[ Robert Silverman ]
[ English Texts ]
[ Cybernetically, Bicycle Bob Xe-Dda.p ]
Robert's Impressions of 1997 Cuba Bike Trip

Dear friend,

The bike trip was lyric. It was like a beautiful dream. It was esthetic in the extreme, unworldly; a short glimpse of paradise, rural Cuban variety.

For seven days, from January 13 to January 20, we bicycled together on the mountain roads of Pinar Del Rio Province west of Havana. On the first evening we stayed in the Dos Hermanos campgrounds surrounded by mogotes, mountains of about 1,000 feet which rose vertically from the valley floor. When first painted at the turn of the century, the art critics of New York said that they were fakes for "nothing on earth could be so beautiful. " The valley of Los Vinales where we were , surrounded by these strange rock formations-mogotes- is awe-inspiring and takes your breath away. I fear that no words can capture it's arcane and Eire beauty and one must visit it oneself self to appreciate its magnificent uniqueness. Tt is a special place that inspires poets and artists.

We had done some research via an atlas and discovered that Pinar Del Rio was full of trees, unlike other Cuban provinces I had visited. The highlight of course was the daily bicycling on virtually carless roads which, additionally, were rather good. We would encounter about 2 cars a day. So there was no fear in our riding. We were expansive beyond belief as we feasted on the constant beauty on all sides. . All the N American bicyclists were extremely marginal-x class inner directed folk- and rather disconnected to commercial society and values and were thus very able to recognize and appreciate the amazing esthetic experiences we were enjoying.

But the Pinar trip of course was more than bicycling and esthetic pleasures. For myself, and I think, in varying degree for all of the 17 N American and 7 Cuban participants there were daily learning experiences. I particularly liked the visit to the tobacco farmer. He explained to us the different qualities of the leaves, the best on top. We visited a health spa built near hot springs and the chief doctor explained to us the history and treatments offered to the people. Isabelle, a young Canadian with us had injured her knee while falling off her bicycle and the medical staff of the spa patched her up without charge.

On the fifth day we encountered an amazing waterfall which cascaded from the rocks about 100 feet above. We took cold showers and swam in a pool of cold water at the base of the cliff in delirious, incredulous, stupefying joy.

We visited schools and presented pens, pencils and notebooks- in short supply in Cuba- to the Cuban school children. On several occasions I gave the oral presentation as I speak Spanish well. In return the children sometimes sang a song for us. I brought an extra volleyball and net and had great pleasure when I publicly presented it to the staff at the Vinales campgrounds, insisting that the VB equipment was for the use of all campers not just for the best players.

We had a truck to accompany us so when tired or ill , we would use the truck. I did a few times to avoid the steeper hills.

Something amazing also happened. A local and rather good young French speaking journalist had read my earlier article about the bicycle revolution in Cuba published in Montreal's Le Devoir. She free lances for TV5 an international French channel of good quality received in 66 French speaking countries throughout the world- France, Belgium, Quebec, etc. She came to interview me for her 8 minute program, but for one day. She was so seduced by the trip that she and her partner stayed and bicycled with us for the whole week. The TV show should be broadcast in late March.

We stayed in 2 rented apartments in Havana the second week. We received the visit of the Cuban vegetarian doctor, Gilberto Fleites. i had met Gilberto two years previously when he and 23 other Cuban doctors attended my conference on natural vision improvement.

We are now friends. Anyway he told everyone present that I had saved his father's life. How? He had had a heart attack. Then he had kidney failure. Apparently, the kidney failure was a side effect of the pills used for treating the heart condition. I had brought Gilberto, " The Confessions of a Medical Heretic" by Dr. Robert Mendelsohn. There is a chapter in the book about the harmful side effects of many drugs. This blew Gilberto's mind and he investigated the side effects associated with the heart pill his father had been taking and noted the kidney danger. Then he and his father were able to persuade the Cuban cardiologist to stop the pills. Now dad has completely recovered and jogs and bicycles every day. The father was a famous Cuban doctor who , unlike most doctors, , stayed after the victory of the revolution. So i was very glad to be able to help these 2 amazing Cuban doctors just by bringing them a great book .

Cuba is very inexpensive. We paid about $8 per night in Havana for fine accommodations . There are farmer's markets with a lot of fruit and vegetables.

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By Robert Silverman.

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