Leaving the fat and sweaty tourists behind at Varadero Beach and heading into the hills around Cabanas, I hit the mountain route ‘Carriageway Central de Cuba’ and floored it flat-out. I raced a snail up a hill then tried to overtake a turtle, but alas, I seemed to be heading into a strong headwind so I watched in despair as my shelled adversary took off into the sunset.
Riding on a tiny 50cc scooter and at a reduced pace, allowed myself time to think about life and the world we live in. The Cuban people don’t have much property-wise, but it seems they have a hell of a lot, culture-wise. Cruising through the small beat-up villages, I saw people in groups, or talking, dancing, and laughing and they seemed quite at ease with the world and its misgivings.
Cuban cigars, the Mamba, Fidel Castro’s cheap ice-cream and a country surrounded by the most beautiful scenery in the world, it seems even the misgivings of a socialist government and a struggling economy couldn’t keep these virulent people down. Some of the best visual artists, jazz musicians, drummers and dancers in the world, all come from the country of Cuba.
And I love the incredible diversity of the people themselves, the skin tones of rich, dark black from the African descendants all the way to tanned, olive-white from the Spanish. Racism is a non-issue here. Everyone is Cuban- and fiercely proud of it.
Long, winding roads surrounded by lush green fields of sugar cane and peppered with coconut palms were the order of the day and basic food items and petrol were getting cheaper and cheaper the further I headed into the Cuban wilderness. Filling up my scooter was now costing about $1.30 (26 Pesos) and food was ridiculously cheap also. I grabbed a huge bunch of bananas from ‘mi amigo’ on the side of the road for 5 pesos (20cents) and I’m pretty sure he charged me double.
The only traffic on the road seemed to be weathered, field-worn Cubans, wearing ten-gallon hats and riding beautifully groomed horses. Pedal powered taxis and horse-drawn carriages were extremely plentiful, but they all launched out-of-the-way as I came bearing down on them. Some pedestrians (there are literally hundreds of people on the roads waiting for lifts) totally shat their pants and dived helter-skelter into the bushes as I approached.
Apparently vehicles aren’t seen much around these parts. Being heavily tattooed brought many wondrous stares as well, some even rubbing their eyes in disbelief. I just figured they’d never seen someone so incredibly handsome before.
One eerie thing about this country is the hordes of vultures that circle in the air high above, just waiting for something to fall over die. It’s as if the government has strapped spy cameras to all of these birds, a constant ‘Big Brother’ eye in the sky, keeping a watch for any capitalism that may be slowly seeping into the landscape. There are literally dozens of them, at any given time, hovering up there, just waiting to launch down at you and peck out your eyeballs.
I arrived in Vinales at dusk, just as the fireflies were appearing and it was a wonderful sight to behold. Bright green, glowing embers buzzed about the forest as I made my way to the ‘casa particular’ a locals home that has been converted (with government approval of course) to house weary travellers. For $20 (400 pesos) I received a huge room, a hot shower and a massive meal (seriously too much to eat!) and great company from a wonderful lady called Maria.
The roads around Vinales are stunning and incredibly picturesque. It’s really something to cruise through the country and see cars from the 40s and 50s ambling around. This country has really left a lasting impression on me, and I have totally fallen in love with the Cuban way of life and cool attitude.
My next trip here I will definitely try to bring in a Harley or Triumph, or something that compliments the character of the place. Riding through here on anything else just doesn’t seem right. So with a heavy heart and tears welling up in my eyes I headed back to Havana and to my hostel where we all went out and got hellishly drunk on cheap Cuban rum (which is world-class in its smoothness and taste btw)
Everyone had the same feeling-Cuba will steal your heart and leave you wanting more, a real paradise in this crazy world.
Cuba te amo , hasta que nos encontremos de Nuevo.
Till next time we meet Cuba.
- Kilometres travelled– 17 100km
- Flat tyres– 9 and ½ (haven’t had one for a while actually)
- Incarcerations– 0 (those girls at the airport can arrest me anytime…)
- Cuban cigars smoked– at least 10 a day
Varadero to Vinales