Thursday May 16, 2013
(Photo courtesy of Rode Trip)
As much as we were enjoying our stay in Trinidad, we were literally out of money and needed to begin our trek back home. (Knowing that we needed $5 to fill the fuel tank, we actually ran that much short on paying for what we thought was a complimentary breakfast at our casa particular and had to short change that wonderfully nice woman that put us up in her home. We’re such horrible people!!) With empty pockets and no way to use an ATM or credit card, our main goal for the day was to get back to Cienfuegos. Ok, that may have been goal number two, as goal number one was to stick together this time. No matter what, we did not leave each others side. If our bikes got to far apart or we thought we might lose sight of each other for any reason, one bike would honk their horn to get the attention of the other one. So after ingraining the main goal into everyone’s head, we stopped by the ‘Welcome to’ sign to plan the route home. All of us were excited to try some new roads, maybe actually get up in those mountains we kept passing by, but at least throw some new scenery into our day. Hopping back on the bikes I noticed some dark and nasty clouds off in the distance, hovering over the mountains we were just about to take ourselves to. A few days here in Cuba though, we’ve noticed that it will sometimes look like it’s going to storm, but the rain never comes. Completely exposed to the elements, I hoped that was the case today.
Now put your back into it. Yes!, the camera loves you!
Pshh. We totally know where we’re going.
Making the turn after a few miles to bring ourselves to the Topes de Collantes, we curved down and around steep and winding roads that Matt would have died to take his old Z4 on, but I was enjoying them just as much on a scooter, only going 40 kph. It wasn’t long before we stopped curving down and began curving up instead. The pedal was to the metal as we tried to force our little scooter up the hills, using all the force we had just to maintain forward motion. There was a small break for us along the way up to try and get a few photos in of the view. Hopping back on, we could see the dark clouds moving closer and it all of a sudden became a question of not if it would rain, but how soon? The last thing we wanted while taking these bikes up or even down the steep mountain roads was for slick pavement underfoot that could send us skidding off to the side. Not that there looked to be any sign of civilization close by, but we were hoping to make it to some kind of town before the skies opened up on us.
(Photo courtesy of Rode Trip)
Continuing ever further up, I kept glancing back and down at the alluring views of Trinidad as it fell away below us. That is until the cloud cover grew thicker and thicker and there was only the faint haze of ground below us. We were not going to outrun this rain. It fell in a few light drops at first, clinging to and distorting the view from my sunglasses, until it was a full fledged downpour. For a climate that’s so hot and humid, the rain was cold against our skin, and I burrowed into Matt’s back to try and keep warm. He pushed on with our bike as we climbed ever higher and instructed me to make as little movement as possible so not to throw off the balance of the bike on these now slick roads. The rain wasn’t giving any indication that it was going to let up, and we needed to find a place to pull over and wait it out. We lucked out as just a mile more up the road was a rest area with a covered balcony. Pulling into the gravel parking lot we ran up the steps for cover and into a miniature restaurant area that served drinks and snacks. Coffee or hot chocolate would have been at the top of my list at that moment, but I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t accept form of payment in smiles or even pitiful pleas.
While waiting for the rain to clear we looked at an enlarged map inside the rest area to check our route again. This one broke everything down into categories of main roads, side roads, hiking trails, ect. Tracing our finger up the road we were taking, we saw the color turned from white to red. Now curious of why it would do such a thing, we looked at the decoder to find out what a red line meant. Surely a main road turning into a side road, right? Wrong. Just a few more miles along the way, our nicely paved road was going to turn into an ATV trail. I don’t know about you, but after looking at these bikes, I don’t think they’re meant for all terrain. We decided the best thing to do would be to drive back down the 10 miles we had just come up, and take the same route home we had come in on. Wanting to give the roads a few minutes to dry up after the rain had finally stopped falling though, we walked about 150 steps up to a nice observation platform with views all the way down past Trinidad and the Caribbean coastline. Even though Matt and I were starting the day on a low fuel tank and we’d now just driven 20 miles out of our way, running out of gas on the way back would be completely worth the views we were treated to.
Finally starting to clear up.
Views down into Trinidad.
Already aware that we’d need to squeeze out every drop of fuel, we turned the engine off on our way back down and kept a tight hand on the breaks until we’d get to an even area to coast before gliding down another hill. Stopping in a few areas to give the breaks a rest as well, we enjoyed the afternoon sun as it came back out and finally started to dry us off. Starting the engine back on once more as we joined the main road to Cienfuegos, it looked like we would be treated to a magnificent view on the way home anyway, golden rays reflecting off the fields and trees. That lasted…about 30 minutes. The rain we had just fought while going up the mountain was now coming to get us once more since we had changed direction. Matt had originally laughed when I noticed clouds coming again and put on a long sleeve shirt to cover up my bare shoulders, but soon we were once more in a cold and heavy downpour. On a flat surface this time, we hoped that slick roads would not be as much of an issue, but when the handle bars began wobbling back and forth we decided that it would be best to once again pull off and wait it out. Only this time there were no roadside rest stops with pretty views to entertain us. We took shelter under a tree, each couple huddled together to try and stay warm.
After waiting fifteen minutes and being given no sign it would clear like the last time, we made the decision to keep pushing forward. Not only was daylight going to start quickly fading, but Matt and I still needed to fuel up at the station we visited the previous day and we had no idea what time it might close at. 6 o’clock? 7? I had visions of us pulling up ten minutes too late and being forced to sleep on the side of the road. Not only because there were no hotels, hostels, or casa particulars in that area, but because we wouldn’t have had enough money in our pocket even if there was. Pushing our bikes back out on the road I kept my body pressed close to Matt’s back, having chills sent down my bare and wet collarbone anytime I let the cool air pass between us. Getting down to one flashing bar on our fuel tank, we finally spotted the split in the road that would lead us to salvation. The fuel station was open, and quite busy actually, plus we had the added bonus that it finally stopped raining. We may not have made it back yet, but at least we knew we wouldn’t be sleeping in the dirt that night.
We found fuel!!
(Photo courtesy of Rode Trip)
The remaining drive home was still not an enjoyable one. Even though the rain had stopped, the clouds never parted to give the sun a chance to break out and dry us off. We were wet, we were cold, and wanted nothing more than to climb under the covers of our bed. It wasn’t long after we left the fuel station that darkness fell and the temperature plummeted even further. It was nothing if only uncomfortable, but now the roads seemed like endless stretches in front of us, giving nothing to look at, and few familiar landmarks. Five miles outside of Cienfuegos the rain started for a third time, and I began to curse our choice of travel method. If we were in a cab, I could be dry and sleeping on Matt’s shoulder right now. But what is that thing people like to say? Getting there is half the fun? Maybe I’ll be able to tell myself that when I’m back in my warm bed.