sailingtalesofcalusa

Sailing and travel tales

The Caribbean: Paradise Lost

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The Caribbean

I asked “Which, of all the islands we have visited since Jamaica, would you go back to for a week?”

Puerto Rico, Saba, St Kitts, Antigua, Monserrat, Guadeloupe and The Saints, Dominica,Martinque,St Lucia, St Vincent, Bequia, Tobago Cays, Carriacou, Grenada, many of them belonging to the group we called The West Indies.

The scenic Caribbean

All said Dominica.

Dominica still has wide empty spaces.

I asked myself the same question and I said St Kitts – but it would have to be on the boat so I could buy a monkey! But if I can’t have the monkey and I had to go back I too would say Dominica.

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Why? I think, besides Dominica still feeling  raw and wild, it is because we got to know some of the locals. The refined “boat boy “system they operate there nurtured this. You are “caught” by a boat boy before you enter the harbour. They accompany a newly arriving boat to a mooring buoy or an anchor. In the past they fought over you for the “tip” but in recent times they have learned to cooperate with each other and have formed into maybe three loosely operating groups. The focus of the groups is now to have a “boat boy assist a new arrival into the harbour, without the hand out for a tip. Your “boat boy” is your first point of contact and remains your facilitator for the duration of your stay. Where can I take my laundry? Can you take my rubbish somewhere? He can source food or materials for you or just tell you where to go yourself. The group he is working for will have a dingy docking pier where you can tie up and leave your dinghy without having to either risk it or tip someone to watch it. The group he is working for will coordinate any trips, guided or otherwise, that you might want to do. They offer a good variety of deals. The base/office they work out of is usually a simple restaurant where you will meet other sailors and you have free access to the internet. Dominica’s system worked well for us and although we were there for only five days we were so involved with our boat boy , guides and friends that we thanked them by inviting them for a barbeque on board on our last night. Nowhere else had we felt moved to do this.

As our travel guide book said “Dominicans understand the importance of repeat business and referral.” This is true.

But Dominica had something else going for it as well. We sensed immediately that Dominica was a country that produced. That it fed itself and it produced a surplus that it could export. It sends a shipload of bananas to England every Thursday for example. Dominicans generally did not sit back and hope that fickle tourism would provide all. Dominicans had a dignity. It’s tourism was ecotourism. They offered the visitor the opportunity to see the natural delights of the country without bending over backwards to provide unnecessary state of the art world marina facilities and gimmicks.  It was an effective, and efficient system which delivered a very satisfying and guiltfree experience for us. There was one account to pay at the end and the boat boy, or the guides we used were tip options, never demanded. Well done Dominica. You understand sustainability and I guess social responsibility. Long may you remain uncorruptable .

PS: Quickly shut down The Kentucky Fried Chicken shop that has appeared to feed and make the American students attending the new medical school at Portsmouth feel at home. That hypocrisy totally jarred with us. Your backyard and all over town chickens and your abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables and the fish in the sea are the best food anyone can eat. Your healthy fit people are proof of this.

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Dominica

 

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Indian river

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  The cabbage patch up in the hills

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Roy


Written by teoranga

June 1, 2015 at 7:05 am

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The People of the Marquesas

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Ancient Marquesas

Ancient Marquesas

In some valleys are the long deserted “towns” of the ancients. Ancient stone roads, stone platforms, stone lined pits, stone walls and stone tikis. Acres of them, largely abandoned unless recovered from the vines and trees for tourists to speculate on the activities that may or may not have taken place on these sites.

The people of these islands today enjoy a tranquillity and goodness of lifestyle that we have not found anywhere else on our travels, including New Zealand.

Once populated by thousands of people now only about 2000 live on each island. It’s fairly clear that these people share a common ancient history with the Maori of New Zealand.

The Maoris left their homeland in big canoes. Trees to make such canoes could have been found on the Marquesan islands at one time but not on the Tuamotu atolls.

The NZ Maori left to find a new land because of food shortages. The Marquesas have a history of failing food crops because of lack of rainfall – and high population.

