RTW the Jamie Z Way: Yucatan Mexico

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Jamie Z, Nov 29, 2020.

  1. Hill Climber

    Hill Climber Long timer

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    You were asked if you had a GPS... is using one not permitted in Cuba? Any explanation is appreciated for other travelers knowledge, as well as myself. Cuba is on my bucket list, although it won't be on a bike and renting a car will be our mode of transport.... I'm a GPS dependent guy backed up with paper maps.
    As a suggestion, you might consider carrying a roll of electrical tape. I seem to manage a use for some on every bike trip I do. Can be used for emergency first-aid wrap too.

    Again, thanks for taking the limited time you have to update this RR. Very much appreciated!! Seeing the country through your eyes is our gateway to Cuba!!

    Edit: Ah ha! After reading your next post I see you're well prepared. Gorilla tape! I'm going to add this to my bag of tool goodies. 4-5 ft wrapped around a 1/2 x 2 1/2" dowel will do just fine.
    liv2day and Jamie Z like this.
  2. Steve H.

    Steve H. Adventurer Supporter

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    Thanks for taking us along with you. Truly enjoying this adventure vicariously, through you.
    Jamie Z likes this.
  3. Jamie Z

    Jamie Z I'm serious. Supporter

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    25 marzo 2021

    My first full day in Cuba. I didn't make it far.

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    https://new.spotwalla.com/trip/fad5-5fe4c-4716/view?homeActive=1&showAll=1&allHistory=0&numDays=60

    Lots of things to go bump in the night in the Cuban mountain forest. Birds and frogs and other animals were active all night, and then a horse walked through my camp this morning.

    I had an epiphany last night while laying in bed thinking about the broken hose. I thought again about the duct tape I’m carrying. It’s waterproof Gorilla tape. I even remember on the packaging it says you can apply it to wet objects or even underwater.

    So around 11pm, I crawled out of my sleeping bag and grabbed my tool roll. In the light of the moon, I cleaned off the hose with the rag I carry for my face shield, and I tore a six-inch piece of tape and pressed it lengthwise along the split. The leaking stopped instantly. I did the same on the other side of the hose. Then I took a two-foot long length of tape and wrapped it candycane style around the repair.

    The leak appeared to be fixed. The question is, would it hold until morning?

    20210325_071615~2.jpg

    Perfectly dry.

    I can’t imagine what the owner is going to think when he shows up and sees my repair. I truly hope he’s more confused than mad. For good measure, I also taped up a couple other small punctures I found.

    I’d gotten up very early to ride back into Trinidad.

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    I stopped in the main square to buy WiFi cards and a SIM card. I guess I wasn’t in a picture-taking mood. Here’s all I got.

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    I logged into the WiFi hotspot, which was slow and flakey, but I was able to check a few things and get a quick update posted to ADV and Facebook. I’d been completely offline for ten days, probably the longest I’ve gone in 20 years.

    The streets in Trinidad are cobblestone, and very rough in a few places.

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    I ran into Amit. He had just pulled into town and was looking for a casa particular for the night. A lot of them are closed down because there are zero tourists. He’d found a place with two rooms and we called the owner and got me into the second room.

    Here’s Amit unpacking his bike.

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    I helped Amit reattach one of the LED auxiliary lights to his bike.

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    And we went for a walk around the neighborhood.

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    We got some juice.

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    And a local told us where there was a cave.

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    Would have been pretty cool if it were open!

    We walked to the top of a hill where there was a radio tower. A guy came out and stared at us, so I just took a couple of pictures, and then we left.

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    I hadn’t been able to find anything to eat all day. Everything looks like it’s closed. Amit has a way of finding stuff. He just starts talking to people and asking questions, and then not too long later we have pizza!

    20210325_191653~2.jpg

    Our casa particular has WiFi, but as everywhere in Cuba, it still requires the official WiFi card with limited time. Or does it? The WiFi worked without a code for a while, and then it would stop. We never did figure out why.
  4. Davidprej

    Davidprej Davidprej Supporter

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    I've been reading this ride report with fascination and only tonight realize why. Reading this post after just watching the first part of a Ken Burns documentary about Ernest Hemmingway, it now strikes me that you are a gifted writer, somewhat in the Hemmingway style. I don't say this lightly.

