First glimpse of the Gulf
Trip Start Dec 15, 2011
14Trip End Dec 31, 2011
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By 8:30 a.m. we were ready to go. Our tour bus was stuffed with the blue bikes, our packs, water, fresh, small bananas, two Cubans and some ten-odd tourists.
I felt an odd sense of guilt every time we passed through a town or near a highway junction in our large, air-conditioned bus. There were easily two or three extra seats which could have been used to transport mothers and their children standing, waiting by the side of the highway. I wonder what the people must think of us high-and-mighty visitors, with our big bus all to ourselves. I feel like the tourists on big buses must have a bad rep in small towns.
We started out with a 20km drive to Vinales, the route we had biked the evening before. We unloaded outside of a small post-office, in good-spirits and with high energy from the filling breakfast. We biked about 25km until we reached a small village called Pons. There, we had a taste of Guarapo, a green, slightly frothy sugarcane drink that was sweeter than any cola, almost even sweeter than honey. I gagged from the richness of it, and couldn't even finish my glass. It is a great drink for cyclists, though, full of sugars to keep you going on your journey!
Carlos sang along with raucous Cuban pop and I sipped at cool water and cleaned some of the sweat from my brow and neck. After the 15km of steep hills was up, I was back at it on the bike, 16 km of relatively flat going.
Reaching a small town for a break, we then continued on to a place called Cayo Jutias. I was feeling the slight tinge of a sunburn, and the heat was getting uncomfortable. Jutias was like a small resort, with little shade-covers and plastic recliners that you can rent for 2CUC. If you sit on one even for a rest, they assume you want to rent it and so come by asking for the money. Beware of the roving beach police if you don't want to shell out 2CUC for a plastic seat.
There was a bar catering mojitos to both tourists, and what looked like locals, alike. The beach was rather pleasant, and we spent two hours getting to swim and walk around. My neck was still a bother, and had made the ride uncomfortable the whole morning. Not wanting to let it ruin our trip however, I didn't make a fuss about it. My dad, though, mentioned my stiff neck to Charlie, a physiotherapist from England and one of our fellow bike-riders. He laid me flat on one of the plastic chairs, and performed some magic on my neck and shoulders.
I can't express how much I believe that a vacation like this is the way to go, if you want to get a feel for a country. Sitting by a poolside having locals dressed in silly hotel uniforms serve you alcohol may be some peoples' idea of a good time... But frankly, I think the only thing you'd experience about the country and that culture would be the weather! Resorts are catered to our soft, North American wants. Booze, food, lounging, and pretty girls. It makes me sick. Although by riding in our tour bus I didn't have the same sense of connection I might have had if we were backpacking or hitchhiking through Cuba, at least we were there breathing the same dirt and seeing the smiling/confused/frowning/laughing faces of the people who call these places their homes.
It's refreshing to see people out in their fields doing honest work. Even if you know that, with the way the country is run, they won't be benefiting from their labour as much as someone in a first-world country would. What us people need nowadays is more time spent chopping wood, plowing fields, carrying sacks and just all-around using our bodies to do things that keep us alive... all it takes in this day and age is the click of a button or the swipe of a card.
People should try garden therapy. I'm convinced it will heal anyone.
My spanish was picking up. I'd have loved to spend more time listening to it and trying to speak it. I picked up that otra vez means once more/again, and tal vez means maybe. Oh, and that Cuba means awesome.