MotoDreamer is heading to Cuba. Rolling hills and impressive high mountains make a perfect playground for Touring Motorcycle Riders.
MotoDreamer is heading to Cuba. 10 days of pure motorcycle touring through Cuba’s vast number of rolling hills and impressive high mountains. Cuba is a perfect backdrop for you on your bike, with the added bonuses of mixing it all up with Latin American history, rum, cigars, beaches, culture, and adventure.
Why not read why MotoDreamer is heading to Cuba should be firmly on your 2024 motorcycle agenda.
The Republic of Cuba sits in the Caribbean and is not that big. From East to West, it only measures 1,200 km (750 Miles.) And the island country’s widest point is little more than 100 km (60 miles.) Two-thirds of Cuban terrain consists of fertile lowlands plains and is home to many of its farmers.
Map of Cuba and its surrounding coastal regions, rivers, and lakes published by Geology.com
Population-wise, they number over eleven million and have a life expectancy of nearly 78 years.
Figures show in 2021 the demographics of Cubans are 64.1% White, 26.6% either Mixed or Mulato & 9.3% Black who have deep roots that go back to the Slave Trade from Africa between 1842 to 1873. During the 18th, 19th, and early part of the 20th centuries, large waves of Spanish immigrants journeyed to Cuban from such places as Andalusia, Asturias, the Canary Islands, and Catalonia.
Between 1899 & 1930 many of them returned to mainland Spain. The reason was the build-up of the Spanish-American War and Cuba’s ability to gain independence from Spanish rule.
Author’s Note: For a detailed report on Cuba’s Independence and the events that led up to it, then go to this link: The World of 1898: The Spanish-American War.
Nowadays there is still a thriving community of 140,000 Spanish citizens still living and working in Cuba. You will find Haitians, Jamaicans, Germans, French, Italians, Russians, Chinese, Koreans, and Filipinos.
Havana is a vibrant capital and boasts a population of over 2 million souls. Let’s look at the reasons why.
- Visitors stand in awe at the magnificent and beautiful historical baroque village centre of a capital with exceptional architecture such as Plaza de la Revolucion and El Malecon.
- The magnetic attraction of the 16th-century built harbour and its historical importance of capturing the memories of treasure-laden Spanish galleons and corvettes sailing between the New World and the Old World.
- Everywhere you go in this incredible city you will trace and reconnect with the people from the past. Certainly, you will learn of the violent devastation created by a certain French Pirate named Jaques de Sores.
- Havana’s old city is full of ancient monuments, churches, palaces, and convents. Have your smart mobile ready and a decent camera at hand.
- In the same precinct known as the Old Havana, you will come across the narrow cobblestone streets with buildings on either side appearing to have only large Cuban families living on top of each other.
- Cuban music has its roots in both Africa and Spain. Mix those genres with music from other parts of the globe and the influences with give you all the authenticity you could crave for. Are you a dancer or musician as well as a motorcycle rider? Then this city of salsa, nueva trova, timba, jazz, rumba, and of course the famous bolero will never let you down.
Are you a touring motorcycle rider and a naturalist? If so you will rejoice in exploring Cuba’s unique and diverse flora and fauna landscape.
- As you ground out the miles on your motorcycle, be astounded by the changing paradise on either side of you. Look out for Cuban’s national flower which is a brilliantly white Jasmine. All Cubans hold great love and respect for what has always been the symbol of purity and rebellion during Cuba’s war of independence.
- Cuba is home to the smallest species of hummingbirds and the world’s tiniest of frogs. Even their species of crocodile is endemic to Cuba.
- In the 13th century, Dominoes were created by the Chinese. and in time the game travelled to many parts of the globe via seafarers, traders, and scholars. It was not long to become the top pastime for all generations in Cuba. Expect to be challenged to a game for four players using a double nine set of 55 tiles.
Here is a list of other notable Cuban cities, towns, and villages included in your next “MotoDreamer is heading to Cuba” motorcycle tour:
- Santiago de Cuba, 510,000 and their source of much of Cuban music enjoyed worldwide. The inhabitants are very proud of their second city and you will see how loyal and proud they are born here.
