Decay, followed by hell followed by paradise!
Moa is a nickel mining city (not copper as reported yesterday). Little could have prepared us for the sight of the smoggy, dark, rusting, decrepit industrial apocalypse…it could be the setting for a sci fi movie. There were large swaths of land and buildings that need to be seen to be believed but we respected the “no photos” warnings. Dusty and dirty. The apartment buildings that were on the outskirts were grim to say the least. But we came to Cuba to see it all, not just palm trees and ocean.
After leaving behind the mess of Moa began the hell that was today’s ride. More than 1,000m of climbing up mountains where the road doesn’t even qualify to be called “road”. Rocky & pot-holey, and not a spec of smoothness it necessitated us climbing endlessly in 30c and no place for shade breaks. We found a log at the side of the road and busted open a can of peaches for breakfast, then several more hours of demoralizing roads. While bouncing and jerking and holding on for dear life I kept hoping that my bike frame is strong, and feeling particularly happy that my Schwalbe tires held out. Small miracle! The route was desolate and we only encountered one other cyclist–Edward from Belgium, who apparently has cycled this route three years ago (and apparently chose to do it again!). Beautiful mountain scenery if you could take your eyes off the road for a second. I didn’t. I’ll shamelessly admit that it brought me to tears more than once. The pictures don’t even do it justice. Even the downhills were brutal to say the least.
We wanted to reach Playa Maguana as early as possible to try and maximize time on the beach we’d heard about. As we approached the village there was a Cuban on a motorcycle who spotted us. “Randy!” He called out. Indeed it was our Casa host awaiting our arrival and he escorted us to his beautiful Casa. More like a villa. Complete with a hammock, a private covered porch, and surrounded by lush tropical vegetation. Yep. Our day changed dramatically! Settled in, we headed to the ocean which was just a 5 minute walk away. Now we were in paradise again.
PS. In a remote part of today’s route Randy saw a little boy around 5 years old galloping up the side of the road toward home. He was looking back at us curiously. We called to him, and Randy gave out another Hot Wheels. The little boy was so happy he streaked home like lightning, toy car waving. In my rear view mirror I could see him and his older brother excitedly looking it over like it was Christmas. Happiness.