    You have a curt and sparse style that shows a natural talent for writing. I've read many ride reports that were more exciting in their descriptions and more florid in their style, but none compare to your simple yet accurate descriptions that gets to the heart of the matter.

    I get the feeling that you are just "writing up the trip" but you are doing much more than that, even if it's not apparent to you.

    Just from the last part of your post. "But I did a bad thing." "I stared at the damage I caused for a while, trying to think of some way to fix it." I could go back and quote a dozen other lines. This is high level literary prose.

    No need to think about this, just keep doing what comes natural.
    glittleman, DC950, wvboy and 25 others like this.
  5. olderigetfasteriam

    olderigetfasteriam Long timer

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    Agreed.
  6. liv2day

    liv2day Life is about how you handle Plan B Supporter

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    Thoroughly enjoyed the last couple updates @Jamie Z, and congrats on tracking your first miles (and nights) in Cuba! So damn cool man, what a surreal experience to be riding in that country.

    Keep the knobby side down amigo, and keep telling us like it is.
  7. Rubinski

    Rubinski Been here awhile

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    Glad you're finally on the road. When I was in Cuba 4 years ago, I found the people very friendly and willing to talk with tourists. Since I speak Spanish, I copied their accent and was able to get things at the price the locals do. Otherwise I was paying an American dollars and getting expensive. Continue a great time there Jamie.
    BIG OIL and Sunday Rider like this.
  8. Jamie Z

    Jamie Z I'm serious. Supporter

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    26 marzo 2021

    Getting into the heart of Cuba.

    Screenshot_20210406-075629_Chrome~2.jpg

    https://new.spotwalla.com/trip/fad5-5fe4c-4716/view?homeActive=1&showAll=1&numDays=30

    Breakfast in the casa particular cost $5 and the caretaker showed up to cook. He made a great spread.

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    There was some motorbike-related art in the kitchen.

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    Amit had decided to stay another day in Trinidad. I wanted to continue on, but I still needed pesos and my SIM card wasn’t working. As usual, Amit knows how to find things, and he showed me where he was able to change money yesterday. We went to the shop owner who called another guy who showed up about ten minutes later with a big wad of cuban pesos. We went into the back and I gave him two $100 bills.

    I took this picture to mark the location. Amit hammed it up so that it wouldn’t raise suspicion.

    20210326_114450~2.jpg

    A note about money in Cuba. Several people, in this thread and others, have offered advice about the cash situation in Cuba. Throw most of that out the window. First, the CUC, or convertible peso is no more. Maybe you can still get them in the banks or somewhere, but nobody uses them any more that I’ve seen. All prices are in CUP, the Cuban peso.

    The official 25-1 rate for regular pesos, called moneda nacional, is still the official rate, but there is a thriving black market for US dollars. Currently the black market exchange appears to be between 40-1 and 50-1.

    US dollars are king here. I was told not to bring dollars, so I brought Mexican pesos. Others brought Euros. You can exchange those currencies at the official rate, but for US dollars, you can get almost double the official rate on the black market. If you bring anything other than dollars, you’re losing out quite a bit.

    So after I loaded up on pesos, I went back to the telecommunication office to get my SIM card working, and I also bought 10 gigabytes of cellular data for 1125 pesos. So far it appears to be pretty fast and reliable. I was also pleased to note that replacing the SIM card in my phone didn’t mess up my WhatsApp account.

    Ok… so back to our ride report.

    I wanted to head north to Santa Clara, but first gasoline. This was my first experience. I pulled up to a pump and went to the window. Like most of the US, you pump your own gas here. The attendant told me not to get the cheap gas that all the other motorcycles were using, but pointed me to the Especial, which is 30 pesos per liter, rather than 20 pesos for the other stuff.

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    A large portion of motorcycles and scooters in Cuba are electric. You see a lot of these silently gliding around the streets.

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    I headed back the way I had come yesterday and stopped at an overlook.

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    When I passed the place where I’d camped two nights ago I stopped to check my hose repair. Still holding tight.

    The road goes through Topes de Collantes park, and at the entry a doctor-looking guy took my temperature, and then let me pass. All the park facilities that I saw were closed and gated.

