We were on our bikes by 9:15 and heading down the road toward Montemar Natural Park and Caleta Buena – the Good Cove. It was cooler today and the ride took us through, like it always did, farmland devoted to growing some of the country’s staples: bananas, mangos and rice.
Next to the structure was an odd shaped concrete structure that I would learn later was a monument to one of the revolutionaries who died holding back the Bay of Pigs invaders (the mercenaries) We had fruit, crackers and several fresh juices before heading back out.
We snapped a few pictures of some of the military hardware outside, including a Hawker Sea Fury, a vintage propeller driven plane that none the less had a few air to ground missiles improperly mounted under the wings. Oh well, it wouldn’t be the first or last time on this trip we saw examples of the Cuba propaganda machine playing fast and loose with the facts. As Fidel himself might say, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.”
After Playa Giron, we could either ride the remaining 5k to our destination or take the bus. Randy and I decided to ride and the 5k went by fast as we each worked on topping each other with our crazy stories. FYI: Randy beat me hands down. You don’t ride all over the world without having a few great beer stories to tell.
Besides the swimming and snorkeling, lunch was also to be served here. Someone reminded me not to miss it, but I couldn't care less about eating. As far as I was concerned I probably gained more than 5 pounds on this trip and I could eat later. In fact, it felt good to be hungry for a change as opposed to bloated. For now I wanted to get wet.
And wet I did as I quickly rented a snorkel and mask and went straight for the water. It did not disappoint and I felt like I was inside a dentist aquarium. The water was teeming with corral, sea urchins, and fish of every design and color that you could imagine. I stayed in the water as long as I could and then quickly showered and joined my fellow travelers on the bus as we headed to Havana. It was the only time of the trip that I was the last person on the bus.
We got checked in, cleaned up and before long, it was time to head out to dinner at the amazing San Cristobal paladar. (FYI: This is the same restaurant that Obama was to eat at during his visit)
Rather than take the bus to the restaurant though, we were treated to something I had seen in Havana earlier, but had not partaken in; we were going to be transported via pedal cab to our destination. The cabs held 2 passengers besides the driver/pedaler and it was a blast going through the streets of Havana this way. In fact, I think there’s room to squeeze in one more here.
After dinner, I think we all expected to return to our hotel the same human-powered way we had arrived. Instead, regular taxis were procured. Note here my dedicated arm-chair traveler that I am using the term, “regular,” rather loosely. My ride, along with 3 of my fellow cyclists, was in a vintage Russian made Lada. It was excruciating, and I think I would have rather been on the other side of the island and being water-boarded in Gitmo.
The car had a tiny four-cylinder engine, and a carburetor that I swear fed through the passenger compartment. The smell of gasoline was so powerful my eyes actually burned, and I was dizzy and nauseous by the time we got back to the Sevilla Hotel – and I worked the majority of my life in an oil refinery!
Sickened or not, I wasn’t about to let it slow me down and Randy and another of the riders Sharon and I ventured out into the Cuban evening. I was a nice stroll, and we found the streets teeming with life and vibrant. At one point, we came upon one of the country’s major art centers, which was hosting an elegant ballet tonight. Image below.
Until then, hasta la vista!!