Cuba & Costa Rica Blog
About this blog
Written by Cuba and Costa Rica expert Christopher P. Baker, this blog will update readers on life in these two diverse and exciting countries.
- Last blog post on Costa Rica and Cuba
- First-ever group motorcycle tours of Cuba successful
- Cuba’s Mariel port readying for Panama Canal expansion
- Musings on wildlife encounters on Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula
- Cuba’s Steam Trains puffing their last gasp
- My top five thrilling activities in Costa Rica
- Cuba’s fun February festivals include Harleys, Books, Cigars
- Five top volcano viewing experiences in Costa Rica
- New road along Costa Rica / Nicaraguan border mired
- Cuba’s Hotel Campoamor at Cojímar to be restored?
- Cuban revolutionary Celia Sánchez honored in new book
- Christmas challenge for Costa Rica’s sexually abused girls
- Costa Rica opens Chinatown in downtown San José
- David Soul films Hemingway’s car restoration in Cuba
- National Geographic Expeditions receives license for Cuba tours
First-ever group motorcycle tours of Cuba successful
What a blast! What a high!
Finally, eighteen years after I shipped my BMW R100GS to Cuba and rode 7,000 miles during a three-month visit to research the Moon Handbook Cuba… and, finally, after dreaming of and aspiring to lead group motorcycle tours around Cuba… finally my ambition has come true.
On January 26 I flew to Havana from Costa Rica (where I’d been leading two National Geographic Expeditions ‘Costa Rica & Panama Canal’ trips aboard the National Geographic Sea Lion) to lead the first-ever all-Cuba group motorcycle tour for U.S. citizens. Then, after a three-day break at home, I returned to Miami to escort a second such group on behalf of Texas-based tour operator MotoDiscovery.
MotoDiscovery is the only company authorized to provide motorcycle travel of Cuba for US citizens, having been licensed as such last year by the US Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).
The bikes—a combination of BMW F650s and F800s plus a medley of Harley-Davidsons—were supplied by a Danish company, Motorcycle Tours Cuba, that has been offering such tours for Europeans since 2009 (U.S. citizens are barred from participating).
Under OFAC’s licensing designation of ‘Educational People to People Exchanges’ (P2Ps), which requires a “full daily itinerary [of such encounters] resulting in meaningful interaction,” company owner Skip Mascorro and I created a 14-day itinerary for MotoDiscovery filled with fascinating daily encounters with Cubans that guaranteed a full and richly rewarding immersion with Cuba's profound history and culture.
As tour leader I rode sweep (last, to catch any strays and attend to any passengers who had mechanical or other difficulties) while our Cuban tour guide—and now my friend—Luís Enrique Gonzáles Saenz, President of Cuba’s Harlistas (see my blog post of November 18, 2012)—rode lead. Together we were able to enhance the tour with some incredible impromptu P2Ps. For example…
… at the hamlet of Vaso de Yeso we met nurse Eloide Tamayo and Dra. Marcia Ramon at their rural clinic to learn about Cuba’s community health system and contemporary health issues…
… in Sancti Spíritus, we rode Cuba’s main motocross course with two-time Cuban national champion Yuneisky Martin, who demo’d his skills and explained the nature of state sponsorship of sports..
… and in Camagüey, Luis’ friend Francisco ‘Paco’ Brisuela brought his antique Harley into the hotel lobby to explain how he and other harlistas maintain their pre-revolution hogs in the face of difficulties we can barely imagine.
I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun!
And the most gratifying thing of all… Most trip participants were long-time riders with vast experience motorcycle around the world. Some quite literally had done just that! Yet several participants commented that their Cuba experience counted as the most rewarding and enjoyable trip they had ever been on.
MotoDiscovery’s license is good for 12 months and expires at the end of March 2012. The company has announced five dates for the coming fall/winter season (2013-2014), pending license renewal.
Book now! ...and be among the first U.S. citizens to motorcycle in Cuba!
Stay tuned to my website for updates.
My literary travel book–Mi Moto Fidel: Motorcycling Through Castro’s Cuba–describing the journey was published by National Geographic Adventure Press and is a two-time national book award winner. Contact me directly by email to order your autographed hardback copy for only $26 plus postage.
For complete information on Cuba, including how to travel there, buy my Moon Handbook Cuba—the most comprehensive, information-packed, traveler-friendly, and unbiased guidebook in print.
For further information on Havana, buy Moon Spotlight Havana.
Disclosure: I occasionally accept free or discounted travel when it coincides with my editorial goals. However, my opinion is never for sale. The opinions you see in Cuba & Costa Rica Journal are my unbiased reflection of the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Learn more about Christopher P. Baker.
Copyright © Christopher P. Baker