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Cycling West from Habana-trip report

Vancouver BC
posts: 5
reviews: 2
Cycling West from Habana-trip report

A bit delayed,so I am gonna try to blend 2 trip reports into 1 here.

First was Oct-Nov 28 days,second was Feb 3-25-22 days.

Oct 15th or so flew out of Vancouver at 2300 to Varadero via Toronto arriving VRA at 1330.

Turned into a 28 day trip,980km Matanzas to Cabo San Antonio,returning to Havana by cab,then Matanzas by Viazul a few days later..

Cabbed to Casa in Matanzas(2 cabs @ $20CUC each), as we had tons of bags, 3 bike boxes and only 3 legs between us. My riding partner this time was a former competitive 1 legged skiier,who had travelled solo with her bike in Cuba for a few months back in 2010.

This was my 3rd and 4th cycle trip in Cuba,3-4 weeks every Oct/November since 2010. First time riding west of Havana.

We arrived at our Casa and proceeded to unpack the spoils to be divied up along the way,while downing a couple cold Bucaneros.By the time we were semi-organised(arriving Casa after 3pm),it was time for a delicious fish dinner on the Terraza of Villa Sonada. Mandy does a great meal,with beautiful setting on roof top garden.

As an aside,he just bought the building next door and is in process of adding 4 more rooms. Complete demo and rebuild and should be finished by October,but I digress.

Box #3 was an intended gift for the deserving folk at Havana BiciPolo. Conner and Otto and crew.

1 teen sized 26" bike,14 spare gomas,Full team first aid kit and piles of other medical supplies, bike parts and other various items..Oh yeah,also a metal,square tube,4 bike rack,hidden hitch type. I knew they would have a better handle on who needed what at the street level,so let them dispense the balance of the loot.. I had great sponsor support from OCB and Pedal,as well as St. John Ambulance in Vancouver.Also from Creekside Dental,in Whistler,whose supplier sent us off with a couple hundred each of floss,kids toothbrushes,and sample toothpaste.

Next day spent several hours doing a brake job and total derailler rebuild for a friend in Matanzas,then assembled our bikes,whittling the gifts down to a packable amount. We got a late start,missed our turn to the Campismo at Playa Jibacoa in the dark,and stayed at a Casa across the highway from Playa Jibacoa. Nice enough,and in the right place at right time.

Rode inland from Santa Cruz del Norte the next day ,passing Hershey stationnear Camillo Cienfuegos and on to Guanabo for the night. Don't miss Picollo Pizza if you are there. Highly recommend going inland off the Via Blanca for quiet interesting riding.

Rode into Havana and a visit with friends for a couple days,research some casas and a night on the Malecon.

Next day was Sunday so we went down to #2 y 23 for bicipolo. What a blast that was. Tried La Pachanga in October as they had just opened recently. .Found it was better then than when I returned in February.

***A quick note to cyclists riding into Havana. The bici bus does NOT run on Sundays,and la launcha is challenging with fully loaded panniers.Expect another 10-15km to circle around bottom of Harbour to train station and Malecon.

Playa Baracoa was the next stop. Still 3rd week October,so most Casas closed ,but still lots. When we were back in February there seemed to be hundreds.Some are excellent.

Next day we rolled through Mariel for Cadeca and Panaderia top ups,then the plan was to ride to Bahia Honda. This was the week of Sandy rolling through Oriente and the rain and wind hit us about 10km before Cabanas. We decided to hold up in Casa there,and were fed like kings. Made a point of bringing the group through in February for lunch the grub was so good. Made a good stop enroute to Las Terrazas. Anyhow,we waited out the tormenta in Cabanas for 2 nights,then re-routed Sth to Hotel Moka in Las Terrazas and a swim in Banos de San Juan. In February the group(6 guys) all stayed in the bird houses(Cabanas rustico). Basically a small cabana on stilts. 2 mattresses,1 fan and an ac plug. Windows both ends and a trap door in the floor with ladder and picnic table underneath.Way fun,nice breeze and no noticable bugs October or February, exept for waters edge at dusk.

A tough ride(30km) to Soroa. Only 3 main hills,but challenging. 4 km downhill into Soroa was amazing though. In October stayed in Casa Don Agapito, right across street from Cascada and 100mtr from Orchideario. Nice lady finishing second private room in October. Nice garden,atmosphere and food.We poached a swim at the Villa Soroa pool,hiked the 45 min up to the 360* view from Mirador,and swam again at the Cascada Arcoiris. Could have used another day there easily. Her second room was open and she was booked out on my return in February,but I dropped off some photos we had taken there,since the guys chose to stay in the Cabanas at Villa Soroa. Nice pool,decent buffet breakfast,but crooked bartenders,on both visits.

