Pinar del Rio
Educational Program


Pinar del Rio

  Autopista, Pinar del Rio, Cuba

It is a long trip out of town. Passing through numerous suburbs on criss-crossing limited access roads - with few road signs - it is hard to keep your bearings. There are numerous roads, with similar profiles, radiating out of Havana. It is important to pick the right one, or ten miles later you will be five miles off to the side of where you hoped to be. There may or may not be a road connecting the two radii, allow an easy rectification to any miscalculation.Autopista, Pinar del Rio, Cuba

The main road to the west is a four lane divided highway designated as the Autopista A4 or Autopista Este-Oeste. Not far out of Havana the road is generally pretty empty. It gets a little busy mid-morning when the tour operators are jockeying their clients around the country, and more that half the traffic on the road is tour buses.

  Bicyclist on Autopista, Pinar del Rio, CubaBecause of the generally light traffic, ample space and good road surface it is not unusual to see racing cyclists use it for training, and it is used for some road races.  
  Sugar mill, Pinar del Rio, CubaAs the land use becomes more agrarian, there are patches of multipurpose small holder farms, and then long stretches of large mono-culture sugar plantations, with the occasional sugar mill looming on the horizon..  
  Highway Rest Area, CubaHighway Rest Area, CubaThe Autopista manages to skirt every town until it reach the city of Pinar del Rio, the capital of Pinar del Rio province. To take care of the travels' needs along the way, there are a number of service area with minimarts, restrooms and fuel.  
  Pinar del Rio is a very human scale town with lots of 2 and 3 level buildings with ornate exteriors and extensive use of columns. The streets in the business district were busy with pedestrians and cyclists and lined with and assortment of merchants. Once we left town the dominate vehicles are new tourism buses. The word is that tourism has been Cuba’s largest earner of foreign exchange since the late 1990's. But no one is sure if it is the largest grosser because of the large quantity of these dollars that must go back off-shore to feed the voracious consumptive appetites of foreign tourism and purchase the buses and fuel.  

Historical Note (1998):

Conbination passenger/cargo truck, CubaCamel bus, CubaBack in the 1990's, transportation was a major bottleneck in the Cuban economy. Total vehicles were relatively few, so it you need a vehicle you took what you could get and made it work. Resourcefulness was the order of the day, and part of the Cuban national character. This truck (left), in size and character, wasn’t what I would have chosen for a support vehicle for a bike program, but the Cubans wanted the program to have a support vehicle and this is what they could arrange. The "camel" buses (right) was one of the improvisation to address the transportation shortage.

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