12th  to  20th November 2010 | Cuba

The Revolutionary Ride 2010

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The Revolutionary Ride 2010 (Cuba)

Bay of Pigs to Cienfuegos & Havana 

November 12 - 20, 2010

 

Cycle - 5 days - 390km

This was G4G's 32nd challenge.

Followed a fascinating route from the infamous Bay of Pigs through national parks, lush countryside and sugar plantations, over hills and mountains and along the shimmering Caribbean coastline. Got right up close and discovered the people as much as the sights by following back roads and visiting small rural and fishing villages. The route took the participants to many colonial towns and historical and world heritage sites including Trinidad, Santa Clara and Cienfuegos, with plenty of time to explore Havana, one of the oldest cities in the Americas.

Level: This was a HARD test of fitness and determination, but it was achievable by anyone who maintained a certain level of fitness, i.e.: regularly in the gym, swimming, walking. G4G held a number of free training sessions before the challenge.

Number of participants: Maximum 35 per group.

Registration Fee: AED 1,850/-

Minimum Sponsorship: AED12,000 if you joined the group in Havana or AED23,000 if you travelled with the group from Dubai

Assistance provided in advance by G4G: Fund-raising ideas; training & fitness suggestions; safety & medical advice; clothing & equipment advice.

What G4G provided on the Challenge: Flights, Visas and transfers, hotels/tents (on a double-occupancy basis), food, guides, medical & vehicle back-up.

Essential to leave behind: Day-to-day problems.

Essential to bring:
Determination & a sense of humour!

Closing date: Closed

November 12 - 20, 2010    


Day 1: Friday 12 November

After departing Dubai in the extremely early hours, we arrived in Havana in the late afternoon (local time).  We were met by our challenge hosts and had a 40-minute transfer to the hotel for an evening meal and overnight.   This evening, we dined together and heard more about the challenge ahead.

Overnight -  Hotel Occidental Miramar


Day 2: Saturday 13 November

Tour of Havana : Transfer from Havana to Playa Larga : Bike Fitting

In the morning, we had a chance to do some sightseeing of new and old Havana by bus and by foot.    The tour included Plaza San Francisco, Plaza de Armas and Plaza de la Catedral, a visit to Revolution Square and lunch in old Havana

We then were transferred by bus to Playa Larga ( 2 ½ hours approx.)    On arrival, we had the bike fitting and there was time to swim in the Bay of Pigs before dinner and overnight.

Overnight - Hotel Playa Larga


Day 3: Sunday 14 November

Cycling : Playa Larga -Playa Giron - Caleta Buena - Cienfuegos : 77km

After a morning departure from Playa Larga by bike, we pedaled alongside the Bay of Pigs, catching glimpses of the Caribbean sea as we cycled.   

After 35km we reached Playa Giron.   This was the location of the 1962 invasion, when a CIA backed attempt to topple Fidel Castro’s revolutionary government met with strong resistance and was ultimately unsuccessful for the invading force.   It remains a key event in the continuing bad relations between Cuba and the USA.  

From there we continued to Caleta Buena, where stopped for lunch before continuing into the Cuban hinterland on an off-road track.    The route took us through tiny villages where locals scratched a living making wood charcoal or fishing.   

We finished the day's ride near the Latin American Medical School – 1000’s of student still come to Cuba from all over Latin America to train as doctors – and transferred by bus to Cienfuegos for dinner and overnight.

Overnight - Hotel Pasacaballo


Day 4: Monday 15 November

Cycling : Cienfuegos – Trinidad : 90 km approx. : Hilly start and end, undulations for most of the day.

We set off today along an undulating coastal road followed by some short sharp hills through beautiful pasture lands.   After around 20km, we had stunning views of the Escambray mountains across a valley of sugar cane.   The road then swept up and over gentle hills and we met the coast just beyond Guajimico.  

We stopped for lunch after 50km at a farm restaurant.   The final 30km were on a flat road which clung to the shimmering Caribbean coastline all the way to Trinidad.   There were some hillier sections just before Trinidad.

