In Cuba, the humble horse and cart are not relics from the past, they are part of the daily urban and rural transport system. Saddled and bare backed cowboys, some with family groups straggled along the horse, ride through the town, hooves clattering on the cobble-stoned streets. In Trinidad, cowboys congregated to listen to a band and filled empty water bottles with beer from the mobile beer truck. No breath tests for Cowboys on horseback.
We also saw what looked like an elegant Spanish carriage, although it had seen much better times, filled to the brim with people.
Moving around Cuba is difficult. As Steven explained, in Cuba’s Classic Cars .-The Yank Tank, there are limited imports into Cuba and this impacts on all aspects of life here, most noticeably transportation, as there are few modern vehicles. Ingenuity keeps the vehicles on the road as there is no easy access to replacement parts.
There is a rundown public bus system which Cubans have described as unreliable with more passengers than available seats. The limited train system is predominantly for freight, and passenger trains are seen as a transport option for the desperate as the trips are long and the timetable unreliable. The road system is good in parts but generally is in poor condition.
Taxis can be easily found but are an expensive option for most Cubans, though sharing rides is common.
Bici taxis, three wheeled bikes that were originally built with a flat tray for carrying goods 20 years ago, now have two passenger seats added so that they are multipurpose. We had great fun with the driver of our Bici taxis on a tour of Camagüey who, with the wonderful Cuban sense of humour, introduced his bike as a Ferrari and made appropriate noises as he raced the other bici riders through the streets.
There are old bicycles, many with an additional wooden seat secured near the handlebars for a passenger, and motorcycles, but not in the numbers I expected to see.
As a resourceful solution to the transportation problem hitchhiking is an accepted way to move across the country. There are queues, much like bus stops, and El Amarillo “yellow man”, a government employee, co-ordinates rides. Government registered cars must stop and take passengers if they have space. Private cars often stop and can charge a fee for the ride.
It was disconcerting as we sailed past in our air-conditioned, modern tourist bus with five empty seats, knowing that the people in the queue could have a long and very hot wait.