The Marquesans made stone “tikis”, man-size sometimes. . The Maoris make small greenstone “tikis”.

It is possible in New Zealand that without a large population the large stonework skills were lost. The NZ Maoris carved in wood and so do the Marquesans.

The ancient Marquesans   built their “maraes “on stone blocks. The walls of the buildings were woven or thatched, the supporting poles carved wooden poles  and the rooves thatched.

Marquesans understand the NZ maori language enough to communicate.”Mana” and “Tapu” are similarly understood by The Marquesans.

There was a near native mouse on the Marquesas. It came from Chile one source said. It is now extinct. The maori brought the rat and a dog that didn’t bark.  Like New Zealand it seems there were no native land mammals , only native reptiles and birds. There is a big black native pigeon that has been rescued from extinction recently. It had been too “good for the pot”.

I asked about “native” mammals because I wondered where they got the skins for their drums from before the goats, cows and horses arrived. Was it from human skins!

The NZ Maori do not have a similar traditional drum. They did not have mammals to provide a skin in New Zealand.

Both “Maoris”, NZ and The Marquesas have a cannibalistic past history and both had enslaved people.

The NZ climate would have been too cold for the food trees of French Polynesia to establish – breadfruit, coconut, mangos, papaya, bananas, taro.

Kumara grows here and food is called Kai!

Many Marquesans look like the NZ Maori. The Marquesans say they came from Asia originally.

Very ancient statues of monkey like figures are found on Niku Hiva – maybe  created from a memory of a now lost and forgotten Asian homeland.

The ancients monkeys

Written by teoranga

August 20, 2012 at 10:25 am

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Fantasia – The Marquesas

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Unlike Gauguin whose eyes rarely shifted from the people of The Marquesas my eyes feast on the incredible never ending variations and combinations of the dramatic volcanic landforms of these islands.

At first I thought it was a rebalancing act, eyes hungering for land again after more than three weeks of only sea and sky . Now after more than four weeks around these islands where there is always even more around the next peninsular, or in the next bay, I know it is awe and amazement of this beautiful ,unpredictable, natural creation called The Marquesas, that holds me enthralled.  From a boat at sea you see what Gauguin could not see living in a small bay, in the bottom of a valley between high steep razor back ridges.

Boney Ridges

From a boat you see the island’s boney framework of ridges rising one above the other up from the shore,  back to the central backbone ridge or sometimes a small plateau , up to 2000 –  3500 ft in the sky .The ridges are corrugated with side ridges  and outbursts of  basaltic volcanic rocks in many forms; ridges, spires, columns, giant odd rocks and escarpments  intersperse it all making a wonderful roll by of natural sculptural landforms. Many of them long ago named by the maoris such as The “Woman and Child” at entrance to Fatu Hiva and the three old men on the other side. (The early Catholic missionaries quickly changed the whalers’ name for the bay these rock s are in, “Penis Bay” to Baie des Vierges”)  There is a unusual row of “stone guardians”, or is a line-up of slaves waiting their turn to become dinner, at the south east point of Nuku Hiva Island and the King’s Crown , a crater ring of volcanic columns reaching high into the sky on Ua Pou Island.

Fatu Hiva

Mother & Child    The old men   The Penis

The wall of slaves

At Anaho Bay, Nuku Hiva, we were totally spoilt for choice – it seemed that everything was thrown at us at one time. From the sea we could see old lava flows making long, low, hard rock peninsulars with many eroded ridges rippling into the sea either  side of their back bone. The earth looked scorched, dark brown and black with an occasional patch of bright terracotta red or pale yellow ochre.

We saw a solitary giant gray cube of rock alone in the sea at the end of a peninsular.  Behind all a very high steep sided ridge running parallel to the coast, pierced with volcanic spires – seriously eroded into fantastic forms- and eroded vertical rock cliff faces. (I really don’t know why they did not make The Lord of the Ring’s film here) This high backdrop ridge caught the clouds coming in from the sea so coconut trees and others grew green on the narrow strip of habitable land along the sea shore. A deep, sheltered, lush green bay with, unusual for The Marqeusas,  a small coral reef just out from the shore rimming the beach with it’s white coral sand . Then further down the coast line another crown of spires crater remnant.

