After a rocky start to our Cuban bike tour, we’re finally starting to enjoy ourselves. The cycling around the Viñales area is beautiful and it’s not hard to see why this is one of Cuba’s most popular tourist regions.
The towering cliffs remind us a little of the limestone mountains in Laos. Thankfully the road condition is much better than the mud we had to plough through in 2008!
Since we’re still waiting for Luke to complete his course of antibiotics, we decide to follow a few of the day trips from the Bicycling Cuba book. We load Luke in the trailer, play a bit of peek-a-boo with the sun shade and off we go.
First we head for a local swimming hole. It’s Christmas Day and yet we have the whole place to ourselves.
On our way back, we cross paths with this cyclist. He’s taking a bicycle-load full of cabbage and spring onions to a local market and when we meet he’s actually pushing the bike up a steep hill. For Cubans this is fairly typical. They transport all kinds of things on bikes that seem terribly awkward and heavy to us.
The next day we ride 30km to the waterfront town of Puerto Esperanza. The name sounds lovely but in truth the town is a bit rough around the edges. We try to walk out on the pier but after just a few meters we’re stopped because the boards are literally falling apart around our feet. At least the view is nice!
Despite a lack of general charm, we do manage to find one very good thing in Puerto Esperanza: the Villa Dora guesthouse where we order lunch. Within half an hour a lobster dinner is laid out in front of us, complete with a salad and two beers on the side.
This turns out to be one of the best meals in all of Cuba. Instead of the tough meat or overcooked fish that we’re normally served, this lobster is tender and delicious. It even comes with a sauce! Sauces of any kind are a novelty in Cuba and we even though our meal turns out to be fairly expensive (24 CUC or €17) we decide it’s worth every penny.
We complement the chef on her cooking skills and she bluntly declares:
It’s good because I know how to cook, and most people in Cuba don’t. They overcook everything.
We would have to agree. Time and time again during our month in Cuba, we were disappointed by the food. Aside from the breakfasts, which are overflowing with fresh fruit, eggs and bread, we soon tire of rice, beans, more rice, more beans and mountains of tough, dry meat.
Thankfully we manage to find relief from the Cuban street restaurants. They’re rarely open in the evenings (except in the biggest cities) but during the day we can feast on things like street pizza, available everywhere and freshly cooked for just pennies.
We also stop frequently at small fruit and vegetable stands by the side of the road, where we can buy cucumbers, tomatoes, pineapples and bananas. They’re grown in organic gardens all over Cuba. Our Swiss army knife comes in very handy to carve up all our market purchases.
For snacks while cycling, we can find a good selection of cookies in the small corner shops.
And finally, we occasionally stumble across a tasty plate of spaghetti.
It’s food like this that will keep us going as we throw our bikes on a bus to the city of Cienfuegos, where we’ll cycle 500km around Central Cuba.
*This is the second in a series of journal entries about our one-month, 750km tour of Cuba. Click here for the first entry. More coming soon!