Baracoa to Mayari – 179.5km

MoaJuliette and I are sitting on a beautiful porch in a beautiful Casa in Mayari. The Cristal beer are cold and we can’t believe we are so lucky, or that we are here.

We started out early from Baracoa because we were worried that we might have problems getting a room at the one hotel in Moa. The road quickly deteriorated as we rode out of town until it became the worst we have ridden yet. In places, it was so bad that it wouldn’t even be called a dirt road in Canada.

We sweated and dodged potholes on the climbs, then jarred our bones on the descents. The ride was beautiful though, passing through rural farms, groves of palms, secluded beaches and amazing caves in cliffs beside the road.

Tourists in busses and rental cars returning to the resorts in the north waved and took our pictures as we passed. The older group we saw riding yesterday passed us in a van stuffed with bikes and luggage. Slowly, the terrain began to change as we got closer to Moa. I don’t know if it is the hard red clay soil or the environmental damage from the smelters in Moa, but the forest turned to scrub and the palm trees were replaced with small pine or fir trees.

We then passed the nickle smelters spewing noxious clouds of smoke into the air. We passed the strip mines extending out for miles. The air smelled of sulphur and ammonia. Next came the rows of low apartments, run down and poor. Moa didn’t leave a good first impression.

We turned off the main road and headed into town to the Hotel Miriflores. The parking lot was full of white Mitsubishi pickup trucks and the hotel was full of the Canadians that work at the smelter. The entire hotel had been booked by the company and there were no rooms for travellers. It was suggested that we ask for a room in the dormitories of the university across the road, but we didn’t have high hopes for that. We decided to buy some water and move on.

We had already done 76km and it was only another 69km to the Campismo Rio Cabonico, that is, if it was still open and not full.

Luckily, the road from Moa improved dramatically and we had a decent tailwind for a change. We climbed each of the endless hills in turn, then cooled off in the wind rushing down the other sides. We knew what needed to be done, so we dug deep, put our heads down and did it.

We arrived at the river where the campismo was supposed to be, but the dollar store at the end of the road leading into it was no longer there, nor were there any signs. We asked a man and he pointed to the first of the trails on the south side of the road east of the river. This road split in two, so we asked again and headed left. We went through a small town and down a rocky hill and arrived at the gate of the campismo.

We asked for a room, but the guard said that the entire camp had been booked by an Italian tour group. We were shattered. We asked the guard if he had any suggestions. He said that there may be a hotel in the town of Nicaro, another 10km down the road then 5km from the main road.

We climbed back up the hill and out to the road and began to pedal as we took stock of our situation and the quickly setting sun. We were tired and didn’t want to sleep in a field tonight.

As we passed the turn-off to Nicaro, we could see the heavy industy in the town belching smoke into the air, so we rode on. Somehow, we managed to keep moving, racing the setting sun and our waning reserves. Over 30km later, we finally arrived at Mayari. There is apparently a bad motel here and a few casas.

It was getting dark and we had trouble seeing, so we followed the one sign we saw for the hotel. We kept asking people, “¿Dónde está la hotel?” and they kept pointing us onward. We kept riding and asking, but eventually I became suspicious, so I stopped and asked a man how far it was to the hotel. He told me 25kms!!! I looked at my map and realized that everyone was pointing us to the tourist hotel Pinares de Mayori which is in the national park far to the south of the town.

I asked where the hotel in Mayari was. He told us that there wasn’t one and another man beside him confirmed it. We asked if they knew of a casa, but they didn’t. Just then, a young girl came across the street. She said that she knew of a nice casa and tried to draw us a map. I went through the directions with her attempting to confirm them, but I obviously wasn’t doing very well because she ran back across the street, grabbed her bike and started leading us through the dark streets. We wound through dark, narrow alleys, barely able to see each other, let alone look for the blue inverted anchor signs that indicate casas.

We stopped at the end of a street and Anna, our new guide rang the buzzer on the casa. She told them that she found us in front of her house and they all laughed. She went to leave, but I asked her to stay a moment so that we could thank her. I tried to give her a five for her kindness. She blushed and wouldn’t accept it, but I insisted. We didn’t know where we would end up tonight and Anna had stepped in and did a very kind thing right when we needed it most.

After showering and unpacking, we ate a wonderful and welcome meal under a palm covered patio, then headed for bed. We are both exhausted and won’t need any rocking tonight.

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