I need to go back to Cuba soon. It’s been over three months since I got back from my trip and every time I look at my pictures I get this feeling in the pit of my stomach, which reminds me of how much I love it and miss it!
I believe I’ve been pretty clear about my general dislike of large, all-inclusive resorts. There’s a fine balance for me, between luxury and comfort and having as close to a genuine experience of a place as possible. Sometimes it’s difficult to get to that exact sweet spot. Even though I’m not a fan of resorts, I definitely don’t like roughing it too much either…
We had three nights in Guardalavaca. We weren’t able to book all three nights in the nicer of the resorts, Brisas (4 stars), so we settled for the first night at Club Amigo (3 stars).
On the first day we biked from Gibara (and took the ferry) to Guardalavaca, then checked into Club Amigo. On the second day we moved in the middle of the day (a little ride there and back between the two resorts, during which I was asked – twice – if I wanted to sell my bike) and later I took a walk to town. But otherwise, it was a lazy day, with much eating and drinking and more eating and drinking. I don’t know how some people survive five nights (yes! I heard people checking in for five nights!) at a place like this and not go stir crazy. By the second day, I was ready to hit the road again!
Honestly, biking Cuba was a physical challenge for me. I don’t think I was sufficiently prepared for the climate, the incessant sun, and (on some days) the hills. So you’d think I’d be happy to just chill on the beach for two days…. But no… On the second day in Guardalavaca Stuart took off somewhere and Nedene and Jo were planning a bike ride to Banes, a town through the mountains and to the south of the beach resorts. I wanted to go and didn’t want to go. So finally I decided I’d start with them, but then hang back and turn around as soon as I felt like I’ve had enough. To get to Banes and to get back would be well over 70 kilometers and there would be lots of hills. So I didn’t want to push it if I didn’t have to.
At the very beginning of the ride there was one large hill and then another that was a real kicker. This time, however, I was riding without my panniers and the ride felt a whole lot lighter for me. I was enjoying my bicycle a lot more that day! Also, knowing I could turn around at any point, I didn’t feel the pressure and so I was just going slow and savoring the scenery.
The route between Guardalavaca and Banes is very scenic. It’s a beautiful ride, which begins in the mountains, but soon descends into a valley. I considered turning around at some point, but then saw the valley below and a promise of a flat ride and so I continued on.
I did make it to Banes!
It’s an average sized town (around 80,000 inhabitants), with no real tourist infrastructure that I could detect. I thought I’d see Nedene and Jo at some point, but although I did a loop around town, I didn’t find them. So I found a little restaurant instead and had some shrimp and ice cold water for lunch. And a refresco. The food was delicious and I was glad to be far away from the all-inclusive comforts of the four star resort. I was very happy I made that ride! I was happy to be in real Cuba, which I’d soon have to leave and happy to pay a local family for the delicious food they prepared and happy to hear only Spanish spoken around me.
I like to chill, but I think I chill better when I’m away from other tourists. 🙂
The ride back that afternoon wasn’t super easy. It was hot that day and yes, the HILLS! But what a pleasant day. Cuba, I miss you so…
Today’s Ride: 44.0 miles, 2,744 ft of elevation, moving time: 5:04:36, elapsed time: 6:16:28, average speed: 8.7 mi/hr
YTD Biking Miles: 535.6