Saturday, February 24, 2018

Cycling Cuba 2018 -- Part 2

Sunday February 4, 2018 – Remedios to Sancti Spiritus

The day got off to a less than auspicious start when my ham and cheese omelet arrived with only vegetables – mostly carrots. David, who does not eat meat, got the ham and cheese, after I had nearly finished the veggie omelet. After breakfast, those of us who had arrived on the later plane to Santa Clara got fitted to our bikes and then we all started off for our first day of cycling. It was a good ride and we got our first taste of the high temperatures that would mark this tropical visit. For the most part we had gently rolling hills through sugar cane fields, and past some bananas and coconut trees. I noted one small tobacco field, and one gorgeous poinsettia plant that was huge. After about 37 miles, we stopped for a picnic lunch, the first of many. There was an optional additional 11 mile ride after lunch and, for the first time on one of these tours, I opted to skip it and ride the bus. In the past, I have always tried to cycle every available mile.
Lee Savage

There is one big difference between this trip and my seven prior ExperiencePlus trips. Instead of a 14-passenger van (which can carry our bikes on top), we are supported by a huge luxury bus, complete with toilet, video system, lots of room underneath for the bikes, and a refrigerator with post ride beer! The bus is necessary, because we are rarely able to cycle directly from one hotel to the next – we often have to shuttle, sometimes for considerable distances.

After arriving in Sancti Spiritus, we had a guided tour of a guayaberra (classic Cuban shirt) museum
which included guayaberras worn by both Fidel and Raúl Castro, as well as other famous Latin Americans such as Gabriel García Márquez.

It is time to introduce the cast of characters. Lisa, an Italian who has cycled all over the world, is our tour leader, and Alex is a Cuban who is our local expert on all things Cuban. Aylan is the third guide, and Luís is our ever-present coach driver.  Our group includes 16 cyclists the first week, including four of my friends from prior rides – Carolyn and Lee Savage and Diane and Bill Cornish.

We had a group dinner, featuring ropa vieja (literally, old clothes), which is a dish of shredded beef that we will see repeatedly on this tour. It is a staple of Cuban cuisine.

Contrary to my expectations, the internet was generally available throughout the parts of Cuba that we visited. To use it, you have to buy a WiFi card, good for one hour, and which will cost anywhere between one and two CUCs, and then find a WiFi hot spot. Almost all of our hotels had WiFi. There are also hot spots located at various locations around towns and cities which are easily identified by the small clusters of people grouped in one spot, all using their hand-held electronic devices. The connection was always good enough for email and text messaging, but only once did I have sufficient bandwidth to use the internet for a VOIP phone call.

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