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Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Cuba's Port of Hope - Page 4

Written by Luke Maguire Armstrong
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Walking through the relaxed streets of Viñales, on my way to the Cubanacán travel office to rent a bike, a Cuban rides up flashing me his yellow bike and asks, “You want to rent my bike? Best bike in all of Cuba. Try it out if you don’t believe me.”


He passes me the rum and I toast Cuba and Barack Obama. The Cubans wait festively while I begin to worry a truck is not coming, impatiently surrounded by incredible natural beauty and unassuming friendliness. After a while the tractor chugs past with its driver beaming and waving while yelling, “America!”


I keep asking them if a truck is in fact going to pass. Pablo laughs off what he calls my American hurry. “No te preocupes, one is coming very soon. I can feel it. Here, have a shot of rum. We only drink on Saturdays and sometimes on Fridays, and on Sundays because it’s the Lord’s day, and on Mondays if my woman is still angry with me for drinking on Sunday.”


Luis, who has been eyeing my broken bike for a long time, takes out his machete and walks over to a fence post to hack off a large chunk of it. He cuts grooves in the chunk and then fastens it onto the bike with electrical wire. It hangs doubtfully from where the pervious pedal has jumped ship.


After a few minutes of staring down his makeshift pedal, he lifts the bike and rides it in circles on the road. Grinning like a child who has gone on the big toilet for the first time, he brings it to me for inspection. I get on the bike and try it out. It works! Cuban creative has once again trumped Chinese garbage parts.


Cuba’s Port of Hope, Viñales, Puerta Esperanza, Port of Hope, Cuba’s Northern coast, Valle de Viñales, biking cuba, travel cuba, Luke Maguire ArmstrongWith the bike once again Cuba’s best, I say goodbye to the trio. They insist I make a toast before I left. I toast Luis and tipsily continue the ride.


On the way back I pass a half dozen cars from the fifties, running on nothing but the Cubans’ will to keep them on the road. I ponder how the Cubans are making it all work. Despite the world’s most powerful country being eager to bring about its collapse for fifty years, the country is still running—at times as crudely as its classic cars, but still running. If the truck never comes, something else does.


Towards the end of the ride, as the sun begins its violet escape behind the limestone cliffs, I look down at my bike’s wooden pedal and realize what it really represents. The electrical wire is slowly loosening under the strain and will not last long. But it is functional and it will get me to where I am going without needing to go further. It is a temporary solution that allows the bigger problem to be pushed into the deep and hopeful sea of Cuba’s tomorrow.


©Luke Maguire Armstrong

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(Page 4 of 4)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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