We took a few hours to source cartons and pack Spaghetti into three home made boxes ready to take the Taxi Colectivo to Cienfuegos and continue our trip on the eastern side of La Habana. We originally had a “regular” taxi (not certified) booked but the day before, the government announced that all taxis effective immediately needed to be certified to avoid illegal cars working as taxis, this change created a bit of a chaos on the transportation system all over and Colectivos (certified taxis) were overbooked. Some say it was announced months in advance without a specific date to be effective, others that it was something they never heard about. Promptly at 8am our driver arrived, stared at our belongings, and broke into a laugh, “there is no way I can fit all your stuff here… see you guys.”
We looked at each other, and went to the bus office finding that the next place available to Cienfuegos would be in 3 days with no guarantees of taking our belongings with us. We went back to the casa particular, assembled Spaghetti and left towards San Diego de los Baños changing our route.
Or that’s what we thought. Half way through we stopped for some papaya rest at a house in a small town. It wasn’t actually a town, it was an intersection with a few houses together. They cut it and offered to sit in front of their house. We sat on their chairs enjoying the shade and their papaya, they recommended that we stayed at Los Palacios for the night because they thought it was a really nice place. The kids seemed to enjoy seeing and hearing foreigners and we really liked seeing them happy surrounded by pigs, horses, chickens, dogs, and cats.
We gave them some alegrias (Mexican amaranth candies, now trendy and considered Superfood) and as we went back into the almost empty highway intersection I heard “Pablo!!!”. Someone jumped out of a taxi towards us. It was Jose, our host in La Havana who was traveling with the family, we hugged, assured that the trip was going well and he jumped back into his taxi.
Even if Los Palacios was further away than San Diego de los Baños -our original destination- we thought the recommendation might be a good idea. We did not talk to 4 more people like we normally do and Lonely Planet insists, we did not ask the living encyclopedia Jose, and we did not search for Los Palacios on any of our books.
To make it faster we decided to take the highway, windy, and rather cold and became a bit boring. We both were tired but made it safely to Los Palacios right before sunset, great timing. Arriving to Cuba is traveling in time, but this place was yet another dimension. Everyone starred at us, the place did not come up in the Lonely Planet, our offline version of Google maps didn’t show any place where to stay and we could not find any. Everyone gave different directions on where to stay overnight.
We finally talked to someone who actually ran a place but it had the red anchor instead of the blue anchor sign. Red means locals only. This place was not only not meant for tourism but any local who hosted a tourist would have been in great trouble. We had over 70km of cycling on our backs starting at 1pm because we were going to take a taxi and instead we assembled Spaghetti, most of the road was against the wind, and now we were hungry, it was dark, and had no place where to stay.
We asked a few taxis to take us to the nearby town but they all shrugged their shoulders, shaking their heads, and exhaling a “not at this time, thank you”. We thought about leaving Spaghetti at someone’s house over night, take the bus to another town and come back the next day. But the bus was also not meant for tourists. We were trapped into our own mistake.
Being part of a fault in the system attracted some locals around, Spaghetti in itself was weird, but now we, and our situation was also weird. One of them came closer than the rest of the locals and talked to us. The kind you don’t want to talk to, a bit drunk, dirty, and really hard to understand. Freddy. He said he will help us and asked what we needed. We said a truck who can carry us and Spaghetti to San Diego de Los Baños. He signaled “hold my beer”. On any other country we would feel fear from other people in this situation, but being in one of the safest places on earth we had new emotions. Uncertainty, stupidity, fear of not having control?
Minutes later, happy to not having the drunk guy around and thinking what to do next, we kept brainstorming and talking to people who would like to hide spaghetti and us in their yard, but nothing sounded convincing. Then, Freddy came back. “Ok, its going to cost you 25CUC, its all sorted out” he said. He took us to a house where the driver was and the 50’s State truck was waiting for us. He helped us carrying all panniers and Spaghetti into the back of the truck and we sat at the cabin. He completely saved us. I gave him 2CUC, shook hands and thanked him.
We made it there and as we stopped into the first casa particular to ask for information a familiar drunken voice says, “they have no place here, let’s ask for the next one.” It was Freddy, he actually jumped into the back of the truck in Los Palacios and rode with us all the way there. He completely made sure we found somewhere to stay, we paid the driver once we found our place and couldn’t believe how much we underestimated Freddy’s hospitality skills.
We joined a Canadian family cycling Cuba with her 5 year old daughter having dinner with a German guy and never loved so much hearing English accents and broken Spanish.
This is the Strava ride, we just forgot to stop it when we arrived to Los Palacios so it kept recording the leg we did on a truck.