Overnight - Hotel Ancon

Day 5: Tuesday 16 November

Tour of Trinidad

Cycling : Trinidad - Sancti Spiritus : 67km : Gentle hills

We started the day with a short tour of Trinidad, a “museum town” brimming with colonial architecture which was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1988.

After the tour, we set off for Sancti Spiritus taking the road which connected Trinidad to the Valle de los Ingenios – the sugar cane valley which made Trinidad so rich 100’s of years ago.    The terrain undulates past fields of sugar cane and old farmhouses and pases Manacas Iznaga, the home of one of Trinidad’s most powerful sugar barons.    Along the way, we stopped for a picnic lunch before continuing past Banao to Sancti Spiritus for dinner and overnight.   

Overnight - Hotel Rancho Hatuey

Day 6: Wednesday 17 November

Cycling : Sancti Spiritus - Santa Clara : 85km : First 10km were steep uphill, then sweeping downhill before gentle hills towards the end of the day

We set off this morning taking the Carretera Central – what was once the main road which linked Havana to Santiago in the East.   Nowadays, the road is not so busy, as the highway passes close by and it was a day for cycling past small rural towns and farming villages.  

Santa Clara is a vibrant city, busy with street life.   It was the first major place to be liberated from Batista’s army in December 1958.   Today a number of monuments commemorate this important period of Cuba’s history, including a statue to the legendary Che Guevara, where we stopped for a group photo.

Overnight - Hotel Los Caneyes / Hotel La Granjita

Day 7: Thursday 18 November

Cycling : Santa Clara - Cienfuegos : 70km approx. : Flat with the occasional gentle undulation

Transfer Cienfuegos - Havana

We were unlikely to encounter much traffic this morning and the terrain was flat with the occasional gentle undulation.   We cycled through field after field of sugar cane with traditional houses dotted here and there.

We entered the Province of Cienfuegos after 33km, then the final stretch took us straight through the colonial heart of this beautiful Caribbean town and onto the Malecon (sea front).   From there, we enjoyed the panoramic views across the Bay of Cienfuegos, our final destination.

After a celebratory cocktail and buffet lunch overlooking the sea we said goodbye to our bikes and took a 3-hour transfer to Havana, arriving around 7pm.    

This evening we enjoyed a celebratory meal at the hotel
 

Overnight - Hotel Occidental Miramar


Day 8: Friday 19 November

We visited one of the projects for which you’re raising funds.   We spent time with the children from "Abel Santa Maria School" and their carers and did some work for them, such as building, painting, etc.

In the early afternoon we transferred to Havana airport (30 – 40 minutes approx.) for the return flight to Dubai.


Day 19: Saturday 20 November

Arrival in Dubai in the late evening.

Climate

In November, the temperatures can range from a minimum of 26°C to a maximum of 30°C. November to April is the drier winter season. Hurricane Season starts mid June to the end of November, but do not worry as there is a bigger chance to win a lottery than be stuck in a hurricane in Cuba. Nights are relatively cooler as compared to the days.

Health

The most important and simple thing you can do to prevent illness is to be properly immunized. Our medical advisor recommends that travellers should be immunized against Hepatitis A and B, a series of three injections, advising the first and second doses at least 6 weeks before departure. Typhoid and Tetanus are a must. The Dubai London Clinic will provide vaccinations to challengers on a cost only basis - contact 04 344 6663 to make an appointment.

Most important - Cleanliness precautions should be taken, such as regular hand washing and the use of hand cleaning gel prior to eating to prevent passage of viruses and germs.

Second most important - follow food and drink guidelines given by your guides.

The challenge is rated as Hard, so good fitness is required - start training as early as possible. Keep hydrated by drinking water regularly.

Training

You will be biking for several hours per day, so it is important that you start a gym or training programme at least three months prior to the Challenge.

You do need to be fit and healthy to participate.

