The HILLS, the changing landscapes, pushy mountain people, and no hay ice cream. Again.
We’d been dreading the La Farola mountain pass. Leaving Baracoa, we have to traverse these mountains to reach the Caribbean and every time we told people we were going through La Farola they delivered us a “crazy tourist” look. So, we made sure we woke up early and hit the road.
La-de-la-la-ing along the 15km leading toward the mountain the greenery, the flowering shrubs & trees were all so gorgeous. Then we were there. At the base of the climb. Nowhere to go but UP for 20 more km. The sun and heat were relentless but there were small patches of shade from time to time for reprieve. We had agreed in advance to take lots of short breaks. The landscape of Cuba that most conjure up in their mind’s eye is that of white sand beaches and palm trees. Cuba is so much more. Majestic mountains & big open raw rock faces. As we neared the highest point the landscape changed And began transitioning into a drier region featuring succulents and cactii. By the time we reached the bottom and the terrain levelled out we were alongside the beautiful blue ocean to the left. To the right it looked like a scene out of the Wild West.
Dotted along the mountain pass were people selling fresh mandarins, bananas, chocolate, and coffee beans. At the summit, the pedlars (there were only about 6) were very persistent, with a capital P. Not taking no for an answer (we really didn’t need 17 more bananas), we had to be very firm with our non gracias. But the moment we agreed to buy some mandarins from one, they all flocked to us in a frenzy to see if we’ve changed our minds about their bananas (or chocolate etc). Past the summit homes were spread far and few between and we saw only two other cyclists on the mountain but somehow someone at every home spots us and the they are convinced we want more bananas.
We found two stores in town at which we could purchase goods. (Well, if they have any). We really wanted ice cream and tried three places that all had freezers but no hay. They were empty. They did however offer their typical selection of about a dozen products. Soap, Electrical switches, beer (always beer), chocolate mousse mix, Pringle’s lookalikes, toilet paper, soda (3 flavours), toothpaste, apple juice, rum, dry pasta, ketchup and mayonnaise. That it.
Chocolate mousse mix! We figure a ship must have run aground somewhere with a shipping container full of it. Every store had it. The laughable part is that the instructions show to use an electric mixer. Really? Everyone has an electric mixer here? Such is the retail system in Cuba.
No hay for ice cream today. Cuba appears to have run out.