“Perdon, perdon seňor… queremos comprar bicicleta. Quiere vender la?” (Excuse me, excuse me sir … we want to buy bicycles. Do you want to sell this one?)
Today’s mission is clear: to buy two Cuban bikes. Our host at casa particular is not able to understand us so we don’t count on him anymore. And also every other night more in Santiago is expensive. Along the main street we go further to city areas. Jan goes 50 feet in front of me to have time to see and review the machine :). I still repeat in my mind the words “sell” and “buy” but the first times I still want to sell the bike not to buy :-D. Most (mostly older men) of the people with bikes just laught and say no and wish us good luck.
We even get to negogiation probably with 4 cyclist, but we think the price is too high for the offered quality. We successfully refuse the guys with bici taxi (the most annoying people in every touristic city) and we choose a crossroads for looking and asking. After 3 hours 2 cyclists come to us if we want to buy their bicycles – it looks like our mission is already known.
One of the “amigos” has really high endurance and says his friend has two bicycles and lives really close. After some time we get to his bici taxi (after so many hours of standing it is a nice change). In every smaller hill he moans and probably hopes that we will tip him more for this exhausting excercise with us. After 20minutes of circling the side streets around we start to be upset and of course – his friend doesn’t have anything. We are far away with nothing but slicky Cubano… what else we could wish for? On the way back he stops in another side street where his another friend waits with a beautiful Chinese bike, which he wants to sell for 150CUC… we want bicycles, but 150 is our budget for 2 bicycles not one. We negotiate almost half an hour and final offer is 100 + watch (approx 20usd). It is more that we wanted, but we get also a new stand and the most important is … we have our first Flying Pigeon (this is the name of the brand of the bike)! Amigo wants some tip, but for this going in circles (this street was like 5minutes walking) he can be happy with the agreed price.
Pigeon one is in really good condition and incredibly stylish. The next two hours we move around the town like real Cubans – Jan pedals and I sit on the rear rack (this max. load test passes with 150kg and without any problems). During the search we get to a home of one very nice youg man, who has a bicycle for selling. It is too small unfortunately. We get coffee, sweats and we spend there very nice halfanhour (we ask them for address and promise to send postcard from Havana).
Later we stop a man on a similar chinese bicycle. This one needs some reparations and so we go to the mechanic to extimate the costs. On the way another bici taxi amigo joins us – his friend has the same bicycle without defects for 70. What to do now? The first man agrees on a lower price (thanks to the mechanic) and we go to look at the second bike and if nothing we will return for this one. Of course … once again we get upset because of another bici taxi amigo, who doesn’t have anything (I don’t understand why we are after all this experiences so naive). So we return, pick up the bike and the mechanic starts to repair it. It is a little bit more rusty but with suspension fork (we have a clue how it should work, but we don’t even try to guess how many tens of years ago it was working). Exchange of middle axis and levers, new pedals, repairing my pedal, exchange of saddles, mounting of the stand and 2,5hours of work we pay 30CUC.
We roll in the streets of Santiago both on two wheels before 6pm – it is clear that today we cannot leave. Doesn’t matter – today’s mission is fulfilled! Two new (the word “new” doesn’t in any way describe their age) chinese Flying Pigeons without gears and weighting at least 25kg each get some accessories and fancy clothes (shiny green and yellow duct tape) and they are ready for their fly across Cuba.