Bayamo to Manzanillo – 79.6 km

Sure enough, the chimes and the music went off every hour on the hour. Tonight I will remember that I brought earplugs.

The sun coming up over the square (Plaza de la Revolution) is beautiful. People sit in the morning light talking, people push bikes along the street and there are no cars. We assembled our bikes on the balcony overlooking the scene below, eager to get out and begin exploring.

Just after ten, we rode out of town through the throngs of bicycles, motorbikes and trucks. After a couple of kilometres through the narrow city streets, we turned right and headed out of town.

We took a left where we should have taken a right and the Sierra Miedra mountains to the south gradually moved to our right side. It didn’t seem right, so we asked directions. We received an emphatic Si, Si, so we carried on. We asked again and once again, Si, Si, so we went on. Eventually we came to a road sign that said Santiago de Cuba was ahead. We were definitely wrong, so we turned around. Today’s lesson is to not trust the map, ask directions often, but to not always trust the response. We compared the two maps that we had and they showed totally different roads on them and the highway we went wrong on wasn’t on either!

We rode to Yamo through sugar cane fields and banana plantations. Small huts lined the road. Near Barranca, we stopped by the side of the road to rest and an old man stopped his ancient bike to talk with us. He asked us where we were from, where we were going and he was amazed that we were riding so far. he pulled two pieces of bread from a box on the back of his bike and gave them to us. A bit of energy for the trip ahead.

In Yamo, we bought water at a gas station and five small pizzas from a street vendor for 10¢ each. The pizzas are small like pita bread, spread thinly with tomato sauce and local cheese, then baked in wood fired ovens by the side of the road. They are served on newspaper folded in half and are surprisingly tasty.

The ride from Yama was fairly boring, across an open plain with a stiff headwind. The heat was getting to Juliette and she was slowing down a bit with 20km to go. We soon saw the Manzinillo city limit sign, but it was a false hope as there were still 10km to go. After a long climb, we stopped at a gas station for a couple of colas before rolling down the hill to the hotel.

The Hotel Guacanayabo mainly caters to Cubans. I think we are the only foreigners here. It is clean and colourful and our room looks out over the pool and the ocean. After a swim, we walked down the hill, through town, then along the promenade. As the sun set, fishermen repaired their boats and Cubans sat chatting, drinking and enjoying the remainder of the day.

We eventually found our way to a large fish restaurant overlooking the water. I don’t think they see many tourists here. Our Spanish is poor and no-one would speak slowly, so it was work ordering. The beer was easy, but we weren’t sure what would come for dinner nor how much anything would cost. There are no menus and the table cloths are dirty and stained. It is nothing that two beer wouldn’t sort out.

They obviously thought we looked hungry because they brought out two meals for each of us. We had fried fish with Napoli sauce, rice, fried bananas and cucumber. Everyone told us how bad the food in Cuba was, but so far it has been good and filling.

The waitress came back and told us the meal was 65 pesos. “Here we go,” I thought. I asked her how much in convertible pesos.  She asked me if I had any national pesos, but we didn’t, so I did a quick calculation and gave her $5.  She said the beer was extra, so I gave her 3 more pesos. Then it got confusing. She wouldn’t accept the 3 peso bill. I thought she wanted more, but it turned out she wanted less, much less. I gave her a one peso note instead. She shrugged, took it and a minute later returned with two more cervaizas and a few coins for change.

In the end, we paid less than 6 pesos or about 7 Canadian for four meals and four beer. Sated, we left and walked back through town and up the hill to our hotel where we began our new nightly ritual of filtering water to fill all of our water bottles. We were in bed before 8pm to catch up on our sleep.

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