Most gyms will be happy to assist you in achieving your fitness (and some may even help you fundraise!) We can also supply names and numbers of personal trainers; some recommended by previous Challengers and some who are ex-Challengers themselves.

We will send you regular emails about weekly training events organized by G4G.

Visa information:

Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months, calculated from before your departure date. You should also have a few clean pages (no stamps!) left in the passport. All foreigners entering Cuba require a visa.

Since there is no Cuban Embassy in Dubai, Gulf for Good will assist in acquiring a Cuban Visa. We strongly advise that you sort out all your visa requirements well in advance.

Travel & Medical Insurance

Please make sure you have suitable coverage before leaving for Cuba. If you already have a travel/medical insurance policy we will require a photocopy of your card/details on registration. If you require insurance for the trip we can arrange this for you, provided we have your premium two weeks before departure. Further details are available on request.

Fundraising

Enclosed is a comprehensive fundraising booklet, containing hundreds of ideas. It is always preferable to arrange fundraising “events” rather than ask family, friends and colleagues for money. Fundraising in this way increases your profile, creates more goodwill and raises awareness of the work of the nominated charities. The G4G office can give you names of previous Challengers who will be happy to offer advice and maybe even assistance.

Safety

We take your safety very seriously. It is our first and never forgotten priority. Please listen to your guides and follow their instructions.

Respect for the Environment

We maintain a firm commitment to conserve the areas we work in and ask you to do the same. Take only photographs and leave behind only footprints!

What We Supply

Dubai-Havana return flights (for those who opt for this), daily meals, water, accommodation (on twin sharing basis) including Specialized and Milano Bikes. All your gear will be transported each day to the night stop, except daily necessities carried in your own daypack.

A Typical Day

During the typical challenge day participants will be cycling for an average of 7-8 hours. During this period support vehicles will supply snacks, refreshments and meals. Bike specific bottles will need to be carried by you. Boiled water is available throughout the day.

Personal Equipment

Travel light! Do limit the weight of your luggage to less than 20 Kgs overall. All bags are to be clearly marked and lockable. Do not take or wear any valuables on the trip, it is best to leave them at home. Light clothing is recommended and should dry quickly, thus synthetic fibres are preferable to cotton. Be aware that the nights and early mornings can be cold.

Mental Preparation

It is well within you to complete this challenge. Remain in a positive state of mind, without being overly confident. This mental stamina will make the more difficult parts easier to complete. Always focus on your goal and do not get involved in inconsequential matters that will rob you of your concentration. Being physically prepared assists a great deal in being mentally confident for the physical part of the Challenge.

Miscellaneous

Havana, is 8 hours behind UAE time.

Electricity – 110 volts

Power Outlets in Cuba will accept the following plugs: The same as USA

Flat blade plug

Take Canadian Dollars/ GBP/ Euros in cash to change to Convertible Pesos (CUC). There is an 8% tax levied on conversion of the American Dollar to the CUC. Please note that coins are not accepted for exchange.

Keep 25 CUC per person for Airport Departure Tax

Conversion rates as of 8th March 2010

1 CAD = 0.90 CUC

1 Euro = 1.26 CUC

1 GBP = 1.40 CUC

The local Cuban Currency is Pesos Cubanos. (CUP) This currency is more or less only used by Cuban Citizens. As a foreigner, you can exchange your CUC for CUP to shop from the local markets.

  • A good reference book is “Lonely Planet Travel Survival Kit- Cuba” available in Dubai from Magrudy’s and other book shops. We have a copy in the office - for reference, not for borrowing!
  • We have a comprehensive list of kit suppliers in the UAE

The following notes are from the Ground Handler who will be leading the challenge:

1. Food and Drinks

On the route, the ground handlers will serve you wholesome food for replenishment and to meet your energy requirements. Special dietary requirements can be provided on request. Our cooks are trained in matters of hygiene and cooking and even the dishes are washed in mild disinfectant solution. The water provided is pressure boiled and iodized.