- Camaquey, 320,000. Inhabitants have been residing here amongst large and minor squares, serpentine streets, and alleys since 1528. You will also witness the production of its sugarcane, livestock, and many other agricultural products.,
- Holguin, 270,000. If you are interested in furniture making, shoe making, cigar making, and/or ceramic production. Then this 1523 location is a place to stop and explore.
- Santa Clara, 240,000. A city since its birth in 1689 has seen many historical events such as the original families fleeing constant pirate threats in the coastal plains who found sanctuary and settled here. Then nearly 300 years later this place set the scene for the Santa Clara Battle that included a certain Che Guevara.
Ernesto Che Guevara from Argentina comes to join Fidel Castro.
- Bayamo, 220,000. This small city is the birthplace of Cuba’s revolutionary history and where the struggle for independence began. It is not a touristy style of place but more for those who wish for a peace and tranquillity stopover.
- Guantanamo, 208,000. A known place for a US prison (built in 2002) within a US naval base created in 1902. Due to its location, it was initially, the springboard to the treacherous Atlantic Ocean. Ships were repaired to continue the war effort needed in the second world war.
In modern times the US Navy concentrates on keeping the Caribbean as safe as possible during the yearly hurricane seasons.
- Cienfuegos, 160,000. A very busy Neoclassical commercial port located in the heart of the most fertile agricultural region of Cuba. Here you will find sugar cane, mango, coffee, and of course cigar production. Pulling up in this UNESCO World Heritage Site for nearly 20 years, sipping coffee and smoking a cigar in this beautiful colonial city is a must for all touring motorcycle riders.
- Baracoa, 82,000. A rugged mountain range with one road built in 1960 in and out. A dream for motorcycle riders and their machines. Seeking the hidden town not previously discovered until 1965. Just imagine living from the rest of the world since 1511 in a totally charming and historic location with plenty of locally made food.
- Trinidad, 73,000. Another UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1988. It was so because of its historical importance to the 70 and more sugar mills and the production of sugar in both the 18th and 19th centuries. Ironically, all the mills have gone and now you will only pass the ruins amongst colonial buildings such as churches, restaurants, mansions, and hotels.
MotoDreamer is heading for Cuba and of course, the mountains, lakes, and coastal areas are just as important as urban areas….maybe more.
Cuba Turquino Mountain Range was originally published by peakVisor.
So what is the defining attraction of Cuba for Motorcycle Touring Riders? It has to be the other one-third of rocky emerald-looking mountains and valleys of rolling hills full of dramatic formations that welcome the skills of all seasoned riders at any level.
On your motorbike, you will experience a rugged tropical terrain, adrenalin curves, and vistas galore. Often on one side will be a teal blue Caribbean coastal shoreline that will suddenly be replaced by forbidden valleys and serried ranges. It will be easy to imagine what it was like to be a guerrilla in this territory. Everywhere, you will see Che Guevara’s face, beard, and five-pointed star visage.
Mike Chief Rider of MotoDreamer will guide you as a group to the location of the disastrous and ill-conceived CIA-led invasion at the Bay of Pigs. These days it is difficult to imagine Capitalism squaring off with Socialism as it did in 1961. The chances are at the very spot where it happened, you will see Cuban families relaxing with foreign tourists decked out for the proverbial sun.
The adventure is the experience of going into a country forbidden by many to see over the past 8 decades.
To start your background research Spanish is the official language but like all places slang can complicate matters. So here is a list of over 25 Cuban slang you will come across but may have never heard before.
- Acere or Asere – Cuban for dude, mate, buddy, and friend.
- Que bolá – What’s up buddy?
- Buscar Balas – You have run out of money and looking to earn some more.
- Paladar – A place where you drink and eat like there is no tomorrow.
- Jamar – to eat.
- Almendrón – Any old car from the 1950s.
- Tita – Grandmother.
- Jeva or Jevo – terms for girlfriend or boyfriend.
- Guagua or Camello – both are terms for the local bus.
- Guarachar – party.
- Tu maletin – Your problem.
- Me piro – slang for I want to go.
- Fresca or Fresco – Is used to describe a rude or disrespectful person.
- Monstruo – A monster who is exceptional at doing something.
- Está Volado! – Mindblowing!
- Gao – Home.
- Chiva – bicycle.
