Day 8: The End Of Cycling

Tue. 21st August 2012

The winning cycling teamDay 8 marks the start of the second week of our trip. If it wasn’t that the title structure for our posts forces us to keep count it would be really hard to track time. The days fly by, and yet our arrival in Havana seems an age ago – and as for Cancun, that is really hard to place in time.

This also is our last day of cycling and Freddy warned us that this was to be our hardest day. Given that there were going to be 2 or 3 hours in the coach before we started on the day’s c. 40km cycle ride, we opted to spend the morning in Trinidad and not leave the hotel until midday. Our toughest piece of cycling would therefore be at the end of the afternoon when hopefully it was likely to be a little cooler.

Very glad not to be cycling in the mountainsIt pretty much turned out as Freddy described. Other than the rush to an Internet cafe to send supportive emails to Tamsin, Sheila, Dom and others doing battle with Steve’s bailiffs – a long story that is entirely down to incompetence at Southampton City Council – we had a lazyish morning, an uneventful coach drive with a picnic lunch en route. Then the cycling started!

The first 30km was pretty straightforward, mostly gentle undulations though on some of the worst road surfaces we had so far encountered – a mix of potholes, tarmac ridges on road repairs and the the odd patch of sand and gravel across the road. There were a couple of hairy moments when coming down a hill at speed you encountered a bend with a gravel patch at the bottom. Easy on the brakes, stay straight until you are through the gravel, and above all, don’t panic.

Victoria Pendleton?The sting was in the final 10km, the first 7km of which were gently rising (past a fight that seemed to have broken out between a group of locals at the side of the road!). This nicely sapped energy for the final 3km which was one long, steady climb. Whilst it was hardly the Col du Tourmalet (Tour de France), in 30+ degree heat and high humidity, it was very hard. I did use some very low gears and I did have to stop (twice, sorry Jerry!) but I did make it to the end. As ever, the hardest section was just before the end and seeing the top of the hill gave me a great lift and a new burst of energy. Our welcome drink at the hotel felt very well deserved.

The end of the cycling part of our tour seems to be an appropriate moment to reflect back on the overall cycling experience. We would give Exodus high marks for the overall organisation of the trip; the length of the cycling segments (unless you are a regular cyclist 45km per day or so is definitely enough) and the quality of the bikes which were pretty light and certainly well maintained.

Getting ready to cycleGiven the heat and humidity, it is no surprise that by the end of each day, we were both (literally) dripping with sweat. Our clothes were sodden (and dirty) and T-shirts had to be washed as best we could each evening with the challenge of getting it dry through the next day. With only two white T-shirts, the policy was wear one and wash one! Water was always in demand. Exodus provided us with 3l per day each (as opposed to my usual 2) and I would guess we would get through a further litre each – so a total of 4l per day each. This plus occasional bananas and Cuban snacks (generally involving peanuts and sugar) got us through the days. Goodness knows what you would need to eat and drink on a longer cycle.

Pretty reservoir - shame about the climbup to it!Freddy was an excellent guide – good briefings and lots of humour. We have learned a huge amount (from  a very low base) about the history of Cuba and the culture of the island as well as some good pointers for evening activities and sightseeing.

Overall, this was exactly the start that we were hoping for in our trip – we have got a better feeling for how the island works and have been with a great group of people. We have bikes booked along with the motorhome in New Zealand, but I think we will make enquiries about the possibility of a similar (Exodus) cycling trip as part of our Laos / Cambodia / Vietnam travels (Feb / March).

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One Response to Day 8: The End Of Cycling

  1. Gav says:

    Blog updates now regular reading alongside the Guardian, keep up the good work, posts are of a very digestible size too:-) Sounds like an adventure already, great to here all your news. Talking about longer cycling trips, I follow this blog no idea how he does it but I’m pretty sure nuts bananas and sugar are involved.

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