Yucatan and Castros Cuba

Trip Start Jul 15, 2009
Trip End Jul 15, 2010

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Where I stayed
camped on beach

Flag of Mexico  , Yucatan Peninsula,
Friday, January 8, 2010

The last two weeks has been where the trip goes from cycle touring to proper holidaying or traveller to tourist. So out the window with the shoe string budget and in with the treat yourself more carefree budget.

Meeting up with Cheryl we would spend a week scooting around the Yucatan peninsula, in a totally un-cool rental car, and then jetting over to Cuba for some culture.

We started off the holiday in style staying at one of the flash hotels alone Cancun's famous hoteleria spit, before heading down to Tulum to experience a couple of the many Cenote's in the region (underground rivers carve out swimming holes in the limestone which collapse to leave an opening roof or underwater cave system). Cristal clear waters and amazing rock formations, even stalagmites in the water, perfect for snorkling or scuba if you have the licence. Staying in a hostel one night and then to the a different beach experience, a luxurious tent on a raise platform in the Sian Ka’an biosphere reserve. A little different than staying in my tent that’s for sure! The biosphere had beautiful lush jungle on the beachfront spit and the lagoon on the otherside must have been 100m wide full of mangroves. I think it was the middle of some mosquitoe holiday as every mozize from everywhere seemed to be there. A boat trip through the lagoon to see the wildlife was fun; parking up at an island where all the birds return at the end of the day's hunting (Was hoping to see a crocodile lunge up for some dinner but no go)

We saw the ancient Mayan ruins of Tulum, Citizen Itza and Uxmal, the latter our favourite for its smaller crowds, no hawkers and much more impressive buildings. Three nights in the city of Merida was enough to get a truck load of Mexican Spanish culture; digging into street food, watching live music and dancing on the street whilst staying in our pleasant Casa.

Arriving in Havana, Cuba it became apparent that the communism rule, ousting of U.S, and all capitalism has been tough for the country. All items are scarce or unaffordable for most locals; food choice is poor due to there not being much around, and some country towns where still receiving rations. Lots buildings are falling apart or have been completely gutted to hold makeshift slum type homes. All this said there was plenty of rum (Ron) plenty of music and I never saw an unhappy person, in fact, from what I could see, and coming from my very inexperienced view, and from only seeing a very small part of the country, I had the fee things were getting better. There are two currencies, Cuban Paso and convertible Paso (CUC). Tourism runs on CUC, same value as the usd, and people that work in tourism seem to do well by scalping some off the top. The rest of the country runs on CUP, 24=1cuc, so as far as I could see the revolution did great to make all people equal but it’s now loosing grip as classes are building. Tourism does bring in a load of cash and the few streets that are touristy are polished with refurbished buildings, also, loads of refurbishment is going on around the Havana waterfront and to the more precious architecture, which there is plenty of. The main car in town, well country I expect was actually a Lada! They were everywhere; deals from there relations with USSR, their main ally after the revolution. However the beautiful old cars were still around in numbers and we got to ride in one of the old taxis back to our casa one night.

So overall Cuba is far too complex to get a grip on. The Cuban system, there politics, where all the export import and tourist income goes, but you do admire their strength from being so...well...independent. I kinda had the feel they are getting there but slowly, and all this mystery makes for a great place to travel, although for the tourist it is expensive.

They also have some stunning areas to visit, two of which Cheryl and I visited. Vinales is a tobacco growing farming region surrounded by Magotes (Limestone Mountains formed millions of years ago. The harder rock parts where left behind leaving abrupt mountain clusters covered in palms. It’s the largest natural phenomenon of its kind in the world. We stayed with a family for two nights (who cooked our meals and entertained us until crazy, and a hotel of xmas day. The views are amazing and we rode horses out through the farms to meet locals who were pleasant but trying to flog off cigars and make a big buck. Vinales did have live dancing and entertainment every night and the drinks were cheap so had a good time there as well although watch the ice!

Cayo Levisa was a topical island we stayed at, but unfortunately the weather wasn’t great. The island was only a 100m wide and maybe 2k long and very nice and quiet.

Back in Mexico we treated ourselves to comfort and normal food. It was great to get greasy airport burgers down after our liquid poo diets in Cuba!

Now Cheryl has flown back to snowy London :( and I’m back on the bike after a few days RR camping on Tulum beach. Belize next!
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