We headed Nth again stopping in to visit at Bahia Honda and Playa Mulata and on to Palma Rubia on the October trip. Spent 2 nights at Mario and Antonia's Casa and a day trip to Cayo Levisa.Again great food,but ridiculously overcharged for laundry. Nice beach,almost 50 cabanas and 20 more under construction in Oct. The wind and waves were too much for the boat(crew ?) so no diving or snorkling. Had a great massage in Gazebo on beach instead. I factor that as a health cost of cycling everywhere. What I save in bus fare and taxis I spend in food and massage !

From here we rode to Vinales,spending 2 nights in nice Casa ,swimming in both hotel pools and admiring the views,as well as catching the music at Patio Decimista before finishing the night at Casa de Cultura show.

We left Vinales and spent a few hours exploring Pinar city. Went to the Guayabita liqueur factory. An eyeopener as far as bottle sterilization goes ! I guess there is enough alchohol in the product to be OK ? Checked out 3 funky acid inspired murals,found a famous old bakery and loaded up at MIA Mercado with meat and cheese for the next couple days road picnics. We were packing a small cooler bag and got ice from Casa every morning for our mid morning sustenance. Leaving Pinar in early aftnoon,we arrived at our destination,the fabulous Finca Guabina. About 15 km from downtown Pinar,but worlds away. A farm kept to maintain the pure bloodlines of the Cuban Pinto and Appaloosa horse gene pool. A total sanctuary so nice and food so good we stayed a second night. Swam in the lake a few times,rode around exploring the ranch,and relaxed on the wrap around upper deck terraza off the french doors to our room. 4 rooms in main house and we were the only guests in the building. There is a Cabana 100mtrs away with 2 double rooms and a Queen suite.Book early,and do not pass up the chance to visit.

From Guabina we chose the inland mountain route through Guanita,Sumidero,Cabeza ,Los Portales and through Guane on the way to Laguna Grande. Over 100km on some of the worst road yet(last 25km after Guane really bad). It was nice to get to the lake and have a beer at the bar on stilts over the dyke. Surprisingly,the food was excellent at Laguna Grande,and again,we were the only guests there. A half dozen local 20somethings drinking and dancing to music on their cell phone at the Lakeside Ranchon/bar but they left early in their horse and cart.

Left early next morning for Maria la Gorda,but had to stop in Sandino for my amiga to get an intervention at the polyclinic. Turns out while we were hiking around Guabina,she placed her hand in the nest of some angry ants while climbing through a barbed wire fence. 40 bites below upper arm and she blew up like a balloon ! Gave me time to check out the Casas in town. Thought there was only 2, Villa Edilla being the good one,but in Feb on further investigation it turns out there is a 3rd further down the same road. There are 2 more in final stages of preparation,as aside from the 2 resorts in Guanahacabibes,there is not much for accomodation at that end of island. There was talk of a group of Spanish investors about to put in a couple hotels and a golf course nearby.

So away we go after a couple hours of shots and Cuban TLC by (in her words) a "Hottie " young Dr.. We get her prescription for about $0,35cuc,and no charge at the clinic. We get as far as Manuel Lazo,check out a Casas for future reference and after a sandwich and some Mango juice decide to chill there for the night. Probably only tourists since last April,and nice quiet little town.

Next morning off to MLG,stopping at Interpretive centre to look at great relief maps,chat with the naturalist/hosts and get our photos in front of the milage signs for MLG and Faro Roncali. There is no longer rooms available at El Radar,but a couple offers of Casas came our way. Looked at 1 right on beach. Basic,but fantastic location.

We stopped for a swim along the way,and arrived at MLG long before our room was avail,so swam some more,ate and drank until it was.Chose the Arbols,wood cabins on boardwalk back from the beach behind the bar/office. Great rooms and a shower with pressure. What a treat. Lots of divers,and great amounts of fish 5 mtres from shore. Lots of easy snorkling close in.

Ended up stretching to 3 nights here,and made the mistake of eating at the $12.00cuc buffet the first night. Don't do it !