- Caballito – A Policeman on his motorbike.
- Yuma – Any foreigner no matter where from is a Yuma.
- Botero – All taxi drivers whether they are male or female.
- Surnar – A deep sleep.
- Comemierda – eat Shit or more politely stop being stupid.
- Absorbente – Cuban slang for a straw.
- Papaya – ***in Cuban slang papaya means lady parts, replace it with Frutabomba when ordering papaya juice.***
It will be easy for you to surmise that Cuba, although close to the US and 19 other countries is more like a world on its own.
So for those of you who do not know Cuba and are wondering exactly what continent Cuba rests on. In broad terms, it does not rest on any continent. Cuba is an archipelago of more than 4000 islands and is deemed to belong to the same North American continent as Canada, Mexico, and the United States.
The largest of the islands is what we all call Cuba and its geographical location is truly unique when you look at the three famous Ocean names of the Caribbean Sea meeting the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean as its combined oceanic neighbours.
A Top 2 Bottom Tour of Cuba with MotoDreamer, in a way, is the gateway to awe-inspiring South America and beyond.
Cuba´s closest neighbors are such magical places as Jamaica, Mexico, The Bahamas, Haiti, The Dominican Republic, the Cayman Islands, and of course, the mighty USA.
Cuban Coat of Arms and a brief timeline of events.
Image showing the Cuban Coat of Arms.
MotoDreamer is heading to Cuba – Pre-Columbian, Colonialism, and Gold.
Scientists and Geologists have dated the approximate island where Cuba is located as far back as the Jurassic period. They have traced its roots back over 900 million years through its metamorphic rock formations in Cuba’s Santa Clara province and Cretaceous limestones and dolomites discovered on the western side of the island.
Human life has been traced back to 4000 BCE with the Indian indigenous groups of Guanajatabeyes (the first cave-dwellers,) Giboney and Taino Arawak speakers. It was these settlers from Yucatan and Belize who gave the world the name Cubanascnan for their new land. A name that you can see was shortened over time to the name we know today as Cuba.
Arawak TainoTtribe in Cuba around 800 CE. Image attributed to Marie Jean Baptiste
via Pixels for editorial purposes only.
The Spanish were the first Europeans to discover Cuba when Christopher Columbus landed in 1492.
Later in 1511 and over the next four years, the Spanish established settlements in Havana, Santiago de Cuba, and Baracoa.
It was an easy decision for the Conquistadors to colonise the island completely as their hunger for gold and other precious metals held no bounds and the demise of the indigenous people began. It has been well recorded that the savage and brutal extortion of the Spanish Gold mining owners toward the indigenous workforce became a creation of labour shortage and in less than a decade slaves from West Africa began replacing those who entered the mines on a daily and grueling basis.
There were uprisings from time to time but the Spanish had no issues in continuing to grow their gold, silver, and emerald trade and enabling them to enjoy their spoils via important trade routes such as the Windward Passage and its links with the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean.
The Spanish Conquistadors had mines not only in Cuba, but in Peru, Bolivia, and Mexico. Everything was channelled firstly to Havana and then outbound to Spain.
Did the original estimated 50,000 to 300,000 inhabitants of Cuba survive and can their descendants be interacted with today?
Sadly it only took seventy years for the almost eradication of the indigenous people. They had not only to face consistent brutality from the imperial rulers, but they also had to endure the introduction of European diseases such as smallpox and saw their numbers diminish further in Spanish lines of descent through intermarriage over the next two centuries.
Author’s Note: It is well known to Mike and Diane at MotoDreamer that motorcycle-touring adventure riders are also keen historians. So those of you that are, you will be pleased to know despite the contrary, evidence is coming out from Cuba that they did not indeed disappear completely.
Some of the Cubans have managed to research their roots back to their ancestors who mixed with local colonists and Africans who managed to flee the slavery barbarism. They have found evidence of those who maintained their Taino customs and farming practices.
Check out the following link to the Smithsonian Magazine Website and an article published on the 16th of November 2016 by Hillary Gulley – Searching for Cuba’s Pre-Columbian Roots.
Descendants from the Taino indigenous communities of Cuba. Image attribute to the American Indian Magazine and titles Hidden in Plain Sight.
