Saturday, February 24, 2018

Cycling Cuba 2018 -- Part 4

Wednesday February 7, 2018 – Trinidad to Cienfuegos

We had a great ride along the coast with a tail wind, to our lunch spot, the Piña Colada. I had preordered the swordfish but ended up with red snapper. It was tasty, but, again, I found myself wishing that I had ordered the lobster. We cycled a little further after lunch, and then shuttled to Cienfuegos. While the guides checked us into the hotel, we had an interesting choir recital (another P2P activity). The choir members are all professional musicians (we saw one of them playing piano at our hotel later in the evening). We asked them a few questions, and then they had a few for us – specifically what did Carolyn and Lee have attached to their glasses? The answer is cycling mirrors, fashioned out of bottle caps. Lee passed his glasses up to one of the singers, and the next thing you knew, they were all passing the glasses around and marveling at this great invention – just like a bunch of school kids.

Our hotel in Cienfuegos
Our hotel is the most modern so far and is right next to the Palaccio Valle where Kathleen and I ate in 2003 and enjoyed the 95-year-old piano player (who played the same 12 bars over and over again all night in between posing for pictures with the guests.)

As advised, I had brought a good supply of Canadian dollars since they (as well as Euros and UK pounds) can be exchanged for CUCs without the ten percent penalty that is charged for changing US dollars. However, the hotel flatly refused to exchange my Canadian dollars and would not give a reason. So, I reluctantly cashed $100 US that was part of my reserve. I was even more annoyed the next morning when I found that others had been able to exchange Canadian dollars without a problem.

Dick, Amy, David and I dined at a restaurant recommended by Alex. I had excellent spareribs after bruschetta, green salad, taro chips, and a tuna cocktail. $18 before wine. A real bargain. I had the best night’s sleep so far.

Thursday February 8, 2018 – Cienfuegos to Playa Larga

Today’s ride features stops at three different places on the Bay of Pigs. We started out by shuttle to avoid the city traffic, stopping once to pick up box lunches for our picnic later today. We got on our bikes for a long flat ride through marshland and past some rice paddies. On one stretch of road we observed laborers spreading rice out on the tarmac to dry. We were told that it is picked up in about three hours, during which time it is not uncommon for cars, trucks and even bicycles to drive right over it to avoid oncoming traffic. The whole process seems very inefficient!

Our first stop was Playa Girón, also known as the landing spot for the Bay of Pigs invasion. We ate our picnic lunches (the best picnic so far) and then toured the small museum which presented the Cuban view of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion.

Back on the bicycles for our second stop, snorkeling at Punta Perdiz. I had forgotten to put a bathing suit in my day bag, but I was not going to pass up snorkeling on a coral reef in the Bay of Pigs, so I went in in my biking shorts. The water was fantastic and there were lots of interesting fish to view.

The remaining 9 miles to Playa Larga (Long Beach) appeared to be more of the same flat terrain, so about half of us rode the shuttle. (I really did not want to cycle in the wet shorts that I had used for swimming.) There was a snafu at the hotel, and they could not accommodate all of us, despite our reservations. So, several of us were moved to a small hostal about 200 meters down the road. The accommodation was adequate, except for a very loud music bar directly across the street where the din kept me awake until 1 am.
Our hostal in Playa Larga
Although we were housed separately, we all ate together on the roof of the hotel where most of the group was staying. Before dinner, we had a lecture on the ecology of the region (More P2P.) The dinner was excellent, with the best black beans and rice so far. They seem to serve black beans and rice (colloquially known as cristianos y moros, or Christians and Moors) in two different ways. If premixed, the dish is usually rather dry. Served separately, you ladle out the beans (which are much soupier) over the rice. I definitely prefer the latter. 

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