 

 

Overlay all that with the mottling interplay of sun and shadow, then factor in white puffy clouds on a clear blue sky, the deeper blue of the sea and the landforms ever sliding, overlapping, revealing, obscuring as the boat sails along; then I cannot put the camera down. This is the only time I see this spot like this because it is the only time I pass by. I fight with the movement of the boat to stand still and take clear shots – on “sport” mode!  It is such a feast, again and again and how I itch to explore it with my feet too.

Fairytale landscapes

Written by teoranga

July 3, 2012 at 9:37 am

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Across The Pond………..

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A Boat that sailed across The Pond

From Isabella south we sailed.

The day was warm and bright

The sea was dappled blues and whites

And dolphins led the way.

Calusa sliced the waves apart and

Showers of silvered Flying fish flew up to clear the way.

Their whirring wings and flutter splashes

Took them well away.

At night the sea turned phosphorous,

Two ghost birds joined our grid.

Hunting in our nav lights for

Bright sparkling squid.

For seven days and seven nights the wind did come and go

As further south we sailed.

The nights were dark, the moon was low

But radar found the fisher boats working in the night.

We stayed upon our disc of sea with not a sole to see

The waves they thumped, they crashed, they banged,

But Calusa just sailed on.

The water bubbled under us, it squished, it squashed, it sighed

But Calusa just sailed on.

AIS showed ships unseen quickly slipping by.

From VHF, a sudden voice, some Asian fishers nigh.

Oh! Where are their nets in this dark, dark sea?

They don’t care too much for me.

Week two turned wild and fast

With squalls that stole our sleep.

Now twice reefed down, Calusa charged, through the wild, rough sea.

Too fast for fleeing flying fish

As on our decks they flew

A sorry morning harvest to throw back in the blue.

Then Ganga, Ganga, on the screen, left.

Ganga for Kanga – just guess Roo

Unseen Ganga ganged up with us,

Until the wild was through – each glad to feel the other near –

then Ganga, shot through.

On halfway day the power shut down.

A whirling fish we were, sans pilot, power and pathway.

Little Honda saved the day and powered us up away

till next time, next time, next time.

One little nut had loosened. It took two weeks to find.

At midway too we caught our friends

And tossed a fish for tea.

The children brimmed with glee

To see old friends at sea.

Samuri called on VHF, they’d left three hours before us

And now, 2000 miles further, were still 3 hours before us.

Week three wound down to leisurely.

We slept, we fished, made woolly sheep and wooden lures.

Made bread, made cake, made scones and other treaty stuff.

Then looked about for EastWind, more please, more.

One fifty miles a day had dropped to fifty miles a day.

Becalmed. Three days becalmed upon a silky sea.

We begged the little passing squalls,” come over our way, please”.

 

At night the full moon’s silvery path enchanted the eye.

The Southern Cross southwest of us hung taunting in the sky.

The moon did set as the sun did rise.

The wind must surely come now, but no, it dies.

For 24 days, we rode upon our sailing boat,

T’was only he and I.

For 24 nights, we sailed upon our Rocking Horse,

T’was only sea and sky.

Just two little fleas

Astride a sailing treadmill,

Centred forever on a disc of sea.

Our sliding “ Magic Carpet” for crossing The Basin.

A dome of sky above.

Four thousand below, the bottom of an ocean.

 

EastWind  finally came and blew a steady one five.

Arriving with the rising sun we watched the land uncloak

From beneath it’s swirling mantle of carded clouds and motes

Ahoy, Hiva Ova ahoy!

Majestic, dramatic, bold.

Where people who inspired Gauguin, still live on.

Where we are just another Bond.

A boat that sailed across The Pond.

Written by teoranga

May 20, 2012 at 7:39 am

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The Galapagos Fish Market – an unrehearsed comedy

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Bien  venido , welcome  everybody to

“ Just another day at the Santa Cruz Fish Market “.