2. Your Staff On The Trip

Will consist of one English-speaking Guide/Escort who will be wholly responsible for the execution of the trip once it hits the road. Cooks, assisted by kitchen staff, will do the cooking and surprise you with both western and local culinary delights in remote locations.

3. We (ground handler) Will Provide

 Daily meals, water, accommodation, Bicycles, (28 speed mountain bike, trek 4400 or similar). All your gear will be transported each day to the night stop, except daily necessities carried in your own bag pack.

4. Daily Wear

Your guide/escort can help you plan your daily wear at the beginning of the day. Do carry an extra shirt in your daypack. When you stop cycling, you may feel cold after sweating and need to change or add a layer to prevent chills.

5. What To Carry in your Day Pack

Your daypack, preferably waterproof, should be light, small and comfortable. All small personal items like toilet paper, water bottle, medicines, extra shirt, gloves etc. that may be needed for the day, should be in your daypack. Support vehicle carries rest of the stuff.

6. General Matters

Your personal belongings will be looked after by our staff, so please help them by not leaving them unattended in public places.

You will find the people friendly, charming, and inquisitive. However, the city centers are known for beggars and hustlers who may hassle you for one thing or another. We request you to not oblige them by handing out money or any other items. The beggars are a direct side effect of tourists who amused them by handing out money, pens, chocolates etc. The leader/Escort can advise you if you are keen to help locally.

7. Money On The Trek

You may want to buy drinks at wayside shops and souvenirs from the locals. Small change should be carried. As customary, we can help discuss in detail in the pre-trek briefing.

Funds raised by participants in the 'Revolutionary Ride, Cuba' supported the disadvantaged children of Cuba & fund reconstruction projects in neighbouring Haiti.   This was a response to the terrible scenes of devastation witnessed earlier this year in Haiti, especially to help the children who have been orphaned, injured or left homeless by the earthquake. 

 CUBA  

 1. Abel Santamaria School for visually impaired children:  We will no longer be working with Music Fund for Cuba to help this charity. However, thanks to our Chairman's efforts when visiting Cuba in September 2010, we have made direct contact with the school's director and are awaiting final project proposals.

 
2. Paediatric Cardiocentre of the William Soler Hospital: We are also in discussion with this hospital, which is in desperate need of paediatric equipment. 
  
HAITI 

Haiti Hospital Appeal:  http://haitihospitalappeal.org - funding a Children's Ward as part of the Proposed L'Hospital CBH at Quartier Morin

  • This appeal is run by a UK-based Board of Trustees, while the Haiti Hospital has a separate Operational Board consisting of individuals from medical, clergy and professional services.  
  • The HHA is building a large 36 acre medical campus, L'Hospital CBH, at Quatier Morin, Haiti.
  • G4G hope to fund (or partially fund) Pediatric Unit 2, which includes 2 wards of 8 beds each for children aged 8 and above.  The unit is planned to open in 2012.  We hope that we will have sufficient monies to fund either the girls or boys ward 
  • Pediatric Unit 1 and the Maternity Ward were completed earlier this year and both continue to be used for emergency aid following the 2010 earthquake.  
  • The Spinal Injury Unit is also housed within Pediatric Unit 1.  
  • HHA, coupled with the American Baptist Churches of NY, are coordinating the funding and building of the facility. 
  • No government funding is available for either build or operational costs, which will be covered by charges for services.
  • Funding for the building works to date has been from organisations such as Cyan International, American Baptist Churches of NY, Direct Relief International, White Ribbon Alliance and HHA. 
  • Locally, NGO's involved in the hospital project include Healing Hands Haiti, United Nations, Crossroads International and Konbit Sante. Kings College London and White Ribbon Alliance are also assisting to recruit and train medical staff.  

For further updates on Abel Santa Maria school click here ...

For further updates on Haiti Hospital Appeal click here ...

