Mayari to Banes – 58.4km

Juliette on a rough road to BanesWe set off early again this morning for Banes. The first 16 kms on the main road to Holguin were busy, but the road was in good condition and it passed quickly. We then turned north toward Banes and the road immediately turned bad. As we wove through the potholes and our teeth chattered along the broken road, a strong wind came up from the side making us thankful that we had decided on a short day.

Halfway to Banes, the road improved again and we started making good time. As we rode into town, a Cuban boy on an old racing bike pulled up beside us and was checking out our bikes. He wore a hat from Canada, a t-shirt from Kenya and had a yellow Lance Armstrong LiveStrong bracelet on. I asked him if he raced and he pulled up his shorts to show me his biker’s tan. His name is Fransisco. His water bottle is from a bike shop in Oakville on Robinson Street. His bike is 27 years old with a mix of Campy and Suntour parts and an evil looking crooked old seat held together with tape. He said that he rode every day and that he had got the water bottle in a race here in Banes two weeks ago.

I was so impressed with his collection of equipment that I pulled over, dug into my paniers and gave him one of my riding jerseys. He then offered to lead us to our casa in town.

We are now sitting in the shade on the back patio of our casa drinking a beer and catching up. Our laundry is done and drying and it is nearly time to head out and explore the city.

We had a late lunch at a small restaurant in town. We were impressed with the number of different things on the menu and began ordering things that we haven’t had in awhile. Each order was greeted with the response, “Sorry, we don’t have that today.” Eventually we gave up and asked what they did have today. Of course, it was friend chicken, fried bananas, rice and beans.

As we ate, a steady stream of people came in and bought bags of lollipops. They weren’t on display and were fetched from the back room. The thought of an underground black market candy smuggling operation made us laugh.

We walked around town in the afternoon and met Roberto, a 34 year old Cuban stone mason. He was riding an old Canadian bike that he said was a gift from a friend in Canada. We sat and talked about life in Canada and in Cuba. He says that as a mason, the government pays him 250 national pesos per month. That converts to about $10. It is interesting to think how you would feed, clothe and house a family for a month on what we spend for two beer on a night out.

Everyone here needs to make extra money any way they can and most of the people we meet have an angle, even though Roberto never asked for anything other than conversation. It is hard though because you are always putting yourself on guard. The relationships that you develop, however fleeting, are never those of equals whether or not I am willing to admit that, even to myself.

There is a poster hanging on the wall across from the bed in our casa. A male lion is mounted on a female lion and they are both roaring as if in pleasure. Just looking at it makes me laugh and wonder if it is meant for decoration or inspiration?

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