Sailing and travel tales

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

Posted in Uncategorized

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