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  • Day14

    In Search of Che Guevara

    March 15, 2020 in Cuba ⋅ ☀️ 26 °C

    After three days in Trinidad, we were really starting to feel at home in the place. The streets that had looked so confusing when we arrived, now felt familiar. My home for the three nights had been the magnificent casa particulaire owned by Carlos and Jenny Amenidides. They really had welcomed us and proven to be exceptional hosts.

    We bade our final farewell after breakfast and walked our luggage back to the waiting bus. Our destination for the day was the famous city of Santa Clara - the place where the image of Che Guevera is everywhere. But before we could begin the day;'s ride we had a tortuous bus transfer up high into the mountains.

    Anyone who thinks that Cuba is all flat, has no idea what they are talking about. The driver had to use all his skill to negotiate the narrow roads and the tight switchbacks. At times the gradients were so steep that I was worried that the bus would not be able to struggle to the top of the next climb. The roof of the bus regularly bashed on the low overhanging branches.

    At one spectacular vantage point we stopped to climb to the top of a viewing platform where we could see all the way back to Trinidad and the Caribbean Sea beyond. It was an ideal spot for another group photo.

    Then it was back in the bus for another 30 minutes of serious climbing. I was certainly glad we didn't have to ride THAT section ! Eventually the bus stopped and we were told to get ready to ride. I looked ahead at the next section of road and noted that it went straight uphill. Lee had told us that the day's ride would be a DOWNHILL ride, but once again he had lied.

    For the next two hours we alternated between long fast descents and steep climbs. Although the climbs were not long, some of them were very steep. I am happy to admit that one two occasions I got off and walked to the top.

    The scenery that we were riding through was probably the prettiest of the ride so far. Not only did we have regular views down to the lowlands, but we passed through a succession of small villages where the locals greeted us cheerfully as we passed by. Numerous horse drawn carts carried all sorts of goods back and forth.

    The road itself was sometimes unsealed and sometimes bitumen. The poor condition of the road reminded me of some of the mountain roads we had ridden in Bhutan.

    At one point I could hear happy singing coming from a small house and I stopped to listen. It did not take long to realise that it was a church gathering. The people sang and clapped with obvious joy and the harmonies were beautiful. Several young children wandered in and out, waving and smiling at me. It really was a wonderful glimpse of local life.

    I stopped outside the church for 20 minutes or so until the rest of the riders joined me and we continued together. As we descended, the heat that we had experienced each afternoon steadily built up. Apparently there has been very little rain and this shows in the dry and dusty conditions we have seen everywhere.

    Eventually we reached the sizeable city of Manicuragua, where I met a T intersection. I thought it would be good to film some of the street life. In the process I did not notice that our riders had stopped by the side of the road. I kept going through the town, before finally realising that I was alone. It was a slightly scary feeling and I had to turn around and retrace my route until I found the rest of the group.

    A short distance later we finished the ride and loaded the bikes into the bus. We then had a short drive to Santa Clara, the famous location where Che Guevara successfully waged a guerrilla war against the Battista regime. The image of Che is now everywhere and a huge mausoleum has been built in the revolution square to house his remains. This has become a place of pilgrimage for those who think that Che was some sort of superhuman.

    We visited the memorial where we had to walk in silence past his remains, before finally checking into our lovely hotel. It has been another long day.

    I should also add that word of the outside world is slowly reaching us. I can assure you that we are all well and healthy and have plenty of food and toilet paper. The biggest worry is that our flights and travel plans over the next couple of weeks may be impacted. Interesting times indeed.

    Pictures to follow .
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