It was also in this area that we came across 6542 foot Pico Turquino, Cuba’s highest natural point. I wanted to take the day off and climb it. Not without government permission from Havana, said the military Commander who guarded the trail from foreigners who might want to introduce a virus. Bureaucracy!
In the early afternoon of the sixth day of the Tour, Alfredo and I detoured inland. We wouldn’t see the coast again until we reached the Bay of Pigs some 10 days later. It was also on this day that we reached Alfredo’s birth town, Media Luna. The next day would be Thanksgiving back home, and I lamented and drooled over the bountiful feast I would be missing. Alfredo had no concept of what I was talking about, as I explained the holiday. That the united States is a Christian country, where we have religious freedom, and celebrate the blessings of liberty. “Cubans love a good fight,” smiled my friend, punching a fist into the air. Perhaps he did understand after all.
Oh, excuse me, did I say rest? What was I thinking when my partner was an inhuman cycling machine? No way could Alfredo skip a day without putting in some miles on his bike. It just wasn’t in his nature. Myself, I was perfectly content to stay at Pedro’s place and play catch-up on my journal, but Alfredo persuaded me to follow him to a park he knew in the area where, “It will be more private.” Yeah, right. Sure.
The park at the edge of town was beautiful, with its flowing brook, sheltering trees, and gazebos and huts, but quiet solitude was a different story. Shortly after we arrived, a group of partiers entered the scene with a full-size pig on a stick, and plenty of other food, drink and music. When they found out an American was in their midst, they insisted on me being the honored guest. Who was I to refuse a party?
Because of his desire to please, Alfredo made a contact in town, who in turn, spoke with the owner of the restaurant where we were lunching. “Because of you’ holiday tomorrow, the owner say he can give us a kilo of fresh, prepared shrimp for 40 pesos,” mentioned my hustling partner in casual conversation.
My eyes lit up! “2.2 pounds of fresh shrimp for only…$1.60? Deal!”
When we arrived in Manzanillo later on in the day, we found a woman who took us in for the night, where she prepared the shrimp with rice and vegetables. Along with her 10 year old daughter, we had ourselves a bountiful feast. I was truly thankful.
After a solid week of cycling, we put in nearly 400 miles since the start of the Tour, ending up in the capital of Las Tunas. Because Alfredo had some contacts at that city’s recreational department, we were able to stay with his friend, Pedro, on an extended siesta. The invitation was too good to pass up. Tomorrow would be a rest day.