Day 18: Manzanillo to Bayamo

Chicken lineups, the old dancing Cuban, the crazy roads between cities, Randy eats beef, and prosperity in Bayamo.

Today it was not about the scenery. In fact, it was rather unremarkable but the road from Manzanillo to Bayamo is a means to an end. We’ve been trying to fast-track it back to Holguin to buy ourselves a few days off the bike and showing off our super weird bike tans at the beach.

While leaving Manzanillo this morning Randy struck up a conversation with a fellow who told us that there’s a food shortage going on around these parts. We noticed a crowd congregating outside of a store that appeared to be opening soon and we asked someone what it was all about and we were told they are waiting for pollo (chicken). There are designated depots where Cubans can collect their rationed out food. From all indications around us those rations are not what sustains these people, by far. Nobody appears hungry to us, that’s for sure!

An old man approached us and wanted to hear about our journey and wanted to share how he’s been dancing all his life. He proceeded to do a little dance for us there in the street! After Randy took his picture he asked us to take a picture of all three of us, and then one with Randy and him. We heard a little about how life has changed for him over the years, how he used to rent out a room to travellers from time to time but now with the new Casa system he can no longer do that. After we snapped a few pictures he wanted to see them on the camera and he looked so darn pleased with himself, I think it made his day to be starring in a tourists’ photo memory. He is 70 years old and has no family, and is all alone in the world, but seems quite happy.

Let’s talk beef again. Although we understood it’s not consumed here in Cuba, it has appeared on very few menus including one tonight at a great restaurant in Bayamo. So, Randy ate beef. If I return to Canada and he’s not with me you’ll know why. Actually, for a country that doesn’t officially eat beef, we’ve been surprised at the number of cows that are farmed here. Cows everywhere, though not dairy cows. Very little milk and dairy products available and the Nestle ice cream we keep searching for is likely imported. Unsolved mystery, this business of cows.

As we’ve mentioned, there aren’t that many cars on the road. Probably more horses and bicycles within city limits than cars. In the cities the motorists are quite considerate of us cyclists, pedestrians, and horse carts. It’s been our observation that the vehicular traffic between cities is low in volume but very high in aggressive driving habits. We could be on a bare 2km stretch of road with no shoulder and a truck approaches from behind and also in front. They have zero hesitation whatsoever to pass each other right beside us on the road, each going 100km+. This isn’t an occasional thing, it’s always. We have had a number of trucks overtake a car right at the magic moment we are all side by side on the road. Buses, trucks, cars….none of them slows even a hair. Several times we’ve felt the suction of air as a big truck passes within inches of us. Very scary to say the least. We attribute it to being commercial traffic between cities and the only thing on their mind is to get from A to B as fast as possible.

Prosperity in Bayamo! Not everywhere of course but in the downtown area here you would really have to stretch your imagination to make the image fit the message we’ve always heard about Cuban people having so little.

Posted in Cuba East.

One Comment

  1. Randy and Anita, what an amazing blog! We arrived home from our 2 weeks in Cuba, this past Wednesday. What’s even more amazing is that February 14/15 whilst you guys were in Santiago we were about 66 or 70 km east of you at our hotel Los Corales, close to Laguna de Baconao 😊

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