The manager was pissed.
Someone had written an informal note on the back of an official rental form. He ranted and raved in Spanish, filling in each one of the half dozen or so mechanics who worked in the bike/scooter/ATV shop, asking each one if he knew anything about it.
“I need a secretary,” he muttered to me, defeated by the futility of it all. “I don’t get paid enough for this.”
He swore that improperly used form was going to cost him 50 CUCs – $50 US. I couldn’t fathom that, but he was in no mood for his authority to be challenged any futher.
This went on for 45 frantic minutes before he was ready to start his day and rent me a scooter. By the time I drove off the lot, the line of clients was out the door.
But I was free to roam the open the road as far and as fast as that little 50cc engine and a 3/4 of a tank of gas would take me, and as long as it wasn’t outside the 25 kilometer radius stipulated in the properly completed paperwork I had signed.
Such is freedom in the world of bureaucratic socialism.
The day was gorgeous, with early clouds and cool weather burning off to reveal the sunniest, warmest day yet in Vinales. On the scooter, I was able penetrate the surrounding valleys far beyond the range of other tourists. The road was mine, as long as I stayed out of the way of horse drawn carts and the occasional 50s vintage car.
Those 50s cars are the key to it all, really – in the US, cars are a disposable commodity. Here, they are passed from father to son, the key to the good life, and one of the best incomes on the island by way of the tourist trade. A lucky driver with a decked out car can earn as much in a day as a civil servant earns in a month.
My father gave me a car to get to my teenage after school job. Cubans give their sons cars to provide for a career.
For lunch, I took in a Hawaiian pizza the size of a very large plate and a beer, all for only four dollars twenty. So much food, it’s really all I need for the day.
In the afternoon, I set off on foot into the valley again. During yesterday’s hike, it was overcast, so I was anxious to get a few photos that do this place justice. My short hour hike turned into a near four hour circumambulation of the largest mogote in the valley. I started walking, and the walking just felt so good.
Few other tourists complete that circuit, so by the time I was about halfway in, I didn’t see another soul. Just me and a multitude of farm animals, hummingbirds, and butterflies.
I made it back to my casa particular at nearly six PM, skin stained red from the dust that soaked through my shoes and clothes.
If not for my wife and daughter, who I honestly miss too much, I could live this life forever. Moving to a new place every few days. Pacing myself to last a lifetime. The whole world as my home.