Next day I made arrangements with a family in La Bajada and we ate our next 2 dinners there. Fantastic fish and lobster feasts with all the usual trimmings for a better price.We took 5 other guests with us the first night,and since they left,we took 6 different ones for the second nights feast. Was well worth the 28km round trip for dinner. I would phone in late morning and they would go fishing/free diving,depending on how many people I was bringing. Talking fresh here .

Cycled the 80km to Cabo San Antonio,stopping to swim in a ceynote,seeing a prehistoric looking lizard and heaps of feral pigs along the way. Had 2 great nights there in an even nicer cabin. Very quiet place,great swimming but no snorkling near beach. Good food in resto fortunately,as there were no other options .

Ok this got way longer than I had planned. As usual more details avail if someone needs specifics for Casas,milages etc.

Ciao

10 replies to this topic
Berlin, Berlin...
posts: 1
1. Re: Cycling West from Habana-trip report

Interesting report. I biked in 2009. Will go back in Jan 2014. Last time was great, but Havana can be a little intense with all the hustlers.

Edited: 9:02 am, September 10, 2013
Freiburg im...
posts: 8
reviews: 1
2. Re: Cycling West from Habana-trip report

Hello and lovely report, though I am not at all having a bike along, but a 9year old child and husband(-: I found your report while googling FINCA GUABINA. We visit Cuba for the first time, 14days in June, first 3days in Havana, then I have 2 nights until taking my family to Varadero for a ALL-inclusive Beach-vacation(-: I will book an organized "private"tour out of Havana, eather 1 night in Vinales (where??? can´t go to a casa with a guide apparently, so where to stay, hmmm??? La Ermita? Los Jazmines? They all seam to be visited by big tourbusses...Rancho San Vincente??Or 1 night in Vinales, one night in Hotel Moka/Las Terrazas?? Or 1 or 2 nights in Finca Guabina? could you help me choose(-; I am looking for a natural place, no pool required since we have one before and after, small place, since we have the "unreal" Cuba afterwards(-; Food can be basic, but needs to be "safe" hygienic wise, for a 9year old(-; Thanks a lot, really appreciating your input to a non-cyclist tourist(-; Hello from Germany, Monika

Calgary, Canada
posts: 18,679
reviews: 2
3. Re: Cycling West from Habana-trip report

Great report Ken, you took me waaaay back to some areas I haven't been to in years.

MausebaerMonika, there are hundreds and hundreds of casas in the small town of Vinales, absolutely no issues whatsoever with accommodation for your guide. If you want to save a pile of money he/she can stay in one of the many CUP casas available.

Cheers,

Terry

Melbourne, Australia
posts: 4,693
reviews: 3
4. Re: Cycling West from Habana-trip report

Enjoyed this immensely and vicariously (the closest you're getting me to do such a long bike ride)!

MLG (and Varadero) are the 2 remaining pockets of Cuba that we have yet to get to so good to get the extra details on the former.

Thanks Ken.

" can´t go to a casa with a guide apparently"

Makes no sense.

Apopka, Florida
posts: 732
reviews: 20
5. Re: Cycling West from Habana-trip report

Ken: very enjoyable read. Great addition to what you had already told me.

Thanks

Montreal, Canada
posts: 3,147
reviews: 69
6. Re: Cycling West from Habana-trip report

Heeeeeyy, the Origional Post is over a year old, no?? Lol!

fidel, you have never been to Varadero? A hairdryer haven, as you can imagine!

Good report though. Too bad we all missed it first time around!

Calgary, Canada
posts: 18,679
reviews: 2
7. Re: Cycling West from Habana-trip report

Haha... good eyes, CW. We're obviously all going blind except you...

Cheers,

Terry

Melbourne, Australia
posts: 4,693
reviews: 3
8. Re: Cycling West from Habana-trip report

Well my excuse is that I was in Cuba at the time of the original report. And I'm glad it has been resurrected by Mausebaer.

CW one day we can share a research trip to Varadero!

Montreal, Canada
posts: 3,147
reviews: 69
9. Re: Cycling West from Habana-trip report

fidel, I don't go on "research" in Cuba without CK Gordon. Hope 3 is not a crowd for you.....and don't be surprised if something (someone) smells like salmon. Si!!!!!

A lot of places in the "original" (spelt it correctly this time) report that I am not familiar with. A trip to the west for me is due.

Whistler, Canada
posts: 373
reviews: 6
10. Re: Cycling West from Habana-trip report

If you can't ride I guess you gotta write about it! Ken is a wealth of information and has helped us with our trips and we've helped him drink his Havana Club! One of Ken's days is two of our days!

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