The sheer number of posts produced from Cuba should indicate 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 great deal of the trip has already been detailed in numerous posts but the roadtrip 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.
Focussing and obtaining clear images from a moving vehicle can be difficult but there is so much to see and record it is well worth making the effort.
There always seems to be 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 provide the most fascinating stories. Every encounter seems to provide a little drama.
On the outskirts of almost every town there are usually dozens of people waiting for a lift, often offering money, they appear to expect to be 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.
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 may not be an official name but it seems appropriate.
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 even seemed to be an ox drawn cart but it was unclear whether this was part of the rice drying operation.
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.
The rice will be 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 witnessed the amount of smoke which some of the cacharros produce I do hope they wash it well.
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.