Culture in Cuba; Travelling the Rice Road to Havana

The sheer number of posts produced from Cuba should show that it is an interesting destination. Travelling along the ‘rice road’ earlier this year was a fascinating experience which I thoroughly enjoyed and hope to repeat one day soon.

A long stretch of grains on the rice road to Havana on the Caribbean island of Cuba on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photographyIain Mallory-300-10 (2)

The rice road to Havana

A great deal of the trip has already been detailed in several posts but travelling from Baracoa to Havana was an experience in itself. Travelling in a comfortable mini-bus and capturing snapshots of towns and people along the rice road was a challenge.

Focusing and obtaining clear images from a moving vehicle is a challenge, but there is so much to see and record it is well worth making the effort.

Working the rice road to Havana on the Caribbean island of Cuba on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography Iain Mallory-300-4 (2)

Beginning to spread the rice

There always seems something of interest happening, classic cars (cacharros) and a variety of other forms of transport patrol the roads. There are artistic messages of the revolution daubed over buildings and hoardings but the people themselves seem to the most fascinating stories. Every encounter seems to offer a little drama.

The grain truck on the rice road from Cienfuegos to Havana on the Caribbean island of Cuba on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography Iain Mallory-300-11 (2)

The grain truck

On the outskirts of almost every town there are usually dozens of people waiting for a lift, often offering money, they seem to expect being picked up. The waiting police and soldiers seems especially impatient when our bus drives past without stopping, being given a lift is apparently almost a right.

Roadside sellers of straw hats or freshly cut and cooked corn, Cuban horsemen transporting their produce of fresh flowers to the market were just a few fellow travellers. Sleeping during this roadtrip was not an option, there was just too much to miss.

The grain truck on the rice road from Cienfuegos to Havana on the Caribbean island of Cuba on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography Iain Mallory-300(2)

Patterns in the rice, strangely interesting

An extraordinary sight was seeing miles of rice grains being dried directly on the tarmac of the rice road especially between Cienfuegos and Havana. The rice road is not an official name but it seems to fit.

The grain truck on the rice road from Cienfuegos to Havana on the Caribbean island of Cuba on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography Iain Mallory-300-5 (2)

Guessing he’s not just making pretty patterns

The men are split into groups, some of which spread the grain, others turn it over and still more reload it into vehicles.

Their tools include trucks, rakes and a kind of shovel, there was even an ox drawn cart but it was unclear whether this was part of the rice drying operation.

Ox drawn cart transport on the rice road to Havana on the Caribbean island of Cuba on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography

An old fashioned form of transport

The lines of rice can literally stretch for hundreds of metres however there were a number of separate groups of workers and in total there were miles of road being utilised. It is an unusual sight but is probably a sensible way to dry rice, there are long stretches of relatively quiet roads, ideal for efficiently completing the process.

Working on the grain of the rice road to Havana on the Caribbean island of Cuba on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography Iain Mallory-300-8 (2)

Midday in Cuba, it must be hot work

Rice is usually cleaned before cooking so it does not matter that how many vehicles have driven over it and even the emissions from these vehicles are probably not an issue. Although having seen the amount of smoke which some of the cacharros produce I do hope they wash it well.

Working on the grain of the rice road to Havana on the Caribbean island of Cuba on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography Iain Mallory-300-9 (2)

Time for a break

Tarmac rice drying is not exclusively a Cuban activity but is another piece of the culture jigsaw puzzle. It is the reason the country is so fascinating and why it is great for photography. The selfish part of me hopes it does not change soon and that the opportunity to return presents itself before any change occurs.

Working on the grain truck of the rice road to Havana on the Caribbean island of Cuba on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography Iain Mallory-300-14 (2)

Shovelling grain

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Comments 7

  1. Ryan Brown

    Fascinating stuff sir, I would have never thought there would be miles of rice being dried on the road. Probably one of the oddest yet most interesting things I have seen.

  2. Charli l Wanderlusters

    Cuba has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. The vibrant colours and fascinating culture. Where else would you find rice being dried on the highway?!! Great post thanks for sharing such a captivating piece!

    1. Post
      Author
      Iain

      Thanks Charli I’m glad you enjoyed it and hope you make it to Cuba soon. It is without doubt a lifetime ambition achieved for me and definitely a favourite destination.

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