I pulled out of Giron with Yoany, Tony and John. The narrow two lane road out of town hugged the coastline for 25 km the entire way to Playa Larga at the head of the bay. To our right, a scrub forest. To our left, occasional glimpses of the sea, calm under a placid blue sky. Heat was already filling the air with oppressive moisture lifted from the Bay, but traveling at 35 kph gave us a cooling breeze. Our little paceline hummed along nicely for 15 minutes or so.
Then, Yoany started to jerk and weave over the road. I noticed menacing shapes skitter across road, just outside my direct line of sight.
Every year, in early Spring just after the first rains, millions of land crabs mate in the forest surrounding the Bay of Pigs. A few weeks later, they begin a miles-long journey to lay their eggs at the edge of the sea. Then, they return home to burrows in the swampy forest. These guys are red, orange or tan, very tropical looking. About the size of my palm, they feature 8 legs, two additional appendages ending in symmetrical claws, and protruding eyes atop a scowling dark face.
At first, we tried to avoid them. I guess we felt sorry for the fate of those who, while trying to escape our approach, managed to “ping” themselves into our spokes, getting sliced in the process. Eventually, we realised that resistance was futile, and just powered through the hordes. Crab juice sprayed up from our rear wheels, and it was not unlike riding in a storm. Following close, one behind risked getting slightly soaked.
After a few miles of this, we stopped, re-grouped, and shared intelligence.
“I hear they have to get to the sea to lay their eggs.”
“I wonder if it’s just the females we’re hitting, or if the males come too?”
“You know, I found it’s best if you don’t try to avoid them. Hope they keep moving; if there’s one right in front of you, he’ll scoot right away before you get there.”
“Look at my tires – at my seat tube – it’s covered with crab guts!”
“Yeah, and your back has a crab stripe up the middle!”
“Have you noticed they try to scare us?”
“Right. Some of them stop in front of us, and spread their arms wide. I guess they think we’d be frightened of those claws.”
“It seems so pathetic. They do that in front of cars and busses, too. Hah! They don’t have a chance.”
“I saw one of them eating the meat out of the claw of a dead one. Just like we’d do.”
In Playa Larga, we turned right, to the north. When we arrived at the designated meeting point of Guama, I announced I was turning around, heading back to meet up with Cheryl riding with the slower group. She rolled up, followed by Alejandro.
“OK, we stop in Guama, to see the crocodilos there, OK?” Apparently, the Natural Park of the Zapata Peninsula through which we had been riding is home to the largest collection of crocodiles in Cuba. Multiple species of the caiman variety are kept here, 100,000 animals in all, separated by size in their various pools. This was to be the day’s Mandatory Cultural Tour.
I had ridden an extra 22 km, and was having none of it. I stayed in the shade, watched the bikes, and contemplated my can of Ciego Montero cola along with three other curmudgeons and their Bucanero beers, while Cheryl took the Disney-like tour of the farm.
She returned with tails of dancing with crocodiles, including a cute little baby whom she tried on for a hat.