colonial history. Old bronze guns used as poles to block the pedestrian area for traffic, very humouristic. Besides that the staff was sweet and helpful, breakfast copious and the bike boxes will be kept in a dry place for the return trip.
We spent two days in “La Habana Vieja”, walking the narrow and very (touristic) busy streets. Both museums for Bellas Artes (international and Cuban) are very worth while, took us hours and hours.

Then we left eastwards, first by ferry across the sheltered bay that made Havana such a safe port in the past full of pirates. Once on the other side we continued east, following the Via Blanca in a stormy wind that was now a headwind, then coming from besides and then in the rear. This day, 96 kms, was very long for a first day, with legs not yet used to the routine. We ended in a Casa Particular with food, beer, shower, good advice and a motorcycle hitch in order to buy an internet-ticket. And without the latter it would not be possible to post this blog.  

Sunday, January 15, 2017


In a couple of days we will leave for Cuba. Our plan is to cycle more or less the whole island. This will take us about 7 weeks.
Now there are some things different on this island. Everybody knows that Cuba is one of the last 'communist' countries in the world. This, and the American blockade, have caused that the country has developed in a unique way, to say it positively. 
There are hardly any ATM's, debit- and credit cards are rarely accepted. 
Internet is hardly available. So blogging will be difficult and we're not sure if we will be able to post anything at all. Using email, WhatsApp or FB, same problem.
Another peculiarity: no GPS-devices are allowed. What might be the idea behind this??? In combination with the absence of internet this is a serious handicap for me though. I tend to use plotting sites on the web to prepare the route (including elevations etc.) for the next day, load it into my Garmin device and find my way everywhere. Especially the elevation, the meters we will have to climb, determines how hard a day's ride will be. Now we will have a map only, plus the advice of our hosts. 
But.... smartphones are allowed. And smartphones have gps and there are various navigation apps. So we will not be totally without the aid of modern techniques, I will only have to adapt to different, less complete, less familiar and less easy methods.
The people though seem to be joyful and friendly, and there's music on every corner. As an author states: Cuba is a marvellous shit-country. We will check all this and report when and where possible.
Our planned itinerary: