By Pat Mandeno
After leaving the Cuban capital of Havana, the city of classic cars, crumbling buildings, music and colour the group of eight recreational cyclists’ bike and bus for the next five days to Trinidad.
Trinidad is in the centre of Cuba adjacent to the Caribbean Coast. UNESCO gave the city a World Heritage title in 1988. It has rich colonial architecture, influenced by the Hispanic-Moorish style. The cobbled streets are paved with stone used as ballast in the ships of the early Spanish traders.
Our accommodation for the next two days was in “Casa Particulares” – Bed and breakfast in private homes. It was a marvellous experience for us all, trying to communicate with our hosts in Spanish and sharing a little of their daily life. Their hospitality was extremely generous and every need was catered for. During our evening meals at a local restaurant the day’s events were shared with enthusiasm.
A morning visit to a beach on the Ancon Peninsula offered us the luxury of shade, sun loungers and the chance to swim in tepid waters. Waiters hovered to take our drink orders. In the afternoon we visited the historic sights and a local market situated around the Plaza Mayor. Women were selling their handicrafts to supplement their monthly income.
Soon we were ready to farewell Trinidad and continue with our cycling adventures. The bus took us to the top of Topes de Collantes. A Steep and well forested part of the Escambray mountain range that is synonymous with Che Guevara and his revolutionary unit. The upper slopes are suitable for coffee growing and we were able to tour a plantation.
An exhilarating, fast descent returns us to the valley floor where mango and banana plantations thrive, interspersed with tobacco and sugar cane. Farmers work their fields with oxen and wooden ploughs or the occasional Russian tractor. We pass horse and carts and trucks used as a bus commuting between villages. Everyone we see waves or calls “Hola”.
Each day our local guides offers us a snippet of Cuban his history, and an insight into their way of life. He will organise coffee stops in private homes or fresh fruit and juice at a local farmer’s hut and an evening meal in a local restaurant. Nothing is too much trouble. Bicycling in Cuba gives us access to the Cuban people and an understanding of their struggles to make a living. An adventure not to be missed!