Cuba-Mexico heading

January 24, Soroa

Yesterday we left Marta's casa and Las Terrazas in the morning and rode straight to Soroa — straight, except for lots of ups and downs. Even though it was only 25 kilometers or so, and even though we arrived around 10:30 a.m., we were beat!

Approaching Soroa, we were on the lookout for the home of Raul and Dunia, a couple with whom we visited on two previous trips, 11 or 12 years ago. We were looking for the house we remembered — a small, brightly-painted wooden structure surrounded by flower gardens. When we were just about there, we saw a more imposing concrete home with a sign, "Casa Doña Dunia, room for rent." And there she was!

Dunia, with an aunt we believe, at home in 2001           The new casa, "Doña Dunia," in 2012    

It's been wonderful. Dunia and Raul did not greet us like old friends — rather, like members of the family whom they hadn't seen for years. Their son Ismael, of whom we have a photo on our bike, was a cute 3-year-old when we last saw him. Now, he is a handsome 13 year old in secondary school, and Raul and Dunia have an adorable 3-year-old girl,

The wooden house we remembered was flattened by a hurricane. They spent years working on this new place and moved in only a year ago. They have been renting a room for just a few months.

Below are a number photos at Raul and Dunia's from 2001 and again 10 years later. They may not be of universal interest, but this website is something like a personal scrapbook for us!

The photo below on the left of Barbara and Raul is from 2001. It is the very first photograph appearing in our book, Bicycling Cuba. Below on the right, Barbara with Raul and Dunia's son Ismael when he was three.

Now Ismael is a handsome 13-year-old, starting secondary school. He and Wally compare gadgets while a new little sister looks on (below left). The little sister is three-year-old Ana. She poses on a bike with Wally (below right).

Below is another pair of photos taken ten years apart. Left, Raul and Dunia with Ismael who was three years old at the time, 2001. Right, Raul and Dunia and Ana, who is three years old now, 2012.

Leaving the very next morning was out of the question. We took a walk in the afternoon, and found Alberto Hernandez, a guide and naturalist at the hotel in Soroa with whom we enjoyed talking 11 or 12 years ago — and wrote about in the book He's involved now in starting a national organization of qualified guide-naturalists.

We also went to the orchidearia, a stunning botanical garden specializing in orchids, but with much more. We were hoping to see Jose Bocourt, the guide/artist whom we also met 11 years ago and also wrote about in the book. He was away — but the great news is that he is now the director of the garden. There's a terrific story behind that, but it's too long for now. Suffice to say, it was wonderful news and no-one could be more deserving of the job.

Wonderful flowers, not all orchids from the Orchidearia at Soroa

Today we hung around until fairly late in the morning, and then went for a ride. We meant to go for only two or three hours in the mountains, but we got carried away. We ended up spending most of the day in some challenging hills, deep in the Sierra Rosario, where you may not see a single car for an hour or two. It was exhausting. We walked only a little, but we rested often!

Cross training -- walking, that is -- in the mountains west of Soroa. It's steeper than it looks.

The long descent from the mountains to the carretera central was — as one reader commented years ago — either exhilarating or terrifying, depending on your taste in these things.


After a few kilometers in the lowlands, we had to struggle back up to Soroa. Fortified by guarapo (sugar cane juice) and fried egg and ham sandwiches, we made it with no walking. Just some rest stops.

Much as we love seeing Raul, Dunia and the family, we will head out tomorrow morning for San Diego de los Baños.


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