Where we do not feed the animals, they feed themselves.

The most adaptable  adapted show on earth!

Out with your cameras , the stars of the show are arriving.

Excuse me

Hurry up Baby

I,m late, I,m late, for a very important date!

Have I made my cue in time

Ola, are you joining us?

They wait, we wait.

What do you think, mackerel tonight ?

Ohhh it’s enough to make your beak droop.

It must surely be our turn by now!

O, Oh Look who’s arrived.

Excuse me but we were here first.

Please could I have ….all of your fish.

What are you hiding there?

Just look at that will you, greedy bugger!

Pelicans’protest planning meeting.

Ban the sea lion, ban the sea lion, Pelicans first.

Pelicans’ protest turns noisy!

Don,t worry Pelicans,  there,s  plenty more, tuna this time.

Wow , go and tell the others to come.

Just look at those humans will you!

Why are we waiting ? Nobody else is.

And, what is he doing here?

Just look at him , I thought he was a vegetarian.

Who invited them on the show?

The Pelicans’  Fish Scramble.

Like mother , like son.

Its Ok, my mum’s over there.

Uhummm that looks like one of my favourites, squid!

Mr Fisherman, Mr Fisherman, Squid please, and don’t tell my mum.

All right, I,ll just get it myself.

Yummy

Time for a little nap til the next boat gets here.

Written by teoranga

April 4, 2012 at 11:45 am

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Cuba: are the working man’s efforts no longer valued ?

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Cuba established a commercial fishing fleet  of about  70 boats  about 20 yrs  ago. They are mainly concrete hulled, shallow drafted, fishing boats; simple, basic boats around 50 – 60 ‘ long with canvas covered work areas and a small building – cabin – where I guess the crew sleeps , in turns probably because the cabin is far too small to fit all the crew we see on board at one time. But maybe they sleep in  one end of the hold below as well, I do not know but if they do it would be like sleeping in a tomb. The fish also goes into a hold below deck.  Into ice  I think, because there is an ice machine on the dock so I presume they ice up before they go.

Unfortunately like everything else in Cuba the fishing boats look like they have not seen a day of intensive maintenance since they day they arrived.The concrete is steel reinforced and many of them have running rust stains over the concrete hull which means the concrete is slowly cracking open. We have seen some continually pumping out water.  It is really a horror to see especially compared to the boats the guards and the search and rescue run about in.

It’s the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff thing but at least the ambulance looks like it might get to rescue in time !

Fish are everywhere. The thousands of miles of mangroves and the reef make the best of breeding grounds.

Fish quite literally were jumping about us most of the way down the west side of Cuba, flyng fish and we caught a bonito ourselves.

The life of the fisherman is very hard here. They go out for 10 days at a time and come home for five. The boats moor up between stints.

 

We watched the boats come in one evening as we waited on oil for our boat. On the wharf were five or six factory staff and just as many men from the Interior , the “little green men” who are the governments guards. A couple were processing us and our request for transmission oil , two or three stayed guarding the guard station and two or three  went and boarded each fishing boat as it came in and inspected bags , holds and doing paperwork. Each fishing boat’s crew seemed to react quite differently to them. The first one in seemed quite unsociable to the guards, others seemed OK with the guards and one boat even gave them a bag of small fish.

There does not seem to be any incentive for the fishermen to catch more and they generally all look lean and hungry compared to the guards.

It seems that the working mans efforts are no longer valued here and that is strange especially for a communistic country. If the fisherman caught/brought back to the factory more fish then there would be more work for everyone else and eventually surplus product to sell.

All the fish is consumed in the home market but the crayfish tails are sold to Mexico

Written by teoranga

January 10, 2012 at 2:52 pm

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Cuba : The fishermans extra risky lot

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Dead fishing boats lay here and there everywhere.

It was a curious moment when I noticed that

the coast guards – controllers- run about in quite new fast boats

while Cubas fishermen – producers – seriously risk their lifes in disintegrating fishing boats.

