I’m up my usual 6am today and I head out quickly to the
beach. The sun is just rising and I see only a few tourists around, perhaps
catching one more glimpse of the sea before climbing on the bus to the airport.
I do my stretches and then run for 30 minutes 4 times back
and forth across the beach. Then I am able to do my Tibetan morning stretches
before I head out to breakfast.
After my conversation with the English communists last nite
who informed me that they’ve met many communists here, I’ve decided to try to
wear my “Black Womyn’s Lives Matter” t-shirt to at least the breakfast and
dinner buffets, just in case there are more activistas camouflaged there.
I intend to be at the bike stall by 9am so I can maybe ride
all morning – at least until it gets too hot. When I amble over to the bikes,
the womon recognizes me of course and reiterates again that I cannot ride to
Holguin. I laugh and reassure her I will not. I can only have the bike for
three hours so I head out in the direction the French Canadian came from, even
though he thinks I can’t ride that way, just so I can further reiterate I do
not intend to go to Holguin.
The bike is simple with foot brakes only and no gears. I
take a few wild plunges off the side walk over grass and soil before I remember
to brake with my feet. I finally find the way out of the gigantic hotel grounds
(I think there’s 750 rooms scattered about not to mention the gym – with
weights only, no electric equipment – the children’s building and play ground,
to mention a few. The road continues to boarder hotels for several blocks,
giving me a chance to adjust to my primitive bicycle.
Soon I am on the road, leaving the hotels behind, and being
treated to stunning glimpses of the beautiful, calm aqua blue green ocean on my
left and the greenest vegetation and red soil on my right. Horse and buggies
pass me, some trucks spewing black smoke occasionally rumble by, and the
scattering of cars, some early 50’s u.s.a., others later model maybe 20 or 30
year old German or Japanese cars. A few motorcycles but mostly bicycles on the
A womon who lives in a cement house just past the hotels,
waves to me, wanting me to stop in, claiming she has a present for me. I shout
back that I am riding my bike now, but thank you. I am looking for a different
kind of adventure today.
I ride my bike, getting more confident as I try to remember
no hand brakes, following the only road out of hotelville and feel like I am
entering a more real part of Cuba. I see a few small farms and amazing red dirt
and wonder how it is to grow here. Soon the road has become so steep – la loma
– that I have to get off my bike and walk us up the hill. It is hot but clouds
frequently cover the sun so it is not unbearable. My water is still ice cold
and I’ve only been riding for about 20 minutes so far.
A young man I saw hanging out at the bicycle stand soon
catches up with me with his bike. He is also walking it and I wonder briefly if
he was sent by the womon proprietor to check if I was heading to Holguin and to
snatch me or rather the bicycle back.
We begin talking as I notice he has a film festival t-shirt
on – the same film festival I’m supposed to pick up a memory stick from but
alas, it is only a t-shirt he has found, he has not been to the film festival.
He speaks less English than I speak Spanish but we communicate.
We both get on our bikes and continue to ride on this
sparsely traveled highway – thank goodness because there’s no shoulder just
gravel, dirt and short grasses along the road side. We do the usual exchange of
names (I don’t understand his, he doesn’t understand mine), where we live (he
up the road, me United States), how we learned English/Spanish (he school, me
school) before I ask him if he likes living in Cuba, if he’s afraid of the
police, if he feels threatened by the government, if he’s been warned not to
speak poorly of Cuba.
I’m trying to ask everyone these questions, as my Spanish
tutor from Cuba claims all the people have such fears – I’ve yet to find anyone
thus far, who has confessed.
He is very young, maybe 16, coffee-brown skin, black eyes,
slicked back full-bodied hair, slight but not skinny. He doesn’t understand my
questions but he tries hard to figure it out. He says everything is peaceful in
Cuba, no one fights except drunkards and druggies – neither of which he is.
I wonder if he is going to accompany me my entire bike ride,
even though I do not know where I will end up. We pass a small town maybe ½
mile off the main highway to the right. All along the highway we’ve been riding
on are small sporadic fields and even fewer single family homes. I debate
turning off to explore that village but decide to keep riding instead.
We get off our bikes once more before cresting at the top of
the peak. This village butts up against the road plus another road splits off
the main highway. I decide to swing right onto this road and my little biker
companion swings left to continue up the main highway.
Several new houses are being constructed here. I think I’ve
said – all the houses in Cuba seem to be either cement or cinderblock with
either some kind of tin or sheet metal roofs or thatched roofs. And they are
painted very striking, bright, happy colors.
Several womyn are walking in twos or threes down the road.
There are also horse and oxen drawn carts and other bikers. Chickens pluck
about and goats dot the fields. I see a pig here and there.
When I get to the end of the paved road, I can either bear
to the right or make a 90 degree turn to the left. Both roads are that deep
red/brown earth. A large garbage truck comes at me from the road on the right
so I decide to take the left path. I get off my bike and walk it from here.
I pass small garden plots and small houses. None of the
houses I’ve seen thus far in Cuba have been huge or even big. Some have a second
story but not many.
I pass this sign and off in the distance, I see either a
couple of caves or some mining in the side of the distant mountain. Everyone I pass greets me with an Hola or Buenos Dias and big, curious, shy smiles.
Soon I hear the sound of children laughing and playing and I
realize I’ve come to the school. I ask a couple of men who appear to be hanging
outside the fence if this is the school for the entire village. They tell me it
is just for 11, 12, and 13 year olds. There are other schools.
I continue a little farther but the road is getting rougher
and the land is more wooded although I can see it is a well-worn path up here.
I decide to retrace my steps.
When I get back on the paved road now leading out of town, I
pass two womyn who wave at me and ask me to stop.