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    One thing I wanted to try before I came to Cuba is sugar cane juice. This is the first stand I’ve seen with it, but of course it’s closed.

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    Hopefully I’ll find it elsewhere in Cuba.

    There’s an entry to another part of the park. It’s gated and a young guard came out to talk to me. He told me everything is closed. He asked me where I was from.

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    I have to say I expected people to be surprised I’m from the United States, but so far whenever anyone has asked where I’m from, it doesn’t faze them. The couple of people who asked me if I brought my bike from the US have been surprised.

    There is a giant hotel in the park, as well as a whole neighborhood of usonian-style cabins, complete with carports.

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    The cabins look like they haven’t been maintained for the past year.

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    Can’t believe this was closed.

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    The road got more remote as I went north. As I said earlier, there is almost no other traffic on the road.

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    I stopped at an overlook.

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    And a map of the area…

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    The map shows a 4x4 road heading north in the same direction I’m going, so I turned back a few miles to find it.

    The 4x4 road started out as concrete slabs, with sections of dirt and gravel.

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    And though the road didn’t get much worse, it was clear that very few vehicles come here. In many places the road was just a foot path through the grass.

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    And then a washout.

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    I suppose an ambitious rider on a light bike might be able to drag and pull his bike down and up the ravine (cough, Throttlemeister, cough), but I didn’t consider it for a second.

    While I inspected the washout and had a snack from my topcase, a man came down from the other side on his horse.

    20210326_154915~2.jpg

    He first asked if I wanted help getting my bike across, but I declined. I told him my bike was too heavy. He then invited me for coffee and told me he lived just up the hill. This was an offer I didn’t want to decline, but already it was starting to get into the late afternoon, and I wasn’t sure about leaving my bike unattended, despite his assurances that it would be fine.

    He then told me I could come down the road from the other direction, and invited me to come tomorrow and he promised dinner and to introduce me to his family. Here’s Orelio.

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    So as I rode back to the highway along the 4x4 road, I considered his offer. I can’t decline. That’s exactly why I’m here in Cuba.

    And through Manicaragua, where the place looked empty. I tried unsuccessfully to find something to eat.

    20210326_172935~2.jpg

    Amit could have found pizza for sure.

    In Santa Clara I wanted to see the statue of Che Guevarra, but they have it all blocked off with a guard there. I’m planning to go back tomorrow in the daytime so I can park my bike and walk around the area. The park and streets around the statue were filled with young people, many out exercising, walking, running, riding bikes.

    I stopped at one shop I saw open and asked about food or water. All they had were some bottles of Cuban sodas and a few different types of dry cookies that didn’t look appealing at all.

    Santa Clara used to be the location of a Coke factory, and I found this...

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    I had scouted out a place to camp, so after riding briefly through Santa Clara, I turned back to my stealth campsite. The sunset was threatening to look outrageous, but then the clouds came in and greyed everything out.

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    I have good cell service here and with my 10 gigs of data, thought I’d take the evening to sit outside and catch up on my ride report a bit.

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    ...I think I've hit my 25-picture limit on this post.
    Earache, Ladybug, RozzyCat and 68 others like this.
  9. Bulitt

    Bulitt Flori-duh Man

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    Jamie,
    Glad you found some mates to travel with. On a trip to AK a few years ago, I met a guy in a bar in the Yukon and we rode together for several days and became good friends. On the way back south on the ferry, the same, I met a couple from Texas and we rode together for part of the trip.

    Bonus!
  10. bk brkr baker

    bk brkr baker Long timer Supporter

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    Note to self , when entering Cuba , tell the authorities that you're there on a mission to help the Cuban people by repairing their leaking water hoses. The show them your supply of Waterproof Gorilla Tape. With any luck you will be given a Red Carpet Welcome.
    Thanks for the tip Jamie , I'll keep this in my bag o tricks.
  11. HandCanonShootr

    HandCanonShootr Been here awhile Supporter

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    Jaime, Thanks for starting my day off so well, enjoying your journey. Was sorry no recent post, and hoping you are well. Great hose repair!

    Came back to "watched threads" again 10 min later to find this post!

