today (sunday 3-17) we decided to hitch a ride out of the eastern part of the country, we had already ridden over 900 KM criss-crossing and doing loops in this region, and if we keep it up like this, we will never see all of Cuba. we have heard that the region we plan to ride next is beautiful for cycling, and it should only be about a week until returning to the coast near the Bay of Pigs, where the SCUBA diving is supposed to be amazing. being the low-budget adventurers that we are, we decided that trains and buses were out of our price range, so we opted for hitchhiking again. we ended up catching a few rides in trucks, which was quite interesting and which also saved us a few dollars. we should reach our destination tonight at around 2 am, at which point we will probably just find a spot on the ground at a park to lay down until the sun comes up. that’s it for today – nothing exciting- just a quick update on what’s going on.
the ride in the truck sucked! i got peed on by some 7 or 8 year old kid. the damn truck was SOOO packed that we were nearly sittin on top of each other, so when he fell asleep n peed his pants, it got all over my leg! then the kid’s mom had the nerve to grab MY towel/blanket and lay it on top of the pee-soaked seat so the little monster could sit back down! then the mother, father, n kid fell asleep on top of my legs!! i couldn’t even move! anyway, we got off the truck at 3 am, rode 10km, and found a nice place to camp by the side of the road. there were no bugs, so i was able to sleep right on the ground under the stars. it was so nice that had the smell of my pillow (my towel doubles as my pillow) not reminded me of the whole episode, i would have totally forgotten about getting peed on.
today’s ride was beautiful. we rode over 110km from ciego de avila to a small town called Yaguahay. nothing noteworthy today. rather hot, as Cuba usually is. the landscape in central Cuba is very different than that which we had been riding the past few weeks. it reminds me of riding through the mid-western United States. the terrain is mostly flat with some rolling hills. there seem to be animals everywhere you look – cows on the road, roosters with their young on the shoulder of the roads, and occasionally a few goats and pigs to round out the theme. most of what they grow here is sugar cane, which is good if u are a cyclist riding through, as u never have to go very far before passing a Guarapo (sugar cane juice) stand on the side of the road for some good cheap (4 cents a glass) energy.
one main differnece i’ve noticed between the farming out here and that which i saw cycling through the US is the intensity with which everything is farmed. In the US, cows often live in feed lots, where they are basically forced to eat all day, whereas in Cuba, the cows roam about freely – feeding whenever and wherever they want. in the US, we use genetically modified crops which we spray with fertilizers and pesticides to maximize the yield, whereas here, everything is grown organically – without fertilizers, pesticides, etc. in the US, a field of one single type of crop (ex: corn) will stretch as far as the eye can see; in Cuba, a single plot of land will contain more than one crop. in the US, every bit of arable land is used season after season, constantly requiring the application of copious amounts of ammonia to the soil. here, fields are left fallow between growing seasons, allowing the soil to naturally rebound before the next growing cycle. the US spends more per capita on health care than any other country in the world, and yet at birth, a Cuban’s life expectancy is years longer than an American’s. i’ve never studied agriculture and i sure as hell am no nutritionist by any means, but i DO feel confident that i have been eating much healthier since leaving the US. it is almost impossible not to, as i have not even had access to anything that wasn’t organic or produced farther than 50 KM over the past 2 months.
anyway, after riding through cow country all day, we met a nice woman who let us camp on her porch. we will continue west and then south tomorrow in our quest to explore central Cuba.
we woke up today to find breakfast already made for us. Nancy (our host) had served up some egg sandwiches, a bunch of bananas, and warm milk (they drink their milk warm and with sugar here). the early part of the day was quite pleasant. we had fair winds and mild sun, and there were towns with food and drink every few kilometers. at around noon, we reached the north coast, and i jumped in the water to bathe and wash my clothes. after bathing, we visited the largest crab in Cuba and spent a few hours touring a retired sugar refinery (now a museum).
currently, we are sitting at an ice cream parlor in the center of a quaint little town near the coast waiting for the rain to stop. it began a few hours ago, and if it keeps up much longer, i am afraid i may get sick again, for i’ve already eaten 6 scoops of ice cream; at 8 cents a scoop, another trip to the counter is almost inevitable.
5 minutes later:
i just made my fourth trip to the ice cream counter. the rain looks like it may let up in the next hour or so, which is good because we need to put in some more miles today.
i hate riding in the rain. i hate everything about it – everything. we rode in the rain this evening. we stoped in a small town where we met a very hospitalble family (at an ice cream shop eating our 7th, 8th, 9th, n 10th scoops for the day) who invited us into their home for the night. i had just finished eating 5 sandwiches and 4 scoops of ice cream, when we met them, but they took us into their home and cooked us dinner anyway. we didn’t want to be rude, so we stuffed our faces before showering and going to bed (AKA floor). the hospitality of everyone we have met so far is beyond amazing and makes me want to travel forever.
today was one of those days where everything just goes right. we woke up this morning to the sound of roosters crowing, the smell of pork sizzling, the feel of a cool breeze, and the sight of the trees blowing from a gentle tailwind. the day’s ride could not have been any better; with mild temps, a slight tailwind, and gentle rolling hills, i managed to complete our 75KM with virtually no effort. in fact, the gorgeous scenery i enjoyed on the way to Spiritus Sanctus almost made me wish the day’s ride were longer – almost. we met a priest in town who said we could sleep in the church tonight, and with Spiritus Sanctus being a town too big to free-camp in, we were excited to stay indoors somewhere without having to pay. the church itself is hundreds of years old and undergoing renovations, so he is putting us up in his living quarters, which i must say is not too shabby – especially for Cuba. he gave us a private tour which included climbing all the way to the top of the church (where the bells are); the view was phenominal (sorry no pics). too tired to keep writing. we will make it to Trinidad tomorrow (only 80KM), where we will stay for a day or so to do some sightseeing. will try to write more at that time. goodnight!