Coming down the west coast we took shelter for two nights

on the uninhabited and very flat Casa ( Island ) de la Lena

in a big protected channel with Mangroves all around while

a “Northerner “ went through.

Also taking shelter were fishermen in rusting dilapidated

concret fishing boats of about 60 ft long.

There has been no money available to maintain the fishing fleet in Cuba

which was originally established with Russian help.

On board were 10 men. A couple of them jumped into their dinghy

and brought over 7 or 8 crayfish – lobster tails with to live ones on top

and a big fish. In exchange they first asked for rum, which we did not have

on board because we had already given our rum away for two fish to fishermen

further up the coast. They accepted 10 cans of beer.

Then they asked if we had a 24 volt light bulb on board.

We were very sorry not to have one for them. We have 12 volts.

It would have been good to know what people need, like light bulbs,

for their everyday lives before we came. Hand soap, spark plugs light bulbs,

dried fruit like apricots and raisins are all gladly accepted in exchange.

The fishermen were warm and friendly people as we have found the

Cubans generally are. If they had been seen exchanging fish with us they

are liable for up to 10 years in goal. The fish they catch is government property

They get paid in food rations and a tiny bit of money but we are told Cubans

do not get enough money to get by each week now and that there is a

fairly desperate situation developing. Made worse because the Cuban authorities

have now lain off around a million government workers.

The population is around 9 – 10 million.

Written by teoranga

January 10, 2012 at 3:00 am

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Cuba: Pelican

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Written by teoranga

January 10, 2012 at 2:50 am

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Cuba – One half Guards the other half

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There are so many strange things, contradictions.

Nice people controlled by hordes of security systems which come

in a confusing array of forms.

As a sailor, I have not yet worked out which form over rules which.

Around the marinas are security men – the normal kind – but oversupplied.

Four men guard a line of about 20- 30 boats. We are guarded 24 hrs a day.

It’s difficult to know who is being guarded, us or Cuba – no Cuban

is allowed to board the overseas boats.

Of course it means that crime is not a problem on a marina

and you can safely leave the boat for days if need be.

There is The Homeland Security. The men in green that pop out

from just about every sea corner one pulls over into.

They always come in twos – usually one older one younger.

They come on board check the passports and the cruising permit,

fill in a form or two, sometimes check the boat for hiding Cubans

then ask where we have come from and where we are going.

They look satisfied/relieved when we say we are going to a designated Clearing In marina.

Designated In Marinas are often sited on isolated penninsulars or islands and there are only about 7 or 8 of them around the huge perimeter of Cuba.

We can,t do the distance between the tourist clearing in ports in a day

and an early start is almost impossible because first the green guards

have to clear us out –  more paper work.

We just go as far as we can then pull over and anchor in a sheltered spot overnight

because we are not ready to do overnight travel along the coast, nor wish to, because we are here to see the country.

 

We pulled overnight into a little fishing village called Les Esperanza; put the anchor down

and slept overnight unmolested by any form of security. Got up, had breakfast and decided to put the dingy in the water and go ashore.

The dingy touching the water alerted a local guard twosome and in no time at all they came rowing in the usual delapidated Cuban fibre glassed over wood dinghy (nowhere do you see outboards).This time it was a woman with a young male assistant.

He rowed, she filled in the forms.

We indicated we would like to see the beautiful countryside

– and it was amazing to look at from the sea.

Strange, steep sided, high mounded mountains, maybe volcanic cones.

There were limestone caves in the area, it was a rich farming area and it was a tourist area –

She smiled when we called her countryside beautiful but when

I pointed out our tourist visas she looked steadily at them then still said no.

I have been told since that if we had pushed it the local guards could not have

actually stopped us from coming ashore because the tourist visa must override their authority.

We just haven’t felt like pushing it yet!

There is also a Cuban Coast Guard, which we have yet to come across and

there were police cars and police on motorbikes around Havanna

or maybe they were just traffic police.

Then there were people in different uniforms at stop points along the motorways

One half of the population is guarding the other half in Cuba.

