The next several days were wonderfully flat. So much so, that my Avocet altimeter would register no more than 10 feet for the day’s gain. However, there’s always bad with the good, and this came in an explosion of sorts… I had contacted dysentery. As it happened before in China, I just got a hold of some bad water. Whatever I ate, literally passed right through me just as quickly. I couldn’t hold anything in even if I wanted to. Dehydration was a real possibility, just as failing the Tour could be. Putting in my miles became a real endeavor, detouring hourly for the required pit stop.
Alfredo was encouraging as we continued on, inching our way to the Westernmost point on the island nation. We made a deal that if we could reach Trinidad without further delays we’d take another rest day. It was a goal I intended to make.
By the 12th day of the Tour, we had reached our objective. Many distinguished guests, including Christopher Columbus, have visited one of the oldest towns in Cuba, Trinidad. Walking through the cobblestone streets viewing some of the ancient architecture, I felt as though I were in another world. A calypso band played off in a corner alley, while vendors sold their wares to the passing tourists.
Alfredo and I cycled along the Bay’s coast, which was now a resort area. There’s very little evidence that a battle actually took place in the area. Further up the coast, we quit work early, because while I was here, I had always wanted to swim in this Bay that history has marked so well.
Checking into the resort made Alfredo nervous. Too glamorous for his taste, although I knew by now, he actually loved the creature comforts as much as I did. For a private bungalow near the beach who’s Bay was bath water warm, the price was 29 US$ per night. To most Cubans, that was the equivalent of nearly 3 month’s pay. To me, it was a night in a cheap motel. I checked in and went for a swim.
That night, Alfredo stepped out to the nearby town to find us dinner, when I said we could eat at the resort’s restaurant just as easily. “Si,” he smiled, “but then we have to pay for the food in dollars.” He brought back two hot plates of cooked fish, fried yucca, and congri, what we would call in the States, rice and beans. The cost: 20 pesos a plate.
The next day, we reluctantly left our comfortable surroundings to enter into the land of the dreaded “cocorice.” Since yesterday, Alfredo had been telling me about these mysterious creatures, but could never explain them well enough to make me understand what he was talking about. Now, we were going to come face to face with them.
“Kebin, come quick and see the cocorice,” exclaimed Alfredo. My curiosity was at a peak. “There! Do you see them?” Couldn’t say that I did. “They are right there in front of you!” I peered past the enclosed fence, but still couldn’t make out anything in the swampy jungle. Alfredo was getting flustered, and I was getting impatient.
“What are you talking about? Those rocks over there?” And then one of them moved, and the other turned toward us with an evil looking grin. “Crocodiles!”
Alfredo and I had our first real disagreement. Just outside Trinidad lay a beast of a mountain called the Topes de Collantes that rose some 6000 feet in elevation and cast a long shadow on the 500 year old town. Alfredo did not want to deal with this in the morning. “No one is crazy to cycle up mountain when they can take coast.”
“At any other point, I would totally agree,” I replied. “But the vision is to join all of Cuba’s Provinces together, using the bike as the needle. If we go by the coast, we miss Villa Clara all together, and I just can’t do that.”
We were up early the next day, leaving Trinidad just before daybreak, and spent all day huffing and puffing up the backside of a beast. Total day’s mileage: 36.
That was our last horrendous day of the Tour. From here on in, it would be relatively mild. Except for the occasional case of diarrhea, I was now back in shape.
The next significant moment came a few days later in the infamous area known as the Bay of Pigs. Since the one-sided battle between Fidel and the Cuban exiles in 1961, I had been wanting to see the area. Visiting historical spots you grew up hearing about can be a heady experience. Alfredo took me to the Bay’s museum, where I was able to experience the battle from the Cuban’s point of view. Large, black and white photos lined the walls. In glass cases were uniforms, artillery, bullets, and service papers. If Kennedy had given the air and sea support he promised the Cuban exiles, the outcome of the battle would have been vastly different than the slaughter that happened. Fidel was able to stay in power and his reputation grew to mythological proportions.