Horses, baseball bats and overheating engines: on the open road in Cuba

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The roadside cafeteria
Processed with VSCO with f2 preset
My top-notch cab and a horse and cart in the background.

Everything in Cuba feels different, right down to the roads.

Driving along a highway feels like stepping back in time, with colorful 1960s car models whizzing alongside. At the first railroad crossing we came to, a man was selling (or trying to sell) yellow baseball bats to cars that had to pass slowly over the raised tracks. Gaunt cows fed in roadside pastures. Men in wooden carts – sometimes on top of a pile of straw or with dogs – were pulled by horses alongside the regular traffic. At one point, when my driver spotted a jeep with blue lights atop the roof emerged and a pair of officers smoking cigarettes under palm trees, he literally cut our speed in half.

About 40 minutes into my excursion with Rodolfo, the air conditioning stropped working. The fact we had it at all kind of surprised me but then, maybe that’s what I was paying for. About 20 minutes after that, Rodolfo unexpectedly pulled into a thatch-roofed, outdoor, roadside cafeteria where  people were sitting at small tables, drinking coffee and beer in the open air. Rodolfo silently got out, then came around, opened my door, took my hand and brought me past all the staring faces to the counter. I think he assumed I wanted something but I had already stockpiled water and it was way too hot for coffee, especially with the AC broken. I used the outhouse around the corner – an attendant gave me three squares of toilet paper and then had a small plate waiting for my coin when I got out – while Rodolfo made a phone call, inspected under the taxi hood and bought a bottle of water to pour over the engine.

That was the only real apparent business we’ve passed that I’ve noticed. Otherwise, the land is mostly farmed or untouched with occasional shacks decorated by swaying lines of laundry in this hot breeze.

I just saw a sign that we’ve entered the province Villa Clara, which is a good sign. Rodolfo piped up and said it’s not far now.

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Horses, baseball bats and overheating engines: on the open road in Cuba

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