Quote of the day is a message I received from our youngest son Tom, a few days prior to us setting out to Cuba - ‘A holiday + a disaster = an adventure.’
It was all going so incredibly well, but travelling 5000 miles wrapped in a full torso plaster cast is not to be recommended.
Simon’s barking-like fart in bed this morning was so loud, it made me jump and that really, really hurts at present.
Roll the clock back a week, and we were loving our cycling adventure. As Simon said to me, “You’re smashing it!”
I felt exhilarated and properly alive again. I had my life back.
Our third day on the road had us venturing out from the relatively innocuous coastal roads in the southern Cuban town of Trinidad. Up, up, and up yet further towards the second highest mountain range Cuba offers, the Sierra del Escambray. Topped with tropical forests, the mountain road climbs seemingly endlessly.
We stopped at a viewpoint half way up only to be confronted with a man allowing an enormous tarantula to crawl over him. I scuttled off at great speed.
After a challenging twenty kilometre ride up the small Cuban mountain, our electric bike batteries expired just as we reached our goal at the top in Topes de Collantes. One of my prime concerns on this section of the tour in running out of power, being realised. The bikes could still move but they were incredibly heavy to push up hills where gravity tries its best to defy you.
This rain forested area itself is stunning but the same cannot be said for the soulless State-run concrete sanatorium/hotel building that towers over this area of outstanding natural beauty in the extraordinary Communist-built settlement. Why, oh why, would you build such a monolithic monster in such a special place?
Having no battery power left was inconvenient and hard work, but not insurmountable. My back was holding out well too which was my overriding and paramount concern about our whole adventure.
We had set out for Topes with a view to explore the waterfalls and experience life in the tropical rain forest. Watching the rain tip down as we gloomily supped beer in an equally unprepossessing State-run bar, our spirits were lower than of late. The barman had tried to find us a local casa particulare (essentially a B&B) for the night, to no avail. I wasn’t going to check into that abhorrent looking concrete monstrosity for anything.
As the tropical afternoon rain teemed down, we retraced our steps a couple of kilometres back towards Trinidad, puffing as we arduously pushed the heavy bikes up steep hills and laughing as we freewheeled down.
A second stop. This time at an extraordinary ‘cafe’. OK, for cafe read trail-side hut, where they grew, roasted and served spine chillingly strong coffee. Simon was a very happy chap indeed.
A different local amigo made several telephone calls, eventually procuring us a room at Eduardo’s, some two kilometres further away. Up yet more and steeper hills, pushing loaded bikes with all our strength. Arriving in the clearing at the end of a steep, boulder-strewn track was a huge relief. After the hustle and bustle of Havana and Trinidad, it finally felt like we had found the peaceful paradise we so craved.
Eduardo’s wooden shack was directly on the hiking trail down to the bottom of the 65 metre high, spectacular cascades of Vegas Grande; our ‘must see’ in the region. Totally inaccessible by any vehicle other than a small 4x4. The falls themselves are only accessible by foot down the craggy mountainside. Horses are the main mode of transport in this isolated and steamy location.
Jungle cawing noises, dripping trees, birds call, butterflies, hummingbirds, 100% humidity, lush green forest all around; we were awestruck by the simple beauty of this place. Our ‘no frills’ accommodation’s bed had a mattress with an East/West curve that not only would mean we both rolled together during the night, but also a North/South one too. Like sleeping in a bowl.
Anyway…where was I? Oh yes…
Two nights at the incredible Eduardo‘s who runs the casa with his brother Omar, then off we set once again, back along the obstacle course of the track that connects him to the outside world. On then, back to Topes heading for Jibacoa and beyond.
Easier this time as we have recharged to full power on the bike batteries, although Simon says several times that there is too much resistance on his bike even when he is freewheeling. Something isn’t right.
Maybe he is overloaded? We unload one of the panniers onto my bike to give that a go to see if it improves, but it doesn’t.
As we climb the steepest hill, I find I am running out of impetus and am coming to a grinding halt. The road is a bit like Eduardo’s mattress, sloping as it does not only North/South, but East/West too. I momentarily halt but in doing so, the weight of my one-panniered bike on the camber takes me and the bike too, smashing down onto the tarmac.
I know it’s bad when I feel the crunch.