Evasive Cycling Maneuvers In Cuba

This happened while touring with two other cyclists in western Cuba.

While travelling through Pinar del Río province, we came upon a small peaje (toll-gate). We’d been warned about this gate, that it was expensive, and that they also targeted cyclists. So we devised a plan to ride by without paying.

Before judging, you must understand that in Cuba it’s not easy to find cash (or food, or anything, really). Foreigners are often seen as walking charities whom you can hustle for money or goods. We knew if we didn’t have the correct cash at the peaje we’d be hustled for bribes in the form of clothes, gear, or precious food. Well, we didn’t have the correct cash and we weren’t about to give up any food.

We surveyed the situation from a distance and saw there was only one toll collector and that the gate was in the middle of a long, steep downhill. We also noticed a gap at the side of the gate, wide enough for a bicycle.

So, we went back up the hill (to gain momentum), turned around, and descended at high speed in single file, aiming for the gap. We blasted straight through and down the hill on the other side, surprising the guard. He yelled at us to stop, but we knew he was unarmed and had no vehicle to chase us. It’s likely he radioed the guard at the next gate (a day’s ride away), but we pulled off into the trees and camped by a river for the night.

We reached the next gate two days after running the first gate, not knowing what to expect. It had a gap at the side, just like the previous gate, but this time we were riding uphill at little more than walking speed.

I was the last one through the gap and I thought we’d made it through clear. But then the guard came running up to me, holding what looked like a small stack of forms. “Dammit! Now we’ll have to pay a fine for our stunt,” I thought.

I needn’t have worried.

He handed me one of the forms and I looked it over. It was an ad for a guest house in Viñales. “Es mi prima, decile que les mandó Ramón” (She’s my cousin, tell her Ramón sent you).

Always a hustle in Cuba.


Featured image: How to tour Cuba – Sandals, sunscreen, straw hat, and stogie!


© El Pedalero, 2012.



4 Responses to “Evasive Cycling Maneuvers In Cuba”
  1. Lia says:

    Cuban cigars were petty good! Haha nothing like fresh air, your bike, a straw hat and a Cuban cigar!:)

  2. Lia says:

    Haha yes there were some crazy stunts we pulled that for sure! The one blasting through the toll gate at top speed was exhilarating!:) I love bicycle touring! I miss it and hope some day to be able to do it again.

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