Mojitos are really good in Cuba, specially at the beach. Loaded with sugar, plus sugar, and more sugar.
This time we did not had high expectations from a Melia hotel given our previous experience in Cienfuegos. We took a taxi from our Casa Particular in Remedios to the hotel lobby and we felt like kings. A piña colada made our way quickly right after checking in. We were in the familiar all-inclusive mood that we know from the Riviera Maya in Mexico. Unfortunately, when your brain matches reality with previous experiences you create expectations. Once you find a similitude you try to predict the rest. What a mistake!
Melia, a rather high end hotel chain from Spain, built some hotels around Cuba some years ago. The government allowed them to invest in building their hotels with some restrictions. They can appoint their own manager but the rest of the staff -including another manager that has the same level as theirs- should be local. The result is an interesting mix of a local Cuban restaurant with some airs of a “typical” all-inclusive hotel.
The bellboy took us to our room, and on the way there we could notice that they invested in building the hotel 20 or so years earlier and then never sent another euro for maintenance. Our shower curtain fell because the rod bent and broke. I called asking for repair. After dinner we came back and their creative mind and lack of resources -a common combination in Cuba- made them hang the curtain on the retractable string meant to be used for wet clothes. The food was also what you would expect from a government operated restaurant.
Basically the salary difference across the staff is minimum. That on itself is not bad but they are not shareholders nor have any incentive to improve the service or compete among themselves. They will always have a job no mater what they do. This means they can do minimum or no effort with no rush and their compensation will be the same. We could see all of that reflected on every aspect of the hotel.
That said, the beach was really nice, and there were not many tourists around. We could drink piñas coladas all day long and relax the legs and shoulders from cycling. We received a massage from a therapist who was interested in how Spaghetti was built because he wanted to replicate it to use with his handicapped son. He said he would stop by in our Casa Particular in Remedios once we got there to see it.
The way back to Remedios
We found a much cheaper way to go back to Remedios. Taking a bus. Unfortunately shortly after we left the hotel the engine overheated and we had to stop at a service station. The radiator cap disappeared, or at least that’s what we were told.
The guy in blue said he has done many caps himself and that he just needed to sand down the wood piece to make it fit tight. I asked if that would hold the pressure built by the hot water inside. “Yep”, he answered.
One km later we stopped again. This time we did not have a mechanic and there were no signs for a new cap nor any other bus take us. The driver said we simply had to wait. The worst part was that we saw cyclists with so much tail wind that they barely had to pedal. There was not a good plan ahead of us unless we did something. So we did hitchhiking instead.
This driver saw the opportunity and took us there for $5 each. The new diesel engine did not have any mounts to absorb vibrations. It was mounted directly on the chassis of the 1954 Plymouth, and we could feel all vibrations and noise from inside the cabin. We nevertheless made it safe to our Casa Particular. As promised the massage therapist came with his son, took measurements and pictures of Spaghetti. He said he would built a tandem bike on his own. We did not keep his contact details to follow up on him but he seemed very sure about it.
We were happy to be at a nice place again staying at Villa Colonial Frank and Arelys. Spaghetti was still there waiting for us and ready to ride to Sancti Spiritus.