Friday, 1 February 2013

Updated Cuba 400km cycle itinerary 3-11th Oct 2013


Oops! So, after cycling 400km across Kenya, I have now been press ganged into cycling 400km across Cuba!
I have to raise a minimum of £3000.00 to qualify to do the cycle.
If you would like to help me raise that for Ovarian Cancer ActionJo’s Cervical Trust and Breast Cancer Care,  please donate here - the smallest amount really does help. Thank you.

Cuba itinerary REVISED – 3rd to 11th October, 2013

See here for a map of the Cuba cycle.
Flight: London Gatwick Airport to Havana
[Jose Marti International Airport]
9 hours and 30 minutes – see customs regs here Arrive late afternoon. Transfer [approx. 1 hour] directly to the Hotel Villa Los Cocos in Jibacoa Beach. Event briefing and buffet dinner.
DAY 2 
5 hours cycling
[approximately 70km]
Jibacoa Beach to Matanzas.
Early start – 6.00 [not too bad!], bike fitting after brekkie [taking my trusty saddle!], and a warm up.
The first days riding takes us along the coast road before turning inland and UP HILL [no doubt an undulating one…], through the beautiful Yumuri Valley. The valley roads are compacted earth through tropical scenery and palm trees. We will stop to regroup before crossing the main Havana-to-Varadero road, onto the Old m
ain road, which is now a sleepy backwater. We will continue along the mostly flat valley floor, stopping for lunch at the Rancho Gaviota, a typical country restaurant.
After lunch we cycle along tarred roads to Matanzas. UP a bloody great 800 metre hill. Hoorah! The itinerary says that at the top we ‘regroup’ – read that as ‘collapse in a heap’.
Then we cycle off to René Fraga Park and enjoy spectacular views over the Bay of Matanzas. We then cycle down to the city and our final 8km stretch along the bay to our overnight accommodation at Hotel Canimao.
René Fraga Park Opening

DAY 3 
5 – 6  hours cycling
[approximately 85km]
Matanzas to the Peninsula of Zapata
Today we cycle through Matanzas and out onto the Carretera Central,  which was once the main road connecting Cuba's capital city to Santiago, which will give us a feel for what was once Havana. Then on to the Santiago Road. The road is now a secondary route and although busy by Cuban standards, it remains remarkably free of fast moving traffic. [Oh good – so we won't be hit by speeding juggernauts at any rate…]
The undulating road takes us through farming communities and we share the road with horse drawn carts, vintage American cars and vintage Soviet tractors.
We will travel through what  was once prime sugar cane land. About 20km into the ride we will reach Triumvirato, where a monument commemorates a slave uprising, reminding us that Cuba was one of the last countries to relinquish slavery.
Triumvirato, Matanzas - Carlota, leader of a slave rebellion
We trundle on through the citrus groves and stop after about 60km at Pedro Betancourt, for some lunch. Then onward for 25kms to Jaguey Grande. Here we halt for the day and transfer [+/- 1.5 hours] to Cienfuegos to stay overnight.

DAY 4 
6 - 7 hours cycling
[approximately 96km]
Cienfuegos to Trinidad
The most challenging day of the cycle. The road son begins to ‘undulate’ [we know this word of old from Kenya – it translates roughly as ‘goes up. and up. and up…forever…’]. We join the main road linking Cienfuegos to Trinidad with the Escambray Mountains on our left. This road ‘undulates’ for a further 40km. We stop for lunch at La Vega. [we fall over at La Vega]…
Then a relatively flat 30kms to Trinidad, then some short sharp hills bring us into the town. We turn off the main road and head toward La Boca, a small fishing village. The last 10kms to our hotel are along the coast.

6 hours cycling
[approximately 77km]
Early start, to ensure time to visit Trinidad. We transfer by bus for an escorted walking tour of the city [what? no bike??] We finish the tour at the Plaza Santa Ana [ah – there they are] and collect our bikes again. Today is sugar cane country. We cycle from Trinidad [woohoo – tobacco country!], one of Cuba's most charming Colonial cities. The road undulates past fields of cane, once Cuba's most important crop. Trinidad and the surrounding area was extremely wealthy in the 18th and 19th centuries, thanks to sugar production. However, once slavery was abolished, sugar production dropped and Trinidad's importance declined. It is now a sleepy provincial town full of live music and beautiful Colonial architecture.
Plaza Sant Ana
After lunch we continue on to Sancti Spíritus where we stay overnight.

6 - 7 hours cycling
[approximately 82km]
Sancti Spíritus to Santa Clara
Our last day of cycling is relatively easy compared to the previous days. We leave Sancti Spíritus and go back to Carretera Central.
More undulating roads. Hmm.
Picnic lunch along the way, sounds grand – then to Santa Clara to regroup for the final stretch. Santa Clara is famed for being the location of the most decisive battle between Batista and the Revolutionary Forces when Che Guevara and his men ambushed a train full of soldiers loyal to Batista. Che's successful ambush effectively defeated Batista's forces and resulted in the dictator fleeing Cuba the following day. A spectacular mausoleum commemorates Che's outstanding contribution to Cuba's revolution.
Our finish line will be at the Che Guevara Mausoleum.
che Guevara Mausoleum
Then: Cuba Libre time! Chuck the bikes at a random truck and run away as fast as we can to our hotel transfer bus!

DAY 7 Santa Clara to Havana
After brekkie, we drive to Havana. We have lunch in a local restaurant before taking a city tour which will include a visit to Revolution Square with the iconic images of Che Guevara, Camilo Cienfuegos and José Martí. Then we take a guided walking tour of the Old Town of Havana.
In the evening we have a celebration dinner to recall the highlights of the challenge we have [hopefully!] just completed.

Return to London, unless one has extended one’s flight.
This morning is 'free' [lots of packing and running about!] then we check out of the hotel at around midday before leaving for the airport and flying home to the UK.
From experience in Kenya, this will also be a very emotional day – many friendships are created on the cycle and it seems awful to part – but we don't really! We keep in touch – and these friendships are the kind to last a lifetime. Some of us are staying on for a few days to really ‘see’ Havana, or go to the beach resorts – I am staying on in Havana, so boot sales for raising the cash,  here I come! Too good an opportunity to miss, so I will afford it. The sad thing is that the FH won’t be there to enjoy it with me.
But he’ll be there to cheer when I get home :)
  1. Artemisa
  2. Havana
  3. Mayabeque
  4. Matanzas
  5. Cienfuegos
  6. Villa Clara
  7. Sancti Spíritus
  8. Ciego de Ávila
  9. Camagüey
  10. Las Tunas
  11. Granma
  12. Holguín
  13. Santiago de Cuba
  14. Guantánamo
  15. Isla de la JuventudCubaSubdivisions.png

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