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    • rtwPaul

      Cuba for most Americans is a country shrowded in mystery if you grew up in the US from the 50's onwards, recently it had opened up but under the Trump administration it has subsequently become almost off limits again.

      This is the second time I have been to Cuba, the first time was like most tourists seeing the sights, this time however the plan was to get remote as well as maybe seeing a few of the highlights.

      We planned to go to areas most westerners have not been to and definitly not ridden to on there own motorcycle...and using our own self inflicted rule - on more dirt roads than paved ones.

      We had a simple premise...having Cubans ask us "why would you come here?" We wanted to meet Cubans on their own terms, in there own backyard so to speak.

      We rode for 3 weeks and this added my previous trip takes my distance on the island to over 7500km so I would say I have a pretty good feel for the island and could take you places most tours guides may never have seen.

      I am a photographer and a writer so this will be very descriptive as it is visual...

    • rtwPaul

      I left Cuba on March 25th 2016 and the island disappeared in to the distance I knew i'd come back, and I wanted it to be soon as the island was changing, even having never been there before you could feel it, there was a certain vibe.

      on April 17th 2018 I arrived again, the same as the previous trip I had arranged to join a boat called "The Stahlratte" for the trip over, it was my girlfriend and me and our two bikes strapped down to the deck.

      Since last time i'd been here I saw an obvious change before I even got off the ship. As you come into Cienfuegos Bay there is a massive sign, years ago it used to say Bienvenidos Cuba Socialista...now it just said Cuba Socialista, the 'welcome' part had all but crumbled away...was this a sign of things to come?

    • nature_wanderer

      @rtwPaul Sounds like such an epic adventure. Thanks for sharing! Looking forward to seeing more about your trip in this conversation 😊

    • vegasphotog

      Well, that is not fair. You gave me a spoon to eat some ice cream and showed me the carton....I am READY! This should be an epic "discussion"! MORE, MORE, MORE pics please!

    • Chris
      Chris MacAskill

      Same! Your photos are so amazing I can't wait to see them. Here's one I snitched from one of your blog posts from a previous trip to Cuba.

    • Sk

      Great stuff as usual, Paul. You've re-stoked my interest in Cuba.

    • rtwPaul

      sorry i will add more ASAP i'm deep in Colombia right now in Simon Bolivar country and we are having major power outages due to the rainy season...will try and add more tomorrow - sent by candle light

    • rtwPaul
      rtwPaul

      Travel is something ‘we do’ but not something 'we all' in the same way.

      Travel unique locations a lesser number of us do, and then travel to unique locations with your own vehicle the number reduces dramatically.

      Cuba has two ways of arriving by air or by sea, I arrived by sea, months before arranging passage on a German non-profit sailing ship that mostly lives between Panama and Colombia has over the last few years added Cuba to its list destinations, and it is one of the few ways you can get a motorcycle to the island legally...but its not as simple as it sounds.It is just not a case of arrive, jump on your bike and go for a ride.

      On arrival by sea you are not immediately allowed on land until a doctor checks you. He comes on board and takes every persons temperature and has a quick look at you, if one is sick all can be considered sick. The reasons are obvious, its an island they don't know where we have been and what sickness we might be bringing in!

      We are cleared, notice I say 'we', not us and our bikes...not just yet.

      "The customs lady will be here at 8am", bellows Captain Ludwig who is affectionately known as Lulu.

      We sit and wait, it’s around 7am and time for some breakfast, as I am taking my first mouthful when an official looking guy in tan uniform appears and said, "bring one bike". Lulu looks down at the deck and I’m the easiest to get on land, this is where the process begins, three other riders are on the boat and now excited. I crush there hopes and tell them it could take another 10 hours before we are legal, so basically todays possible ride is not going to happen.

      I wheel my bike to main gate where I am met by 5 or so people all dressed in the same tan uniform with varying numbers of stripes and gold on them. I smile and say hello, as I do one man announces, "She's here!”

      Everybody stands other tan uniform people appear from nowhere and everyone gets away from the doorway so she can enter. I had forgotten about her, a very imposing woman who arrived by motorcycle as a passenger sitting sidesaddle. As she enters the building she appears to survey now growing number of tan uniforms, a few quick words I didn't catch and six women immediately follow her. I now know the process is beginning and this is my look inside the Cubans official process for vehicle import.

      I am ushered into the office and surrounded by seven women, the 'boss lady' or 'jefa' in Spanish sits opposite me and asks for paperwork, I'm prepared and hand it over. From here on she does nothing but direct. The other ladies like workers bees circle around her with a few words everybody has a task, there is lots of writing, duplicate papers, 6 copies of each paper all hand written, all checked and double checked, when the worker bees think they have everything right they lay it all in front of her. She does a thorough viual check and spots one mistake...With her little pinky finger nail she indicates at a word, I strain to see what she is pointing at - someone had forgotten to dot an i...welcome to Cuban bureaucracy, its going to be a long day!

      Once my paperwork is complete I send a message to the boat to tell the next rider to bring their motorcycle. The second in command, an older Cuban man approaches and smiles, he introduces himself and asks to see three numbers on the motorcycle – the VIN, the engine and the license plate. He confirms that the ladies inside have done their job correctly, and then perplexed he has a sticker in his hand, it is to go inside of a clear windshield, I don’t have one.

      We come to an agreement that I will keep it in my pocket, he smiles and announces – “done!”

      Its 8.25am, and I wheel my bike out of the gate, it is officially on Cuban soil, after another hour there are four motorcycles side by side. I lead them for their first ride thru Cuba; it’s a short one of about 3km to the transit police, what we call the DMV. I let the other riders know, we WILL be here all day.

      The remainder of the its more of the same, paperwork, number checking and lot and lots of waiting. We are not given special treatment; we are not given harsh treatment, we are in line like every other person in this office. At the end of the day around 5pm we are told we are now officially Cuban…for the next 30 days anyway!

      We hold import papers, import stickers, Cuban license plates and Cuban driving license, the cost for all of this - approximately $15.

      Tomorrow we ride, for real…

    • rtwPaul

      the first thing you notice once you leave virtually any city in Cuba is how red the dirt is, I used google earth to find off road tracks that looked either remote or interesting places to ride or that went thru some small towns that most tourists would have no reason to go to.

      We were definitly looked at as aliens who had just dropped in to say hello, but once we approached and opened up a conversation the interactions were great...this is going to be fun.

    • vegasphotog

      You riding a KLR with a desert tank? Great shot!

    • vegasphotog

      Wow...what an awesome storyline.....sell this to Hollywood for Gillions!

    • rtwPaul

      wouldn't be seen dead on a KLR, its DR650 with a Safari tank that was 30 liters but now is more like 38

    • rtwPaul
      rtwPaul

      As you head west as we did it won't take you long to realise there is not much to see on the southern part of the coast. Moving away from pavement and busier tracks our goal is the end of the island. Surely there must be something there worth seeing, maybe a momento from days gone by?

      What i can tell you is you might end up seeing stuff like this...

    • rtwPaul
      rtwPaul

      and this...

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