Off went Miss Miserable to find a supervisor and we were kept waiting for 10 minutes with no news. She finally returned with a glamorous supervisor caked in make-up who was in radio contact with their ‘cargo’ manager. The actual stove and fuel pump could be loaded (although they had both been used and smelt of fuel), but the empty, new bottles could not. Tadek lost the plot and was on the verge of being offloaded for aggressive behaviour until a fellow, mellow passenger informed him that he had been arrested for something similar. Our flight with the fantastic BA, 4 days earlier had been no problem – we also notified them of the stove, but they were happy when we told them that no fuel was in the bottles. No post office at the airport meant that there was nothing that we could do with the bottles. A second supervisor came over to tell us ‘NO’ and we were left with little option but to book in the bags, minus the fuel bottles, with Miss Miserable, and try to find ‘Oversized Baggage’ to check in our bikes. Once in the relative secrecy of the Oversized Baggage room, on the spur of the moment we decided that we could pack the offending (freshly scrubbed) empty bottles in with our bikes as they would appear as it they were drinking bottles – actually, I would have been more than happy to use them as such and had indicated so to the ‘supervisors’. Bikes and bottles passed through the scan with no problems, and we left for passport control waiting for our names to be called over the tanoy and for us to both be offloaded ;-)
Some ten minutes later, we decided that all must be OK and tucked into the complementary Bailey’s in the departure lounge. Tadek finally calmed down as we got to the plane and realised that we had fooled the system.
We have already met four other cyclists on the their way to Cuba – 3 at check in, including one tandem, and another sitting next to us on the plane who will be travelling for 5 weeks on a second hand Claud Butler.
Arrived in Jose Marti Airport 40 mins late and had to wait until all other bags were off-loaded before the bikes came out. It took another hour putting the bikes back together, changed some money, bought some water and headed off to central Havana. We had thought it would be 15kms, but turned out to be 25kms. On the way, we passed lots of old cars on the way, mainly old American classics, but plenty of decrepit Ladas and Fiat 126s. Night time bakeries wafted pleasant smells through the fumes from the old bangers; everyone tried to help us, even an axe wielding old man who appeared on the dual carriageway outside of town in the complete darkness. We finally arrived at our booked Casa Particular to find that the booking agency had not actually booked it. The owner, Louis, quickly found us an alternative down the road, provided us with a coffee while we waited and even helped us with the luggage and bikes so all was more than well. Turns out we have an apartment with kitchen and expansive roof terrace. Tadek popped out to get some beers and we savoured the sounds and smells of old Havana while shivering from the unseasonably cold weather.