Written by teoranga

January 10, 2012 at 2:10 am

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Cuba: A bike ride to see the farmers

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This morning was windless and we woke early so jumped on the bikes and headed directly inland to see the farmers, mapless. Maps are as scarce as hen’s teeth so we looked on the boat’s chart plotter but it did not give us too much information either. We just decided we would head inland. The coastline is an indefinite ribbon of urban sprawl but this is only on average about a kilometre wide.

The road we chose to take us inland quickly narrowed down to a farm dirt track, eroded with storm water courses and rocks, but quite navigable on our cheap Chinese made USA bikes.( so glad we did not buy those silly foldable expensive boat bikes) We were lucky it was not too dry today and not wet either . Any NZ farmer would have been delighted to have such nice near flat volcanic land to begin his farming venture with water in abundance, but the land appeared mainly unfarmed. Tall rank coarse grasses, scattered through with something that could have been straggly young acacias. It obviously has a match set to it periodically to clear it off. Along the way we found a small maybe newer enterprise with goats and funny looking brown sheep. They were housed in open sided sheds and as we were passing 3 or 4 men were cleaning out the shit. Adjacent were raised garden beds in which I guess the shit went and it looked like they were growing vegetables in them. It looked hopeful and I think was one of the “sustainable” projects that I had heard were being evolved in Cuba.

I read that any land holdings under 67 acres were not taken by the communist government so it may have been a private enterprise. As we biked on through this unkempt farmland we passed small unkempt cottages with bare soil yards, home not just to people, nice people, but a few chickens, pigs and a dog or two. But how they stay alive I do not know.

As our road diminished in size we found truckloads of rubbish dumped either side of the road. Not the kind of rubbish mix you might expect from a New Zealand dump full of what these people would only see as treasure , more earth, broken concrete – construction rubbish with many plastic bags through it making it visually very untidy. We were getting a bit worried about where this was leading and came upon what could only be described as a small slum area. I can’t quite understand why there is a slum area in communistic Cuba, but there is.

The vision that still haunts me from this place, is of an old man with great lumps all over his face and I am wondering if I was looking at leprosy.

 

Still no gardening was going on here. Our rubbished lined road meandered up, down and around and became bumpier than ever then suddenly hello this looks like something like farmed land. Two big black Brahman styled bulls in a rough paddock with a small banana plantation behind them. It improved from then on , these  had to be government farms – still under-farmed by our standards, native grasses, burning off and no real fencing, but farmed on a large scale and looking a bit more orderly.

The road improved, less bumps , no rubbish dumped, level red volcanic dirt and then we found ourselves biking between tall grass field boundaries and I said to Andreas this reminds me of the little roads between the paddocks in Switzerland, and really it was. Then we reached a tar sealed road.

We had cut across country !

A diary farm with jersey cows, large low sheds, an ancient tractor following us, then next a 6 lane motorway. The main artery of Cuba which runs centrally the entire length of Cuba. The tractor, which we had stopped to let pass us, climbed up onto it – there was no entry suitable for a car to enter or exit it – we climbed up onto it too and along the 6 lane motorway we went. Waverley’s main road would have been busier. There were cars, of all vintages beginning with the old American giants , the Ladas, an occasional modern Asian and French cars and old trucks through to the newer big Macs. There were motorbikes of a smaller kind – not Harleys – and many very old motor bikes, again from the 50,s with side cars piled up, with men usually. There were cyclists like us, but Cubans and even a horse and cart. Everything and anything can use this motorway.

  

We travelled the motorway about 5 kilometres then dropped off onto a road that would return us along the coast to the marina – Strong whiffs of pig farms and chicken farms hurried us along in places. but not whiffs of people – the sewerage systems are in place over most of Cuba. Along this road we found a one and only private roadside stall selling pineapples, tomatoes, breadfruit, limes, green peppers, and oranges. We bought very cheaply and slugged out the last few kilometres from Santa Fe to the marina knowing we had bitten off a little bit more in distance than we could comfortably manage this time – especially the bums on bike seats that were not quite made to fit.

Written by teoranga

January 9, 2012 at 8:34 pm

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