It wasn’t just hot, it was nauseatingly hot, breathtakingly hot, hot, hot, hot, the type of heat that not even a swim can cure. Not that we had any swimmable water anywhere near us anyway. Our only option was to shelter in a military open aired bunkhouse for half an hour. We were on the verge of serious heat and sunstroke but were both in surprisingly good spirits, it was our honeymoon after all and we were in Cuba!
Honeymooning in August in the Caribbean is extremely warm and humid but because Caroline and I fancied the idealistic leave-straight-from-the-wedding honeymoon, it was our only option. We were going to be away for a month and the idea was to do some ‘adventuring’ at the beginning and some ‘more traditional’ honeymooning at the end. So, with panniers packed, bikes boxed, and mountain bike tyres added to our touring bikes we set off.
Selfishly, knowing full well Caroline hates bugs, I decided on Cuba for quite a few reasons. Old cars, Swimming, Cycling, Whisky and the name Ernest. Now I know what you’re thinking, Cuba does not have whisky, and you’d be right. What they do have though is cigars and I figured as a big whisky fan I should probably compliment the overall experience with a fat Churchill.
Cuba successfully delivered all of the above, including bugs, as I was often found staring, mouth wide open and smiling, at all the incredible vintage cars from the 50’s. Fords, Plymouths and Cadillac all bombing along, engulfed in clouds of their own smoke as if they were just about to fall apart like a badly made mekano set. It was brilliant. Suddenly my 1967 Mustang that I’m currently restoring seemed boringly modern – it does have power steering after all.
Cycling around Cuba too was very easy (besides the heat) as we headed West from Havana. The road quality was better than we thought, the drivers very accommodation, and we both felt very safe. In fact, I think Cuba has to be one of the safest places I’ve cycled in outside of western Europe. For the most part no-one gave us much attention and we could happily divert off main roads down small dirt tracks to a farmer’s field who give us some mangos and avocados to help us on our way. The people too were extremely friendly.
After a few days of cycling we landed up in Vinales, the picturesque cigar region where for the next 5 days I discovered I now have a cigar problem, partly influenced by one of the famous Ernest’s of Cuba – Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara. He used to dip the mouth end of a cigar in honey – it really does add to the flavour.
With a pack of overpriced cigars that I bought from a Cuban farmer while horseback riding, we then went further West towards a beach to spend a week snorkelling and swimming. The sea water in Cuba is crystal clear and the only downside to the week was when a sucker fish decided to attack us. We frantically swam ashore laughing as the little bugger tried to attach itself to Caroline. She was later horrified to learn sucker fish usually attach to whales but I managed to somewhat make her feel better saying they also attach to sharks. I feel we shall be repeating this story to our future grandkids until out dying days.
After our beach adventures we went back to Havana for me to indulge in the second of the famous Ernest’s of Cuba, Mr Hemmingway. His house is now a museum and my itch to be a proper author one day was gloriously scratched. Hemmingway bought it with the money he earned from; For Whom the Bells Toll. The open plan bungalow mansion overlooking the Havana skyline with its own, swimming pool, tennis courts, cock fighting ring, dog graveyard and writing tower is exactly how I would like to author one day. I’d better start hanging around some old fishermen then.
With our ‘adventuring’ over we then went to a fancy honeymoon resort where we did absolutely nothing at all for 7 days and it was glorious.
Cycling in Cuba was very easy. Its adventurous but safe, very safe. I’d happily let my future teenage child go and explore there on their own and not worry about them at all, I really would. Our month was one hell of an epic and I really would love to go back and explore the East one day, possibly not in August though.