That night in La Mula we met a group of neurotic Czechs and Manuel, their guide. The Czechs were young and fit and shouldn’t have been having nervous breakdowns over every little inconvenience, but apparently they were. Manuel, who speaks very good English, sat with us drinking beer, telling us horror stories about the neurotic Czechs and trying to convince me that Henry Reeve was the greatest American that ever lived. I told him he should read Max Brooks’s World War Z (for its references to Cuba), but skip the movie. (Which reminds me that I should send him a copy, as promised!)
So, let’s talk a little about the Czechs. I’m Polish, so Czechs, being so close to my heritage (I grew up 20 min from the Czech border) are like my first cousins. That’s one reason I was so disturbed by Manuel’s insistence that not only this particular group was difficult, but ALL Czechs were a pain in the ass and no one wanted to work with them.
(I didn’t say: What about the Poles? because I didn’t want to know!!)
Apparently, he had a hard time finding accommodations for them, because whenever he tried to book rooms he’d be asked where the group was from. Upon hearing Czech Republic, the owner would refuse to take them in.
“What?! Why not?” I asked, because no matter where I am, I get easily disturbed with outright discrimination.
“They complain too much. They don’t like the bed. They don’t like the breakfast. They don’t like the shower. They complain, complain, complain.”
“Surely, not all Czechs.”
“Yes, all Czechs.”
Now, if Czechs are such a nation of complainers, you’d think I’d have heard about it by now. But that’s not their worldwide reputation, is it? (To be fair, we were at one point interrupted by one of the Czechs who came over to complain about something.) See! This is why I think it’s imperative to be on your best behavior when you travel! Your behavior soon paints your entire country of origin a certain way and good luck to all the Czechs who come after this group.
Manuel was great though. He patiently listened to their grievances and wiped away the tears that were not freely flowing (this is true. The Czechs were crying). We exchanged information and I’ll share it with you all, because he gave me the go-ahead. I gave him my blog’s website address, so hopefully he’ll get to a functional internet connection and maybe he’ll stop by and say hi.
Joan Manuel Lopez Freas
house phone: 613388
Manuel organizes all kinds of trips for foreigners on the eastern part of the island. He’s located in Santiago de Cuba. He bikes and hikes and specializes in active tours, but will customize to suit your needs. He has connections in Havana as well, so contact him for references. If you’d like to visit Cuba, but are overwhelmed with the logistics, he’s your man! (If you’re Czech, do tell him I sent you and then promise you won’t complain about anything!)
As for the journey from La Mula to Chivirico… The bike ride wasn’t super easy, because we were still in the mountains and there were plenty of hills.
The road varied between dirt,
to pretty fantastic and smooth
to downright scary!
But it was a beautiful ride, nonetheless.
The area between La Mula and Chivirico is a lot more populated than the area between La Mula and Pilon. We passed through many well connected villages and the roads were more often paved than not.
Today’s Ride: 25.6 miles. 2,154 ft of elevation, moving time: 3:14:43, elapsed time: 3:46:12, average speed: 7.9 mi/h
YTD Biking Miles: 399.1