I love Cuba, but it isn’t always easy. Independent travel here is very doable, but I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone.
The food shortages are the hardest on the locals, but they are felt by everyone who is not staying at a resort. The Cubans are so generous with what they have, but sometimes they just don’t have things. We have always been fed well at the casas we stay at, but the food served to us required our hosts to spend much time waiting in lines. Many restaurants that are not expecting a booked tour group have no food. It would be very hard to self-cater in Cuba. The bodegas and bakeries are often only for Cubans with their monthly ration cards. In five weeks we have not seen a single store with basics like pasta sauce and pasta. Even the expensive dollar stores have almost nothing. However, once you get the hang of traveling here, you can find the food you need. There is almost always hot pizzas being served up for about a dollar. Peanut and honey bars are available in many towns and occasionally we have found nougat!! “Buy it when you find it” is always the rule here.
Some things are ridiculously cheap by our standards. Expresso cups of Cuban coffee can be as cheap as five cents at rural stands, and it’s always good. Yesterday’s hot ride was saved by a 20 cent glass of sugar cane juice. Imported soft drinks and beer are also readily available, but they will be $2.50 US dollars, a day’s pay for most Cubans. Fruit stands are common and we are always on the lookout for bananas, papaya and pineapples.
Cuba is not always that pretty. It seems like madness after two months without rain, but the Cubans are still burning the grass along the highways. We have seen many active, unsupervised fires burning out of control. We have also passed the remains of a few burnt and dead mango orchards resulting from these burns.
Yesterday’s ride highlighted a different type of ugly: garbage. We took a short cut around a city on route back to Carbonera which took us past the town’s dump. It was just a rural road in a poor area where people come to dump their garbage. A few Cubans were gleaning, looking for anything useful. Plastic garbage is a huge problem around rivers and the sea.
If you are interested in Cuba and you can see beyond the grit and inconvenient hassles there is a lot to love.