    Thanks for the time to share this trip. Agree with prev comparison to Hemingways writing style. Keep it up, you are hitting that sweet spot with your written prose.
    It is "Like a Bikini" ; just enough to cover the subject, and not too much over-coverage.

    :ricky
    More please...
    Mike B
    Mofrid likes this.
  12. TNC

    TNC Candyass Camper

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    Jamie, and other Cuba travelers, I've asked this type of question before concerning snakes, insects, and other critters when camping or hiking in the terrain. Understand I'm not a scaredy cat when it comes to nature's creatures whatsoever...2-legged creatures having much more danger potential in my book...LOL! I live in west TX, so rattlesnakes and scorpions are a regular encounter with little drama as long as you're paying attention.

    I backpacked and traveled by motorcycle most of my life and primitive camped all over. It's not being scared...it's just being aware of the local critters and such that makes me curious about Cuba in this case. I mean it only in the sense of things along the lines of shaking out your boots in the morning before putting them on...or...walking around in the dark in snake country with no awareness...or daylight for that matter...LOL!

    So...what does Cuba offer in the way of biting, stinging, and maybe just annoying reptiles, insects, and other non-grizzly-bear animals?...especially in the stealth, primitive camping scenario?...and I guess backcountry hiking for that matter?
  13. Bulitt

    Bulitt Flori-duh Man

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    Dafuq is that #2 bike in line along the fence? Isat a snorkel on the side of the tank?
    Jamie Z likes this.
  14. HandCanonShootr

    HandCanonShootr Been here awhile Supporter

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    Mark Thom and Bulitt like this.
  15. mpusms

    mpusms Been here awhile Supporter

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    Outstanding update!! Looks like "casa particulares" are the best places to find good meals. Best of luck and yes find yourself some "jugo de caña" also known as "guarapo".
  16. Bulitt

    Bulitt Flori-duh Man

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  17. eakins

    eakins Butler Maps

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    GPS are illegal in Cuba - a US military technology. Probably be confiscated or atleast held.
    Hill Climber likes this.
  18. liv2day

    liv2day Life is about how you handle Plan B Supporter

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    Wanted to quote this as it's just refreshing to read; what a fantastic encounter being out in the country side. I hope you were able to find your way back to that spot on the other side of the wash and take him up on that offer.

    Thoroughly enjoying all the updates you post @Jamie Z, I dream of the day when my responsibilities lessen and I'm able to hit the road in similar fashion.
  19. NorskieRider

    NorskieRider Ultracrepidarian

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    What about phones? GPS' are nearly universal in them.
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  20. Throttlemeister

    Throttlemeister Long timer Super Supporter

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    Think I may have had a little something to do with the no GPS allowed rule. Back in 2010 when I went up from Colombia on the SteelRat with Lulu for the first time taking a bike to test the waters so to speak, the immigration&customs guys in Cienfeugos said “no problem” with using my Garmin276c.

    So off I went touring the island, I had more than one instance of a local indicating that the GPS was not allowed but passing multiple check points across the island no officials had even raised an eyebrow until my run in with the Cuban Military West of Gitmo.
    After that little episode it was confiscated also along with any knives I had in my kit as I wasn’t traveling with any real weapons:eek7

    I was to be picked up by the SteelRat in Santiago de Cuba on the Eastern end of the island and right before we left port for Jamaica I got my GPS and knives retuned to me but not before they copied my laptop computer that I’d left on board the boat:lol3

    I’m thinking the guys in Cienfuegos got a royal reaming for allowing me off the boat with my chartplotter, but phones with their internal gps features are apparently allowed as always YMMV.

    I had nothing to hide so I didn’t care but Lulu and some of the rest of the crew thought for sure that the two Russians we picked up in Santiago for the short trip to Jamaica were spies, or at least a very strange coincidence.

    The two of them strangely flew out of Kingston after an epic upper deck all night port party, except for that one Russian who just couldn’t hang:rofl

    btw Fin and Jamie-
    I did everything I could to conceal my Cuban license plate trying to keep it from the customs&immigration but they where having none of it:deal
    I did get to keep my spiffy Cubano driver’s license and I got one of my favorite stickers of all time:
    upload_2021-4-7_9-11-41.jpeg

    They not giving these out anymore?
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