the ride out of Santiago was beautiful. we were surrounded all around by green farmland and hills as we climbed steadily for the first hour or so. martin and i had left a few hours after dominic, and at about 40km we found him sleeping in the shade at a bus stop. we continued riding together until the next town, where we stopped for some food, guarapo (sugar cane juice) and ice cream (4 cents for an ice cream cone). somehow in a matter of a few minutes, we managed to lose martin while he was off searching for pizza (20 cents for a whole pizza – not just a slice). we waited about 20 min for him to return before deciding to just ride on ahead and wait for him in the next town. little did we know that he had actually ridden past and was already ahead of us. we rode all day, stopping and waiting (in vain) for him to show, until finally we had covered over 125 KM and dark was setting in with us not having secured a place to set up camp for the night. while i was worried about martin and how he would fare on his first night alone, my personal priorities had shifted to my own safety and finding safe shelter for myself and for dominic.
a few miles outside of Bayamo, we encountered a man on the highway cycling home from work. i pedaled alongside him and asked in my best spanish (which is not very good) if there was anywhere safe for us to camp (a beach etc.), to which he answered “you guys can stay at my place, but u hafta get up and leave at 6am”. we galdly accepted the offer and were escorted to a house in the woods. as we approached the house, i scanned the property for places to put a tent – there were many. we would not, however, be sleeping in a tent this night. he opened the door to his house and and in we walked. i was immediately taken aback by the smell; it was very strong and vaguely familiar. perhaps i had smelled it days before while staying with our “familia negra”. it was pig shit again. yes, he had 2 huge pigs and one small one living INSIDE his house. we walked right past them and put our bikes in the hallway, making sure to leave them just out of reach of the swine, for our bicycle bags contained our breakfast for the following day. we entered another part of the house and were offered food, guayaba botida, and a shower (a bucket of water and soap), which again, we both gladly accepted. we were given a bed and slept very well until the following morning, when we were awaken by the sound of roosters, pigs, and dogs outside our window. it was still dark, but 6am had arrived. we ate our breakfast (3 egg sandwiches each) and were on the road by 7am – just in time to catch an amazing sunrise (see pics). we pedaled off into the sunrise wondering if martin had fared as well as we had.
so much has been happening, that if i were to tell all that i wanted to, i would be spending equal amounts of time on the bike and on my laptop. for this reason, 3-12 will get cliff’s notes so i can give 3-14 the proper attention it deserves. the morning of 3-12 was spent chasing Martin, as we hadd heard he was ahead of us again. after chasing him down, we found a beautiful beach in Manzanillo at which to have a few beers and a siesta at. we rode to a tiny town called San Ramon and camped on the beach this night, overlooking makeshift fishing boats and fields of mangroves.
cliff’s notes again. shaved my head (20 cents at barber), lost Martin again, took a roadside swim in the mangroves, found an all-inclusive 5-star hotel on the beach that let us camp for free on the beach, went to hotel bar and drank for free until we got caught n kicked out, and i got food poisoning. spent the night very sick. checked one more thing off my bucket list: puking and shitting simultaneously. DO NOT put this on your list – it is not as glorious as it may sound. in fact, it sucks.
8 am: i woke up this morning still feeling sick and with severe diarrhea. I cannot “call in sick” today as i have neither the food or the water to last an extra day out here where provisions are so scarce. i must pedal through this.
10:43 am: i am at just over 35KM so far today. the temp has been over 85 degrees since i began riding at 830 this morning. i haven’t been able to keep any liquids in my body; every time i drink somehting, it immediately finds its way out one end of my body. in addition, the fact that i stopped sweating about an hour ago has me worried quite a bit now. i’ve got a slight headache and my climbing speed is only about 4MPH. there is no shade to be found, which makes it impossible to stop and cool off – the slight breeze across my face due to my 4MPH crawl being the only way to lower my body temp. i haven’t eaten since yesterday, and even that was lost lost from my stomach in last night’s bout of puking. the ride itself is beautiful. i am taking lots of pics, but it is hard to enjoy such beauty when i have a pounding headache and am already exhibiting signs of heat exhaustion. i am hoping that whatever i have is only a 24 hour bug and that if i stomache through today, i will be able to hold down some food tonight and ride the 100KM to Santiago tomorrow. they are moments like this that i question the sanity and safety of what i am doing. but these moments are few and far between, and in the other moments are shouted the many answers to such questions. in the meantime i will drink what i can from my water bottles, and hopefully the evening will come soon.
