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Old 01-18-09, 11:57 AM   #1
fireweed
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Some photos from a recent tour in Cuba

I'm getting the photos organized and slowly writing up a short trip report for Crazyguyonabike, but I thought I'd post a few images here first.

This was my first trip to Cuba, but travel with my bike was mostly straightforward. I took a charter out of Calgary to Varadero for two weeks and headed to central Cuba where there is a circle-route of smaller interesting cities, beaches and mostly quiet paved roads. It was an extremely rewarding trip, but challenging at times simply because services are not always available to the independent traveller. The bureaucracy can also be mysterious, demanding that little bit of extra patience while you try to "figure things out".

I put about 650km on my bike, with my longest day at a little over 100km. The heat was a factor, especially for someone coming out of the north. As long as I was off the road at my destination for the day by about 2pm I was fine.

The Cuban people on the whole are warm and friendly. The country is very safe to travel in - probably the safest one in Latin America, although one does have watch out for theft.

Hope you enjoy.
Dave


Sometimes there aren't many cars on these rural roads.


Lots of interesting political billboards.


Hans taking a lunch break out of the sun.




Playa Ancon on the south coast.


Often impressive architecture and design under the grime and crumblling walls.


The almost deserted freeway travels through the centre of the island.


Anna and Loupe (sp?) from Spain.


The old city of Trinidad is a World heritage Site.


Yes there are new cars in Cuba, and some challenging mountain roads.
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Old 01-18-09, 12:02 PM   #2
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Did you get anywhere with the 2 ladies?
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Old 01-18-09, 12:53 PM   #3
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Very, very cool trip! Look forward to reading the whole post at crazyguyonabike.....
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Old 01-18-09, 01:03 PM   #4
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Thanks for the photos. I've been curious about Cuba because of diving and reportedly a great place to bike.. A friend once wanted to bike Cuba. US law disallows that. As of now, the closest Americans can come to Cuba is 30,000 ft above. Looks like a peaceful place to bike, with nice rolling , tropical terrain.
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Old 01-18-09, 01:05 PM   #5
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SWEET! One place I have always wanted to visit. Make sure and post a link to your CGOB when you get it done.

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Old 01-18-09, 01:06 PM   #6
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Thanks for the photos. I've been curious about Cuba because of diving and reportedly a great place to bike.. A friend once wanted to bike Cuba. US law disallows that. As of now, the closest Americans can come to Cuba is 30,000 ft above. Looks like a peaceful place to bike, with nice rolling , tropical terrain.
Or about 20 miles off shore on a cruise ship One guy got some awesome pictures of the shoreline (helluva good camera and a very long lens)

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Old 01-18-09, 01:08 PM   #7
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^.. I've flown over Cuba once in route to Jamaica. It looked green.
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Old 01-18-09, 01:30 PM   #8
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Nice photos - They're bringing back fond memories!!

I too am in the process of writing up my trip to Cuba (I spent 3 weeks there last year) based on my journal notes i made at the time. I've made a start (http://www.takeoncuba.wordpress.com/) and hope to finish it in the next couple of weeks.

Interestingly, I did meet a couple of Americans there - they were doing some Charity work and somehow were able to get one of a limited number of 'visas' available to US citizens.

This was only my second bike tour, but I have travelled to several countries. I can happily say, this was my best experience to date and cycling was the best way to see this fascinating island.
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Old 01-18-09, 02:19 PM   #9
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fireweed,

Do you or any of your group speak Spanish? If not, did you have any problems with communicating?


Looks like you may have credit card toured?

How hard was it to find a room at night?

Did you have problems finding drinkable water?
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Old 01-18-09, 02:32 PM   #10
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Thanks for sharing your photos and experience. As the winter blues sets in I am thinking of requesting a leave of absence so I can go cycling around Cuba or Spain.

In regards to Americans in Cuba, I recently read that 90 Americans are living in Cuba as exiles.

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Old 01-18-09, 03:27 PM   #11
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Do you or any of your group speak Spanish? If not, did you have any problems with communicating?
I was actually travelling on my own, but met up with other cyclists (mostly European) for a day or two. Yes communication was issue. My Spanish was basic enough to buy some fruit or get a bus ticket but also got me into trouble once or twice.
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Looks like you may have credit card toured??
Yes credit card toured without the credit card. Cuba is a cash economy. I know that there are folks that camped, but it would be almost all rough camping, because of the complete lack of campgrounds. This is a very poor country. My personal opinion is that the moderate amount of money that you drop at Casas (see below) is critical to improving the lifestyle of these families and that I am prepared to spend that to travel there.
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How hard was it to find a room at night?
This was not as a rule, an issue. Hotels are not recommended outside the beach resorts and large cities. There is however a good extensive network of "homestay" accomodation in most larger towns and cities at a fixed price. These are gov't certified rooms in people's homes called Casa Particulares. In most cases it is one or two rooms per household, often with private bath. Breakfast and dinner are usually served as well, which is a good thing because the food in the restaurants sucks.

