Our Last Night in Cienfuegos and Ride to Havana

July 21, 1998 11:30am

We're on the road to Havana now. We had just passed through a police road block when the left rear tire blew. We were traveling at 120kph and got thrown around a bit. Adding insult to injury, the tire was welded to the hub, and we were not able to free it until we beat it with a stone I carried from a nearby orchard.

Back in the car and a mile down the road, we realized dozens of small stinging flies had filled the car while we had worked on the tire repair and we had to stop to clear it.

We thought we might stop at Varadero on the way but now are hot and dirty and decided to just continue onto Havana.

  We passed hundreds of people by the roads desperately trying to flag a ride. Some were even waiving pesos. Only the trucks stopped as required by the government and the people stand in the back like so many cattle. This is probably the most common form of long distance travel here.

Yesterday afternoon, Chris and I alternately combed Cienfuegos looking for some meat. Finally with the help of Beybe's sister, Katia, I found a vendor willing to part with a sack of pork pieces as a favor to Katia.

Beybe's mother fried it up and plates of chicharones were passed around the sidewalk among their extended family and Yasmell and his family. We even had some avocados and beans, the first fresh vegetables I've had in weeks.

Afterwards, we went to Alexis' house to see his grandfather. He was overjoyed to see us and said he had been waiting for the moment of our arrival all day.

We brought him some cigarettes and a bottle of seven year old Havana Club which he was very pleased to have. Apparently all he's been drinking lately is his own home brewed hooch.

It's been difficult to say goodbye to the families. I gave them the rest of my clothes and whatever else I could think of.

Alexis and Yasmell look quite good in my t-shirts and shorts. One Cuban, thinking Alexis was a tourist gave him the "My friend, my friend...." routine!

1998 John Petrak

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