We spent a few days travelling inland through Central Cuba, thankful that we were shying away from the popular tourist destinations and the hustlers that swim in those waters. We were pretty happy with being anonymous in the fairly priced Islazul hotels, so we ended up searching for them in the interior of the island. Our journey through the interior revealed a lot about the history of La Revolucion, the players and the events that have happened since.
More state-sponsored propaganda on the Carretera Centrale (main road)
Very cute lizards watch us eat dinner
The town of Moron, our stopover for a couple of nights
We chose to stay awhile in the town of Moron, which is not that touristy, but is used as a base for budget travellers who don't want to pay the exorbitant resort rates on the beaches of Cayo Coco, less than an hour to the north. Yep, that sounds like us!
Fidel the freedom fighter, in the jungles of Cuba
The Cuban 5
Everywhere in our travels we saw these 5 names, with slogans like "Free the Five!" and "They will return!". It's only later that we found out these five were Cuban spies that were sent to the US. In the 90s, they were discovered and convicted of spying against America, although Cuba maintains that they were only there to spy on anti-Cuban organizations launching terrorists attacks on Cuban soil from their base in Miami. Here they're hailed as heroes who gave up their liberty to defend their country.
Seamstresses in Moron
Singing competition. Neda said that these girls were dressed in the same outfits that she wore when she was a kid in Croatia.
These students were all taking part in a music competition
Most of the buildings in Moron had these Roman columns
Local shoe repair guy - open air shop!
"Here we have to throw rocks without looking forward"
In 1983, construction began on a 27km causeway between Cuba to the island of Cayo Coco, opening up land access to some of the most beautiful beaches in the country. From the mainland, you could not even see the island. Fidel stood on the spot where the causeway was to be constructed and motivated the workers: "Here is where we have to throw stones without looking forward".
Riding to our beach day in Cayo CoCo
We didn't really do any research as to where to go once we hit Cayo Coco, and when we ran into a couple from France driving the same direction, they told us that they were heading to one of the best beaches on the island: Playa Pilar. That sounded good to us. Little did we know that Playa Pilar was on the western-most tip of Cayo Guillermo, the adjoining island to Cayo Coco and a one-way trip from Moron was 100 kms! We had left on half a tank and there were no gas stations along the way - Thankfully we had our spare tanks...
Playa Pilar: White sand as fine as baking powder, and clear turquoise waters as far as the eye can see
The next day we rode only for a couple of hours westwards to Santa Clara. It's an important city in Cuban history because this is basically where La Revolucion against the Batista dictatorship was won in 1958. Fidel sent his most-trusted Lieutenant, Ernesto "Che" Guevara to capture the city, and after his death a few years later, a mausoleum was built just outside of Santa Clara to house his remains and celebrate his life. This was the main reason we stopped in the city.
Taking in some music in Santa Clara
22-foot high bronze Che on top of the mausoleum
I didn't know much about Che Guevara before coming to Cuba, and it was very interesting seeing how the government portrayed this hero of Cuban history. In the museum next to the mausoleum, we learned about the young Argentine doctor, who came from a privileged family, gave up everything and fought in the jungles of Cuba to free the oppressed workers of the country and the corruption of the Batista dictatorship.
Neda reads the epitaph and translates for me
It was only later when we were able to read non-Cuban propaganda, that we learned of the war atrocities that Che had committed. The trip to Santa Clara was a fascinating lesson in one-sided history and education. It made me think that although in the western world, we have access to all sorts of viewpoints and editorials on history and world events, we most often accept a singular reporting that the mainstream media feeds us without bothering to dig deeper. Despite Cuba's stance on silencing all opposing viewpoints (they have one of the world's worst records for jailing journalists), there seems to be a hunger for freedom of press. We heard that blogs and ezines on USB sticks are passed around from people to people on buses, in cafes and wherever Cubans mingle.
We take for granted what we have until we do not have it anymore.
Comrade patrols the mausoleum
Leaving Santa Clara: "Where did everyone go?!?"
We kept our bikes overnight in a garage that only stored 2 wheeled vehicles. Since our bikes were as big as cars, we took up the space of 5 or 6 of their motorcycles! The garage was entirely full the evening before, but they were all gone by the time we left in the late morning!
Next stop: Havana! Very excited!