For the latest information about Haiti's health situation, please go to the WHO "Health Action in Crises" website

Kit List

The best way to ensure that you are dressed correctly is to wear the correct fabrics against the body.  The biggest mistake made by people is to have cotton against the skin. Cotton absorbs moisture perfectly, but has absolutely no wicking properties.  “Wick” means that the fabric draws moisture away from the body and allows it to evaporate on the outside.  Cotton against the skin will trap moisture, so your body could be chilled by the wind (esp while cycling).  So, don’t take chances with incorrect clothing.

Packing
Remember that you will be on the go for at least 9 days. You need to take enough clothing, especially socks to last for this period.

Your clothes and equipment should fall into the following categories:

  1. What you are going to wear while cycling
  2. What you are going to carry in your daypack
  3. What you would like the support vehicles to carry for you

DayPack
Make sure your daypack is properly packed and complete by the time you start each day. You will be unlikely to see the rest of your luggage during the day.

Thoughts and ideas:

  • Be kind to your feet! Buy new footwear in good time and use it well to break it in.
  • Bring foot / blister treatment and treat blisters early (on hands, too). Reduce the risk of blisters by wearing correct fitting footwear, socks and gloves.
  • Prepare your body well for the trip; get plenty of practice on the saddle before you go!
  • Stuff sacks are great for storing your gear. Use different sizes and colours to differentiate the contents. Plastic bags are also helpful to separate clean and dirty clothing.
  • If you normally wear contacts, bring a pair of glasses in case of eye irritation from dust.
  • Some of the roads are rutted and dusty. It is a good idea to pack camera equipment in plastic bags to protect them from dust in addition to their normal cases. Also bring some lens cleaning material.
  • Laundry is difficult on this trip but you can handwash a few quick-drying items.
  • Make one copy of your passport and take it with you. We will have a second copy in our files.

CHECK LIST

MANDATORY

  • Bag - a lockable, good-sized duffle bag with a top length zipper and nametag (Name Tag provided by G4G)
  • Daypack - a light small and comfortable daypack (25-30 litres) with padded straps and a 2 ltr water bladder for ease of drinking while cycling
  • Cycling Helmet (to be worn at all times during cycling)
  • Cycling Gloves (padded or with gel)
  • Sun Glasses · Bike Specific Water Bottles

Pants

  • One or more pairs of padded cycling shorts (recommended)
  • Trousers or shorts suited for hotel/camping terrain

Footwear

  • Several pairs of light weight socks
  • 1 pair light weight shoes or Trainers for biking
  • 1 pair sandals or comfortable shoes to wear at night to suit hotel and camping terrain

Underwear

  • Several pairs regular underwear (You could also get wicking underwear available in sports stores)

Outerwear

  • 1 Light fleece or similar for the evening.
  • Lightweight wind/rain protection jacket with a hood.
  • Brimmed hat for sun
  • Long sleeved clothing in the evening

Shirt/t-shirts:

  • A selection of quick dry shirts

Other

  • 2 sets travelling gear (trousers, shirt, shoes, socks, underwear) & change of clothes for hotel nights
  • Gel Saddle covers are optional but can make a big difference to your comfort
  • Swim shorts / swim suits
  • Sunglasses (and extra prescription lenses or contacts) Very Important!
  • Sunscreen min SPF 15+
  • Lip Balm /chap stick with sunscreen/sun block
  • 1 Headlamp or flash light, pocket sized
  • Personal wash bag & toiletries (include wet wipes & a water free 'hand wash')

Optional

  • Buff or Bandana
  • Quick Dry Towel – medium size
  • Camera with extra film, batteries & lenses
  • Snacks – energy/granola bars, bars, nuts, toffees, etc
  • Energy Drink Mixes: Isostar tablets or Pocari Sweat Powder
  • Prescription medication
  • Neck pouch and/or Money belt to carry money, permits and passport photocopies while traveling
  • Travel documents, including copy of passport
  • 4 extra passport-sized pictures for visas and permits (just in case!)
  • Cash currency
  • Swiss Army Knife with scissors and tweezer
  • Toilet Paper
  • Mini first aid kit (main kit carried by group medic)