Rest Day in Baracoa – 21.8km

Mural in BaracoaI can’t believe my luck. We got up early this morning and rode 11km out of town, back to the spot where we stopped yesterday. As we rode, we passed hundreds of Cubans walking and riding along the road. The sight of all these people left us with little hope. Finally we came to the spot where we had stopped, and lying in the short grass by the side of the road was my passport wallet!

Everything was there, my passport, the money, the cards, everything. Either nobody saw it, or the Cubans here are really honest. Elated, we coasted back into Baracoa.

I think that a rest day is well in order. We walked to El Castillo, the beautiful yellow hotel on the hill overlooking the city. Just that short climb made our legs burn. We sat by the bar admiring the view, drinking coffee and catching up on our journals.

On one side, we can see the ocean crashing into the shore in huge swells. On the other is the flat topped mountain, El Yunque, which locals claim is the mountain that was first sighted by Christopher Columbus when he first landed in Cuba.

Baracoa is the first place in Cuba (that isn’t a resort) where we have run into tourists. The main square is heaving with Germans and Canadians on bus tours. We passed a group of retiries riding unladen bikes led by a guide. It is the oldest city in Cuba, and it is very run down. It is pleasant, and we are enjoying our day, but I don’t think I would want to spend too long here.

We walked around town for the rest of the morning and had a light lunch just off the main square. In the afternoon, we worked on the bikes, checked our gear and pumped water for tomorrow. Once the work was done, we retired back to El Castillo for mojitos and cuba libres. Wobbly with rum, we found our way back to the waterfront and a small open air bar where we had another beer in the sun.

I waved at a man that I had met earlier in the day. He is the cousin of our Casa’s neighbors and had been looking at my bike while I was cleaning earlier. He came over to talk with us and practice his English. We tried to find out more about Cuban life and their desires, but he was too careful about everything he said.

He wanted to emigrate to the United States. We told him about how the rest of the world hates the U.S. He agreed, but he still wants to go for the opportunities. Juliette asked him about Communism and he went quiet. Eventually he said that he would rather not speak about it. She then asked if he had an email address or if he could corespond with people abroad. He told us that he could, but that everything was read, so he didn’t like to take the chance. I guess we know a little bit more about what things are like here.

Later, we headed up to the old colonial hotel in the center of town for another beer. We sat in old rocking chairs on the porch watching the world go by. Our friend walked by (coincidence?) and we invited him in for a drink. He declined saying that Cubans were not allowed on the patio. I felt like I was sitting at the front of the bus, or drinking from the white only fountain. We finished our beers and left.

Back at the casa, Maria made us the best meal we have had yet in Cuba. Soup, fish, rice and vegetables. She is an amazing cook and a gracious host.

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