Late last year, a friend asked me to join an adventure on the La Ruta Mala: a new bikepacking route in Cuba. The route was conceived and scouted by Logan Watts and Joe Cruz, and was published while I was riding the dirt roads of Mexico’s Baja Divide.
The 860-mile route connects the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba with the western port of Viales, traversing almost the entire island by dirt roads. These roads are often impassable in the rain, and are rutted and bumpy even when dry. They climb over three mountain ranges and through some of Cuba’s most remote communities.
I said yes, of course.
As an American, legal travel to Cuba is a novelty. During the waning months of his tenure in office, President Obama eased restrictions on travel to the island by implementing the ‘People-to-People’ visa program. President Trump soon replaced this plan with his own ‘In support of the Cuban people’ visa, one of 12 categories of legal travel.
Travel in Cuba is more than just a 60 year step back in time. Yes, there are still classic American cars. But the breadth and depth of experience available in Cuba far surpasses that of a taxi ride in a 1958 Thunderbird. The streets of Old Havana alone hold countless relics of the island’s past, including the original fortifications built to defend the almost 500-year-old Spanish colonial city.