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Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Brian & Deya met in Vancouver Canada. After a few years together we were married and made choices. One was not to have children the other was not to take life for granted. The rest is yet to come.

February 28, 2012

Never Ever Land (an inside joke)

(Sorry no pictures until we leave Cuba)

I’ve got one spoon and Horst has the other, it’s the third time we’ve had to put the tyre back on the rim and the tube looks like a Red Green project. The tube had one puncture and a long slash from the object (broach pin) as it rotated with the tyre when I touched the breaks; a stupid mistake on my part. It’s about 30 degrees Celsius out and all four of us are knackered. The cops that stopped by were watching us like we didn’t know what to do and kept commenting that we were doing it (roadside tyre change) wrong. I think they pissed Deya off because when the shortest cop leaned in to help, Deya politely told him to piss off, which they did, leaving us alone on the side of the road. By the time we finished all three bikes had to be push started because the hazards had been on for too many hours.

I’ve had many, many tyre changes and Horst has had many, many more. It was nice of the boys in blue to stop but they’ve probably never changed anything more than a 250cc 15 inch tyre and believe me, there is a difference. Despite that, we were able to get the tube to hold air with a bunch of patches, a load of rubber cement and thick layering of duct tape. Ah, duct tape…

As I was tightening the bolts on the fork slider, that’s the bit that the fork is seated in and the front axle passes through, I heard a snap! There are two screws and as always I tighten each half a turn at a time. I jumped back a little then looked closely at the two bolts, telling my comrades that I think I just broke a bolt. I couldn’t see anything wrong and the bolts seemed tight. Previously, when loosening the bolts I noted that they were bent and would not come out; I presumed this was caused by the accident in Peru. Consequently I also assumed that the outside bolt had snapped. I wasn’t too worried about it as long as everything was tight, I could deal with it later.

By the time we got home it was dark and hitting potholes at speed in the dark was a fine reminder of why driving at night in Cuba is not a good idea. The roads are worse than I first recognized when we got here. My tyre went completely flat about 15 minutes after we arrived, lucky I thought. The next morning I went out to take a look at the flat tyre and ponder my good fortune at arriving to the Casa safely when I noticed the fork slider was broken fully across the two screws, “well that sucks!” said I. Expletives ensued and then Deya and I discussed the need to change the tube anyways. I got to work.

I had a new Metzeler tube, heavy duty, and made the swap. As I was spooning, which is a bit difficult with a broken shoulder, I managed to pinch the new tube. I’m very careful about this part of the process but screwed it up anyways. The result was having Deya go to a ‘gomeria’, which is the rubber guy, to have both tubes patched. He did a good job; of course we were only charged 23 times the going rate. I guess that’s our privilege for being in Cuba.

Since then my tyre has had air but I haven’t ridden. The problem is that the part is a complicated one and here are the options we were faced with:
a) If we get it fixed in Cuba, which is possible, and it fails, which is also possible, then I have no front wheel. Try to get around like that!
b) If we order the part, about $700 Canadian dollars, it would arrive by DHL at about $600 Canadian dollars delivery. It is most likely to take several months to clear and least likely to ever make it out of Customs, due primarily to theft.
c) If we wait to leave Cuba, I can still ride it to the dealer in Cancun or get the part delivered in Mexico and change it myself.

We decided we would wait until Mexico and hope it doest break apart completely on the highway.

So that leaves us with a decision to make about touring the rest of Cuba, should we or should we not. Since most places seem to be the same and the difficulty we are having with repairs and such, we decided we had seen enough. I understand we are missing the better half of the island but then this is just the way things go, like when we missed Cañón del Pato due to two broken arms; shit happens.

Since we’ve had to kill time it gave us an opportunity to focus on a few things in Havana. We rented a flat for a reasonable price from a friend, this helped out on the budget too, though we would be tortured continuously by five feral neighbourhood cats. We cook like demons and eat like pigs gaining a bit of weight in the process with all the varieties of spaghetti and banana bread we can produce. It can be tough to find ingredients though, it took almost a week to find eggs and we are dangerously low on sodium bicarbonate! Also, Horst and Osly have been stuffing us with good German breads, paté and Nutella too. They have a direct line to the motherland. Happy times!