MotoDreamer is heading to Cuba – Pirates
We all grew up on stories, legends, and folklore about the world of Pirates, Buccaneers, and Corsairs. Many historical figures who were known to be one of the above found Cuba and the many Caribbean islands as their centre of attention.
The movie world had us all believing that to be a pirate you had to have a wooden peg leg, a black eye patch, a squawking parrot on one shoulder, and a skull and crossbones flag waving behind.
As you explore Cuba and its colourful history that began in the 1600s, you will soon discover that it was here that Cuban ports became the hubs for all sorts of piracy, buried treasure, and smuggling. No wonder Spanish ships of all sizes sailed daily and were often laden with all sorts of valuable goods, such as gold, silver, jewels, spices, and sugar.
The “Spanish Main” Sea routes that supplied Spain became the quick profit targets for all and sundry.
Spain’s enemies of the day such as England and France engaged “Freebooters” and their Galleons and Corvettes to roam the seas around Cuba. Famous names such as Sir Francis Drake, Blackbeard, Captain Kidd, Henry Morgan, and Frenchman Jean Laffite.
Author’s Note: To learn more on this subject check out the following link article titled: The Real Pirates of the Caribbean: Cuba’s Pirate History. It makes for a great insight into the world of piracy.
MotoDreamer is heading to Cuba – Cubanos and Pesos
Cuba is still governed under the 1976 constitution that describes the country as a socialist state, with all its powers belonging to its people and the only political party – The Communist Party.
Cuba used to have two currencies Cuban Pesos and Cuban Convertible Pesos Currency.
The Cuban National Peso (CUP known as ‘moneda nacional’) is the official cash currency in Cuba but cannot be exchanged outside of the country. Some casas particulares (guest houses/ bed & breakfasts), and private bars and restaurants prefer cash payments in dollars or euros.
It is advisable to exchange GBP for Euros or USD before you arrive in Cuba. Some hotels only accept bank card payments.
You should not take Cuban pesos (CUP) out of the country. At the end of your stay, you are advised to spend your CUP or exchange them for a foreign currency before reaching the airport on departure, as this service is not provided at the Cadeca money exchange counter there. Foreign currency in Euros, US or Canadian dollars can be used for cash payments in duty-free shops or cafes in the departure area after passing immigration.
It is currently illegal to exchange money other than at Cadeca exchange houses. However, other official exchange locations could be permitted at short notice. Opening times and the availability of currency at Cadecas may vary.
Ignore individuals offering exchange facilities to avoid queues.
Cadeca exchange houses at airports buy Euros, GBP, USD and some other currencies in exchange for CUP. However, you cannot exchange your CUP back at airports.
CUP is also obtainable at ATMs using a bank card. Check with your bank before you travel to confirm that your debit, credit and ATM cards will work in Cuba. We recommend you bring cash with you. Currency at ATMs and Cadeca exchange houses are limited
Euros and USD are accepted more widely than Sterling. Bank notes should be in good condition with no tears, rips or markings. Scottish bank notes cannot be exchanged.
Check with MotoDreamer for the most up-to-date information before you travel.
Havana, no other city in the world, shares decaying architecture and flamboyant old classic cars.
But, how come Cuba became the refuge for so many ancient cars? Are they now as iconic as Cuban cigars, and the memory of Che Guevara? The history is truly unique and yes they are indeed iconic.
Cuba has an estimated 60 to 70,000 vintage classic American cars from as back as the 1950s, There are examples if you look hard enough that will go back further in age. Tick off how many Buicks, Oldsmobiles, Fords, Chryslers, and Chevrolets you come across.
Author’s Note: Research the true history of amazing relics from the past in Cuba by heading to this next link titled: Why is Cuba filled with Classic Cars?
Is it the same situation regarding our two-wheeled friends in Cuba?
Cuba and vintage motorcycles previously published by Cuba en la memoria.
As for vintage cars in Cuba, the story is much the same for motorcycles. Cuban motorcycle riders, known locally as Harlistas are the heroes who have preserved the island’s motorcycle culture.
Their task was never going to be easy, nowhere to buy used parts never mind brand new ones. Over the last 50 years, both men and women riders had to become geniuses at inventing alternatives to fix whatever the motorcycle ailment.
