9 February 2010
WE TRIED TO make reservations at the La Mula campismo from Bayamo, but because it was in a different jurisdiction, we couldn’t. We had to chance it.
Before leaving Villa Punta de Piedra, Yvonne met Bernat, a Spanish cyclist who was towing a trailer. We met again later down the road and began cycling together. It was great to have some extra company and we pushed each other on the 62 km ride, much of which was uphill with long downhill runs. The scenery on this stretch was the best we’d encountered in Cuba. We rode right along the water’s edge with high cliffs to our left, on roads that dropped off to our right, broken from past hurricanes and left unrepaired.
La Mula turned out to be a dreadful place. There was no running water. We were given buckets to fill from a tiny tepid lagoon nearby, which we used to flush the toilet and “shower” with. We caught up with the Austrian couple on the tandem bike, the ones who left behind the Milka chocolate in Manzanillo. After thanking them, we introduced ourselves. The five of us – Bernat, Georg, Isabella, and us – would cycle together over the next couple of days into Santiago de Cuba.
La Mula was the start of our food issues. They were able to whip us up some pizzas for dinner, but for breakfast they had nothing but ham. No eggs, no bread. Nothing. Which was interesting, as they told us they had no ham the previous night for our pizzas. We passed on the ham breakfast and began our day, planning on stopping at the first place we could find to eat.
What we didn’t know at that time was that the entire remaining stretch to Santiago de Cuba had a shortage of food. We encountered a cafeteria that was selling some pre-made sandwiches with fillings of dubious nature (e.g. “protein” sandwiches), but it was better than nothing. In Chivrico we thought we might be able to find more food for lunch, but the two restaurants in town were closed. The panaderia was closed. No bread.
I spotted an old man with a box full of baguettes. I approached and asked where he got them and if he could sell me one. He smiled, took one out, and handed it to me. He then refused payment.
Word had gotten to us that our destination, Motel Granma, also had a food shortage. We decided to get what we could and try to cook our own dinner that night, just in case. The vegetable markets in town had next to nothing. We were able to buy a bag of tomatoes and some garlic cloves. At a roadside shop we managed to get some pasta.
At Motel Granma, however, things weren’t looking good. The place was full. Luckily for us we had Bernat, who negotiated with reception and scored us a big room that would sleep all five of us. A big slumber party. That night we talked the chef into cooking up our pasta while we chopped tomatoes, garlic, and green peppers on a table outside. It was one of the best meals in Cuba we’d had.
Despite the issues described above, Motel Granma was a huge surprise. The cabin-style rooms are situated atop cliffs with panoramic views over the ocean. On one side you can watch the sun come up, and the other, it set. For $15 per night, between five people, it was by far the best bang-for-our-buck accommodation.