We’ve been hot on the trail of some interesting options to leave the island and missed several excellent opportunities by a day or so. In any event we have secured at least two different options, plus the container and air options which are not ideal but doable. One of the most interesting options which we’ve been researching is the US container that goes to Florida about once a week. It’s a bit of a secret but it might work in a pinch. For our US friends a note, as Canadians we can transport from Cuba directly into USA without restrictions. The trick is to find a non USA registered boat here.

We attended the Embassy’s Polar Bar to enjoy the Canadian beef shipped in from Montreal and some beer. We met interesting people there like the Deputy of Public Affairs Officer for the US in Cuba, an excellent individual. The Americans share resources (housed in the Swiss Embassy) and deal with the Cuban government officially as the ‘Interests Section’ but have no official diplomatic relationship. It’s a silly and ineffective relationship, including the embargo, which has been unsuccessful for over 50 years. Time to try something different guys; write a letter, Cubans are ready for the bigger man to stand up.

Our host Julio has been fantastic and has shown us around town a bit, taking us to an “Old Car Show” and generally pointing us in the right direction. Thanks Julio! Of course Deya and I like to keep busy so we’ve been studying daily in between searching for a boat, to keep the mind active and it has been very enjoyable. We have also been stirring the pot a bit as we like to do and delivered a seven page report on our experience as tourists to the Minister of Tourism. Hahaha…I doubt they will read it but if they do I bet it’s the first of its kind!

We attended the Customs Office to find out about where we needed to clear out of. During our visit I did a ballpark estimate of the level of productivity in the department. Productivity is based on a mix of two measures: Utilization and Efficiency. By making some simple calculations based on obvious observations we can get an excellent estimate of productivity. In the three hours that we were there I estimated about 8-12%! No Joke! You may not even be able to imagine what that looks like. We got our information from the Jefa (Boss) because the Specialist decided not to show up that day, then left.

We returned a couple of weeks later once we had figured out more about our transport needs. This time it was to confirm the documentation that we would need and the timings. The Specialist was in, fortunately, I guess. She (Specialist) told us that she would check to see what the requirements for documents were and let us know. After four hours of watching her mingle and chat we decided to swim up stream to the chiefs. The department Jefa wasn’t in that day so we went to her boss’s boss (that’s how we roll). By the way, my estimate of productivity was about 15-20% but it was tough to tell for sure because the jovial mood everyone was in. It was February 14th, lovers day, and people were generally moving about with more energy, though maybe not actually doing anything.

Within five minutes we were shaking hands with Fidel, not THE Fidel, but a big boss none the less and were seated in a board room with Fidel, the Administrative Manager and the Customs Legal Council. Deya was nervous and I was thinking, “Right on, action!” They answered our questions and set out a plan to make sure things got handled properly. It was the first bit of leadership we have seen since we got to Cuba and the funny part was that it was a guy named Fidel who showed it. At one point the Specialist was shown in to answer for her incompetence, Deya quickly shot her excuses down and politely, but firmly, pointed out that the folks in the board room did in ten minutes what she failed to do in four hours. Eeek, Deya was on fire! The Specialist was made to apologize and depart…lol..wow, what a good time.

Our next appointment came and we arrived a bit early, seems the whole office was waiting for us and we were shown in to the Jefa’s office without delay. We didn’t even need security passes, by now I think everybody knows who we are. After clearing up what was going to happen and generally getting the ducks lined up we left the office. I stopped to do another quick calculation because I was suddenly stunned; about 70-80% productivity. Too too funny, I don’t want to take credit for something we have never seen before in Cuba but the coincidence was just priceless.

We are now in our final days before departing and I have a calendar on the fridge with big red X marks for each day remaining. The ride off the island is going to be special and the team that is helping us out are just outstanding folks. I’ll talk more about it once we are back in Mexico, suffice to say, my heart jumps a little when I think of Mexico and see our North American brothers here in Cuba. To that end, it feels like we’ve almost made it but truth be told we have a long road still ahead of us and the challenges are still great. And that is great indeed.

1 comment:

  1. Looking forward to the pictures.