11:06: it’s now been 40 KM since i put down my last bit of food yesterday. i just stopped under the shade of a makeshift roadside palapa and forced down some water and a loaf of bread with some guayaba jelly. although food and drink do not yet appeal to me, i realize that i will not last long out here if i do not force myself to eat and take liquids. i will try again in another few KM to take some more.
NOON: it just reached 90 degrees and i think i am losing the ability to think clearly. all of the music on my MP3 player seems foreign to me – i can hear it, but i cannot make out the words. even songs that i have heard before sound like the first time i have heard them; i cannot even make out the words. it is like staring at a page in a book written in another language – i can make out nothing – just a bunch of noise, as that page would be recognized as a bunch of signals with communicative intent, but nothing more. i even set the MP3 player to play my “favorites” list, and still, i do not know the words to ANY of these songs. at this point, my saving grace is the fact that i know Dominic is still behind me, so if something were to happen (if i pass out), at least somebody would find me, because there are very few (if any) cars on this road that has been for the most part destroyed by hurricanes, avalanches, and landslides.
some later point: well, i guess i made it. the ride today was prob the most beautiful ride of the entire trip, though i was hardly able to fully enjoy it for obvious reasons. the day got better as the afternoon and evening passed: it cooled off a bit and even started to sprinke, which caused the temp to drop; i regained my appetite and was finally able to put down some food and iquids; and the landscape flattened out, making the ride less strenuous. we lost Martin again (he rode off ahead without stopping again) and ended up finding a beautiful beach on the side of the road where we set up camp after sunset. my body temp had already dropped and i once again felt safe, but i took a nice cool dip in the sea before bed just to make sure i wouldn’t overheat. immediately after my swim/bath, i ran to my tent with 2 loaves of bread, some guayaba jelly, and 2 bottles of water. my appetite had returned, and i listened to the sounds of the crashing surf as i scarfed down all the food i could before passing out – bread in hand.
i slept very well last night and woke up this morning with a voracious appetite, which was a relief, because it meant that whatever bug i had the day before was probably gone. dominic and i broke down our beachside campsite, and eager to get some food for the day’s ride, headed to the nearest restaurant, where we ate like kings. i managed to eat 3 egg sandwhiches (they cost only 8 cents each!) and took another couple for the road, as it would be another day of riding with minimal resources on the road.
the road conditions on the way to Santiago were……..well let’s just say sometimes there was a road, and sometimes there wasn’t. the headwinds were even worse than the road conditions. in face, they were the worst i have ridden in since the lake-effect winds in Canada over 10 years ago. many times i found myself riding as hard as i could on a flat section of road only to look at my cyclometer and see that i was going only 7 KPH! And as if that weren’t frustrating enough, numerous times i had to pedal going downhill so as not to be stopped by the wind and fall over! either way you look at it – riding 3 times as hard for X amount of miles, or only traveling 1/3 as far as you should given X amount of effort – riding in such conditions is incredibly disheartening. although the beauty of Cuba’s southeastern coast is quite phenomenal, by the end of the day all i could think about was a Double-Double from In-n-Out and a bed in a room with a fan, and i was pretty sure i could find one of those two in Santiago de Cuba.
sat 3-16 was a day of rest for the three of us. it turns out dominic had a bit of heat exhaustion upon our arrival fri eve, which kept him in fri night and most of sat. i slept late sat and spent a fair amount of the day resting, writing, drinking rum, and figuring out what i will do for the month of april. i found out that my spanish and salsa classes in mexico city don’t start until may, which gives me a month with nothing to do. i’m considering going to the docks in Havana and asking around to see if anyone is sailing somewhere interesting and needing crew, but i’m not sure my funds will hold out for an additional few months (april plus the 6 weeks of classes). my 4 month bike trip is already looking like it will last at least 8 or 10, which may force me to fly back to NY (or SD?) for 3 or 4 weeks of work in april.
Not that it’s windy but…
Beach in Chivirico