I hesitated a lot before making this trip. I had been wanting to visit the west of the island of Cuba for several years after listening to a presentation by a travel agent who organized trips to Viñales. Since the pandemic, the situation in Cuba has deteriorated and it is extremely difficult to get up to date information. Those who know me know how much I like to eat and the news of food shortages in all-inclusive hotels scared me. Taking my courage with both hands in the hope that the situation is better in an agricultural region, I made my reservations a few days before departure and contrary to my habit, I made the reservation of three destinations in advance, with the knowledge that Internet in Cuba is problematic ! I chose to start in a small hotel complex (Hostal Doña Amalia) located right next to the airport after validating that I could leave my bike box there for my return. This small company is owned by a mother (Amalia) former doctor of stomatology who offered his services free of charge and her son (Adrian) a business administration graduate who worked for 10 years for one of the few transnational capitalist companies in Cuba, Unilever. You can book directly via a google docs form available here, from the hotel’s website or on Airbnb. Adrian communicates with his clients via WhatsApp (+53 5 2633928) in English and is very responsive. It provides a host of useful tips for travellers (for example bringing US dollars, euros for Europeans, and exchanging them on the street, the exchange rate is clearly advantageous, install maps.me on his phone and download the map of Cuba in advance for navigation without networks).
My plane landed 12:04, on time despite a slight delay in departure. A long delay in immigration (only 4 agents on duty for two flights…) made me nervous, because I had booked a taxi at the airport, and because of the lack of internet, I could not inform my host of my delay. Fortunately, Oswaldo was waiting for me with his 1949 Chevrolet. Funny fact, Oswaldo couldn’t get the old car started and after making a call, a guy appeared with a portable battery to ‘boost’ the car and solve the problem. We learn how to manage in Cuba! A few minutes later, I arrived at the Hostal Doña Amalia and my bike was set up around 3:00 pm. I took a rideto make sure everything was okay! After a Cristal beer, I enjoyed a hearty dinner; chicken soup, tomatoes and cucumbers, tamal, grilled pork and a tasty mix of rice and black beans. To digest, I did a small loop of 3 km on foot before sinking into the arms of Morpheus!
Below, you can see the ride on Strava that I took to test my bike followed by photos from my first day. Tomorrow I visit Havana in the hope of finding interesting graffiti.