18th April 2016- Havana to Varadero Beach
Blasting out of La Habana at a breakneck speed of 30mph, my trusty Red and Gold scooter spluttered miserably from the harsh, under-processed gasoline I had filled it up with at one of the many ‘estación de servicios’. Not much choice, I’m afraid-it’s either diesel or watered down diesel, apparently. (Well at 60c a litre, you get what you pay for, I guess)
The decayed, tumble-down buildings of Old Town were left behind in my rear view mirror and vast expanses of beautiful green country opened up before my eyes. Palm trees, beautiful weather and easygoing traffic made my slow-ass scooter blend straight in. No-one was in a rush. Cars ambled on by and so did heavy-laden trucks full of supplies.
The speed limit is 100kmph but I doubt anyone would dare go over 80, as their vehicles would most probably fall apart. Sugar plantations are in abundance and so is fruit and vegetable farming. Young and old were toiling in the fields and all stopped to stare at the strange tattooed fellow that breezed on past riding a small moto with a backpack strapped to the seat.
Everyone seems to ride bicycles in Cuba. It’s just cheap and easy I guess. Owning a car is expensive and too much hassle anyway, plus the Cuban way of life seems to be very focused on the outdoors. As a result everyone appears quite limber, fit and healthy. You wont see any fat kids with chocolate smeared all over their faces screaming in the supermarkets here, just happy little people playing games.
In between towns I would come across a major highway with no vehicles in sight. It was an eerie feeling, cruising along by myself-on a four lane freeway-one could imagine what it would be like at the end of the world, being the only survivor left on earth.
Then a noisy old Cadillac would splutter on past (we must have filled up as the same gas station) and leave me to my crazy thoughts, surrounded by a thick plume of exhaust smoke.
Heading into Varadero, the small dilapidated villages and farmland gave way to lush palms and well-kept roads. The cars seemed newer and better taken care of and people were dressed in more wealthy clothes. I was heading to the BIG END of town so it seemed.
Varadero is now known for its beautiful beaches, large hotels and fat gluttonous tourists, but in 1966 it was also where Fidel Castro-the Grand Master of the Revolution-built his enormous ‘Coppelia’-a gigantic ice-cream parlour to rival all the ice-cream parlours that the decadent western world had to offer.
Castro would show those wanton capitalists that he too, could reign down a superior product upon his worthy comrades, without the help of any tyrannical Americans. Fidel imported the best machinery from all over the world and built a fantastical homage to creamy-whipped-milk that would make Willy Wonka shit a hole right through the back of his pants.
Cubans came far and wide, even lining up for hours to get a taste of this socialist delicacy, proudly brought to you by ‘The Red and Yellow Fidel Castro Company’ As with most things in Cuba, the place fell apart and was fraught with technical problems and a lack of ingredients.
I buzzed up and down the beaches on my scooter checking out the beautiful girls and gorgeous cars, with a back-drop rolling by of a perfect ocean and pristine white sand. This place sure is paradise. I could definitely live here and end up morphing into one of those overweight, skin tanned-almost-to-leather old men wearing a Hawaiian shirt and a pair of shorts 5 sizes too small.
I’m a keen scuba diver so I threw on my diving gear and rode the bike straight into the ocean and cruised along the sea floor checking out the wrecks in the Bahía de Cochinos (Bay of Pigs) from the ill-fated 1961 invasion that was inspired by the CIA using ex Cuban soldiers to try to overthrow our ice-cream loving pal Fidel and his increasingly communistic ideals.
Castro responded by asking the Soviets for short-range missiles to protect the coast, but the Russian leader Khrushchev sent him long-range nuclear warheads instead, setting off the infamous ‘Cuban Missile Crisis’ that some believed brought us closer than ever to a nuclear war. This whole ‘Game of Thrones’ style shit that our governments have done- and are still doing today– is just totally unacceptable.
The real victims are always the people-never the players themselves. Excuse my language, but fuck all of them. It’s just a bunch of egotistical twats running the show and until the aliens come back and start disintegrating them with plasma death-rays, we all just have to grin and bear it I’m afraid.
Riding back up to the beach, I drained all the seawater out of the bike and then headed back towards La Habana en route to Vinales, along a lonely desolate highway lined with hundreds of people hitchhiking and gently swaying palm trees. Cuba sure is one strange (and wonderful) country.
- Kilometres travelled- 15 500km
- Flat tyres- 9 and ½ (haven’t had one for a while actually)
- Incarcerations- 0 (insulting Fidel Castro’s icecream will get you 100 lashes)
- Amount of pigs in The Bay of Pigs- no swines were seen, but there were plenty of fat Canadians
La Habana to Varadero