See the odd car wheel as a replacement for a missing motorcycle back tyre. It is amazing to see Harleys with cannibalized parts from old Soviet motorbikes and Asian motorcycles. Get talking to these well-respected veterans. Be astounded by the degrees they had to go to with hand-making parts that were non-existent until recently.
Author’s Note: These Cuban bikers are the real legends and not the Nanby Pansy brigade who head toward 15 minutes of fame in our “Anyone can be a Celebrity” culture. Why not interact with as many of them as possible in the MotoDreamer is heading to Cuba motorcycle tour?
The historic national dish of Ropa Vieja leads Cuban cuisine.
Ropa Vieja or “Old Clothes” definitely, invented for Motorcycle Rider’s appetites. Just describing it now makes me so damn hungry. It is a Cuban dish culminating in long strands of shredded beef with onions, bay leaves, cumin, olives, and large bell peppers, all bouncing around in a flavourful and rich-tasting tomato-based stew.
The origins of this globally pleasing Spanish dish began with the immigrants from the Canary Islands.
Do the peppers make it spicy and a “right old bum burner?”
No, it is not spicy as the bell peppers are sweet and contain no heat to worry you. You’ll find no cayenne pepper or chilli powder to set you on fire. Often served with black beans, sweet plantain and white rice. Myself, I prefer the alternative with fresh tender yucca and dollops of mashed spuds.
Another exceptional dish is down to the pig farmers in Cuba and their traditions handed down over the years. Definitely ensure you have tried Lechon Asado (Roasted Pork.) Like me, I suspect that once you have first tasted the tantalizing mojo salsa accompaniment made up of vinegar, seasonings, and garlic you will be back for seconds every time.
Finally, we here at MotoDreamer had to reach the iconic cigars of Havana.
Another reason not to ignore this MotoDreamer is heading to Cuba Motorcycle Tour.
What makes Cuban Havana cigars special compared to all other cigars?
Easy question to answer for this author. For many years I was an avid smoker of cigars and nothing anywhere compared to a Havana Cuban cigar. I stopped smoking over twenty-five years ago without any regrets…..except one.
I can clearly state that if a doctor came to me with those dreaded words ending in six months. My next port of call would be to an old fashion tobacconist for a six-month supply of the wonderful combination of Cuban-only tobacco and the monumental skill of flawlessly rolling a cigar just for me.
For hundreds of years, the care and attention that goes into making a Havana cigar have never altered. Even the ritual of producing a genuine Cuban cigar has never changed and goes back to the days of King Phillip the Second of Spain in the 1500s. You always know when you are smoking a genuine cigar by its unmistakable properly harvested, dried, cut, and wrapped appearance with its strong aroma and taste.
And should my journey be only six months I would definitely ensure I have a decent supply of rum – sorry I should have stipulated Cuban spicy-tasting Rum to act as the perfect companion.
Author’s Note: I just found this amazing article on the subject of Cigars and Rum Pairing Guide from 2020. Time for me to Bookmark it….just in case.
Cuban Havana Cigar with a wooden keg of Cuban Rum and a tumbler of the smokey nectar complimenting each other previously published by Famous Smoke Shop.
In conclusion to this article titled: MotoDreamer is heading to Cuba.
I was going to finish this article with the subject of the political and turmoil past of Cuba. But then I thought there was no need to. The media is awash with movies, books, magazines, podcasts, and documentaries.
For many of us at MotoDreamer and beyond. This will be for many a lifetime ambition to ride an adventure with our motorcycles through Cuba. The forbidden cultural pearl in Latin America.
In April 2024, MotoDreamer is heading to Cuba. 10 lucky riders and their pillion riders can immerse themselves into a wonderful world for 10 days. I say let’s discover what is great about Cuba and its people together.
If 2024 is the year for you, your partner, and your friends to explore this amazing world. Then please check out the following 10-day tour to Peru. Then follow up with a back-to-back 10-day tour of Colombia. Both, scheduled for February 2024.
Finally, check this challenge out!
Add this latest MotoDreamer is heading to Cuba motorcycle Touring Adventure to your calendar. Then add it to the Motorcycle 80-Days Around the World Challenge.