The Casa owner that you are staying at will call ahead to the next town and arrange for your accomodation the next night with another Casa. Sounds sketchy, but it works just fine. The accomodation ranged in quality somewhat, but I have to say that they were clean, comfortable and free of things that crawl in the night. Plus you get to meet and spend some time with a Cuban family.

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Did you have problems finding drinkable water?
No water was readily available, although I had to hunt down a store a couple of times. I drank the water out of the tap in the larger centres, and bought it along the way in village "dollar" stores or gas stations.

Last edited by fireweed; 01-18-09 at 03:37 PM.
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Old 01-18-09, 04:06 PM   #12
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Yes credit card toured without the credit card. Cuba is a cash economy. I know that there are folks that camped, but it would be almost all rough camping, because of the complete lack of campgrounds. This is a very poor country. My personal opinion is that the moderate amount of money that you drop at Casas (see below) is critical to improving the lifestyle of these families and that I am prepared to spend that to travel there.
I guess you carried enough cash for the whole trip then? Did you worry about being robbed?
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Old 01-18-09, 04:21 PM   #13
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FWIW Mexican newspapers have ads for trips to Cuba, with prices posted is U.S. dollars.
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Old 01-18-09, 05:19 PM   #14
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There is however a good extensive network of "homestay" accomodation in most larger towns and cities at a fixed price. These are gov't certified rooms in people's homes called Casa Particulares. In most cases it is one or two rooms per household, often with private bath. Breakfast and dinner are usually served as well, which is a good thing because the food in the restaurants sucks.

The Casa owner that you are staying at will call ahead to the next town and arrange for your accomodation the next night with another Casa. Sounds sketchy, but it works just fine. The accomodation ranged in quality somewhat, but I have to say that they were clean, comfortable and free of things that crawl in the night. Plus you get to meet and spend some time with a Cuban family.
Perfect! I can`t imagine a more enjoyable way to see a foreign country! Thanks for your report, Fireweed- I`m looking forward to seeing the whole thing on Crazyguy.
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Old 01-18-09, 06:23 PM   #15
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Anna and Loupe (sp?) from Spain.
Looks to me like Anna did not want to have her picture taken! And looks like she could really hurt someone.
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Old 01-18-09, 11:38 PM   #16
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I guess you carried enough cash for the whole trip then? Did you worry about being robbed?
I carried Canadian cash for the two weeks I was travelling. I think that this is about the cut off for not wanting to have too much on hand. I spent about $CAN70 per day including a couple of long cab fares and a bus trip.

There were options for using your credit card to withdraw cash (with some hefty service fees) from a bank, or to use a special debit card set up by a Canadian company (bank?) through the Cuban banks. US-based credit cards are apparently not accepted at the banks.

As far as getting robbed, I am told that there is almost no violent crime in Cuba. If you left your wallet out or your backpack unsecured things might go missing, but to be held up for your money - no.

Dave
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Old 01-18-09, 11:52 PM   #17
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A friend once wanted to bike Cuba. US law disallows that. As of now, the closest Americans can come to Cuba is 30,000 ft above.
There were a tiny few Americans travelling about, flying in from Mexico or a Canadian airport. Interestingly enough, the bible for cyle touring in Cuba was written by an American couple. They have a whole chapter dedicated to American law and how to deal with it if you want to travel there.

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Looks like a peaceful place to bike, with nice rolling , tropical terrain.
A good part of Cuba is actually quite flat, hot and windy - with endless fields of sugar cane.

Dave
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Old 01-19-09, 06:30 AM   #18
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Nice photos.
I also did a couple of trips there.
I highly recommend the eastern end of the island.
Hopefully with the changes taking place there it will soon be easier for independent travel.
Like you said finding good food and water in smaller towns between tourist destinations
can be a challenge.

www.geocities.com/pathebikeguy/easterncuba
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Old 01-19-09, 07:06 AM   #19
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Nice pictures thanks! I think Cuba looks like a very interesting place -a good place for a bike tour. Unfortunately state side it's very hard to get there, hopefully one day this will change.
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Old 01-19-09, 07:29 AM   #20
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Quote:
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There were a tiny few Americans travelling about, flying in from Mexico or a Canadian airport. Interestingly enough, the bible for cyle touring in Cuba was written by an American couple. They have a whole chapter dedicated to American law and how to deal with it if you want to travel there.

A good part of Cuba is actually quite flat, hot and windy - with endless fields of sugar cane.

Dave
Fire.. My bike friend had all butput his deposit down for a cultural, 'bike exchange.' The US government denied him that right at the last moment. It was with a "Global Exchange," I think. They thought it was all approved , up the the last moment. ... Is not the hilly part in the Eastern provinces. ?. Looks like thats where our Canadian friends went.
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Old 01-19-09, 09:05 AM   #21
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Hi,

interessing pictures. Some memories come up.

Did you cycle from Trinidad to Topes de Collantes or enjoyed the nice descent?

Thomas
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