Big puffy black smoke & trucks, highways with few cars, and a hidden gem of a Casa. We have arrived in Santiago de Cuba! Population of 431,500. 100km ride to get here today.
We left Guantánamo early this morning because it gets so stinkin warm with the sun! After leaving our Casa (that we loved!) we stopped in the central square to source out a little food (it’s always a perpetual hunt for food here). Randy excitedly spotted someone selling what appeared to be Nutella squeezed inside a bun. Our Casa last night was situated beside a bakery which smelled wonderful all night long and we were dreaming….but they wouldn’t sell us anything. Government issue bread we suppose. Randy ran and paid the guy 4 national pesos (not the CUCs) which adds up to a whopping $.08 each. Buns in hand, we devour the delicious thingys but they were some sort of ground meat. No Nutella.
Lots of school children continued to stare at us. They do that pretty much everywhere we go. We haven’t figured out why we are such an attraction. It could be our bikes because everyone studies them closely. We’ve noticed that we have seen some male Cuban road cyclists from time to time but have yet to see a single female in Lycra. Perhaps that’s the curiosity.
There are so few motorized vehicles here, and the ones that are emit brutally big puffy clouds of black sooty exhaust on us when they pass on the road. The drivers seem oblivious (ok, insensitive) to enveloping us in the Black Cloud. Frequently we have buses (big buses) pass us on road right at the same moment there is an oncoming vehicle, despite there not being any other car in sight as far as the eye can see. They lay on the accelerator and Poof. Black Cloud.
Speaking of cars, we had a little concern about entering Santiago de Cuba via the A-1 Autopiste. It’s their national highway and Santiago de Cuba is a big city. With no alternative routes, we braved ourselves. We reminded each other “stay close! If we have to bail, we’ll reassess”. So….we enter the A-1 (looks like the 401 on the map). It’s a divided highway with 2 – 4 lanes each direction. It’s only 12 km into the city Randy reassures. We head into the route. For the next half hour we had probably less than a dozen cars & trucks pass us, a single speed bicycle, and a motorcycle. We passed a few horse drawn carts, two bulls grazing at the side, a few chickens and a dog lingering on the pavement. That’s it. Under the Big Overpass I saw one single horsecart meandering. This was rush hour on the A-1. 15km of long downhill into the city! The only thing to really watch out for were horse turds.
It was overcast all day and sprinkled a few times but it made for easier riding. We arrived in downtown (which was frantic with traffic) then started looking for a Casa. We had a potential one lined up and navigated to where it was. Again, not terribly impressed from the outside. But inside, a there is a beautiful rooftop terrace that looks like a greenhouse full of tropical plants growing everywhere. Another gorgeous room behind the exterior facade. We just settled in and then began a torrential downpour that lasted more than an hour
Tomorrow is a rest day for us, reserved for hunting down awesome food and people watching!