Birthday in Cuba

Other cyclists, closer contact with locals, day at the countryside, our new family…

Alarm rings early and outside is still dark. Air is cold and humid. The walls of the tent are wet from dew – this is actually our first real camping and we realize that the lines on sides of tent are not just for effect. Everything is packed in half an hour but unfortunately still wet. The first rays of light make this moment magic. The tree next to us is covered by spider nets and looks like a giant cotton candy :)

At the main road we see the sign covered in fog “Habana 800km”. Bicycling is great. Wind blows from behind and the surrounding of carratera central is neat and nice. There are only a few cars on the road and they pass us respectfully.

In the morning we meet one cyclist with a lof of baggage going from the other direction (this is always a good reason to have a chat stop:)). He is from Japan and with his girlfriend (who arrives couple minutes later) did already other bicycle trips in the world – now they are in Cuba and will continue in south and central america (maybe we will meet them somewhere). They do usualy 100km per a day (mostly against the wind) – locos!

We continue and make some stops to drink fresh juice or refresco (limonade). Around 1pm we find a good place for having a rest – motorest with a small garden, restaurant, shop and paid restrooms without water (we understand that they don’t have toilet seats in Cuba, but they could have at least ready bucket with water on the side of toilet). They try to charge us for the lunch 10x more and for the coffee we pay 0.50CUC instead of 0.50peso cubano (25x more). Our feeling from this place isn’t very positive. We sit in shadow of trees and write article. Table next to us gets full of employees spending time with drinking rum, chatting and having fun. They offer us some and Jan drinks for us both (I’m still on antibiotics). The most communicative are Rogelio and Yasel, which are very patient with our bad spanish and keep the talk funny. Jan buys another bottle and coffee for me (now for the real price – we are friends already :)). Rogelio invites us to camp at his house and after he realizes I have birthday tomorrow he wants to make a birthday party for me – so we are staying one day longer :).

Another cyclist arrive and we go to meet them. It is a group of canadian retirees – good looking healthy people from a team of runners. They meet avery Sunday and run for 1-5hours (depends if they are preparing for something). And they go to active vacations like this. The oldest lady is around 70 and till now she didn’t need to use the help of the bus which carries their luggage. We talk mostly with Jana – a Czech girl who is married in Canada and has 4 children (it’s hard to believe that she is 50). BTW: we imagine our retirement like this – many vital friends, good health and fit and many activities and people who don’t believe we are so old :). They present us with a bag of fruits and we get back to the employees and unfinished bottle of rum.

With instructions from Rogelio and Yasel we bicycle to a nearby town. During waiting we give each other a big kiss and we hear laughts and noise of the people next door (they probably don’t see french kiss here so often :D) We just shout “luna de miel” (honeymoon) and they start clapping hands … nice.

After 15min we go a long road to Rogelios house. We ride our pigeons and guys on a bicycle which they took at the beginnig of the village from some teenager. They weight at least 500 pounds together which is a little more than the bike can handle. CRASH … all spikes in the rear wheel broken (most of people will never see this during whole their life). We continue by walking.

The house is small but nice and Ariannys with 2 children welcome us. The walls don’t rise till roof – they are just a visual barrier between the rooms. In Cuban architecture is this common – in this warm climate it is better when the hot air can rise up. Instead of doors there are curtains and the floor are stones and concrete. The kitchen sink is really good – a table which continues out of window where you wash dishes and the water just pours outside next to house. There are many animals in the backyard – which we will soon join with our tent. In the middle is a big tree full of …chickens?! Yes, Cuban chickens sleep on the branches of trees and lay the eggs under cactus trees. They have a big dog so we are happy it is on a chain. The pigs sound like they do love all days (the orgasmus of a pig should be more than 10minutes long … but we think it can be even longer according what we hear here). There is a small house with toilet and a tiny outside room with a bucket of water – bathroom.

We build the tent and discuss different things till the late night. Our hosts are very patient with our “tarzan” spanish (and the rum helps, too). They teach us this sentence:

Soy Cubano, soy popular. Soy de oriente, soy natural.

In the middle of night I wake up on sound of soil falling on the walls of the tent. After some minutes I realize that the dog tries to dig us, but considering his size I don’t want to go out to explain him he cannot succeed. I just turn on other side in the sleeping bag and hope he will give it up.

22.2. The day when I’m for one year more beautiful, smarter and more experienced :). Great breakfast is waiting for us. I wash our clothes and Jan checks bicycles. Later Yasel, his wife and 2.5 kids arrive (one is in the belly) and congratulate me also. In this country is never too early to start with drinking so at 10am we open a bottle of home made rum (btw: they use big 2dl glasses and they always pour more than a half).

Rogelio throws a stick and one of the chickens stands lying. He grabs her at the neck and makes couple turns with her – this is not going to survive. While Arrianys prepares the special lunch I draw with the children, Jan and guys try to catch fish and we swim in the river behind their house.

The food is great and a lot! With the chicken goes rice and djuka (root of one plant which tastes similar to potato). Later we digest, talk, drink and Rogelion kills another animal – now a duck. On one side it is really nice they want to make good food for us, but 2 dead animals in one day is a lot.

The sky in the far is dark from smoke and they explain us that the enemies of revolution burn the sugar cane so the state cannot sell it. We ask them if they are satisfied with life in this country and the regim. Answer is that they know that there are some negatives but they have enough food, work, housing, healthcare and education for free and they are happy. But they admit that the life in countryside is different from the life in city…

I’m still digesting lunch and there is already dinner on the table. The duck is great but the pie which comes after is georgeous – bread puding with caramel for my birthday :). After dinner I get the recipe for this pie and also a book of other traditional recipes. We ask Rogelio to sing something for us but he is shy at the beginning. The boys sing us some songs and the girl tells some poems. We sing some slovak national songs and at the end Rogelio sings with his perfect low voice an sad song – we don’t understand a word, but it is beautiful!

I go to bed and I’m happy that even so far from Slovakia somebody prepared my birthday like I would be back home. Their present is big – they accepted us in their family and we are welcome anytime we will return. Thank you and we are looking forward to meet you again! :)


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