In his triumphant return, Carlo Alcos shares some shots from his five week cycling tour of Cuba.

CUBA IS BIGGER THAN I thought. And five weeks isn’t all that long. Still, with a combination of long distance bus rides and cycling days (105 km was our longest) we managed to get a fairly deep look at the enigmatic and contradictory nation.

It was a challenging country to choose for our first ever cycle tour. We encountered mountainous terrain, pothole-riddled roads, and diesel fume-spewing trucks. But I don’t think there is any other way to really see Cuba.

1

Disappearing road to Vinales

The road disappears on our ride to Viñales in the Pinar del Rio province. Most roads in Cuba are in disrepair; many coastal roads sustain damage from past hurricanes. This is not a country you want to bring your $3000 road bike to.

2

Mogotes in Vinales

Mogotes (limestone protrusions, similar to those in Vietnam's Halong Bay) in the Viñales valley dominate the landscape.

3

Resting on the coast

Giving the bikes a rest (OK, us too) during the most beautiful stretch of cycling in Cuba -- between Manzanillo and Santiago de Cuba on the south coast.

4

Tandem cyclists on broken road

Hurricane Dennis in 2005 left this coastal road the worse for wear. Apparently, no attempts to repair it have been made. At some parts the road simply disappears and turns to dirt; a few collapsed bridges make some crossings a bit sketchy. Here, an Austrian couple on a tandem bike we met and cycled with negotiates the crumbling path.

5

Cigar rolling in San Diego de los Banos

In San Diego de los Baños we were ushered into Pedro's "workshop" where he showed us how to roll a cigar. He then hustled us to buy a pack of these "homemade" cigars. Even though it was most likely an elaborate scam, the overall experience was almost worth our foregone euros. Almost.

6

Cienfuegos socialism propaganda

Graffitied propaganda lines a wall in Cienfuegos. There is no shortage of this in Cuba.

7

Dog behind bars in Trinidad

There are bars on all the windows and doors in Trinidad. This pooch was using them to his advantage to catch a cat nap. Or is that dog nap?

8

Church ruins in Trinidad

A ruined church facade sits atop a hill in Trinidad. A beautiful spot to watch the sun set over the cobble-stone streets, but is chock full of beggars. These Cubans sitting here asked for coins from our home countries, soap, the clothes off our backs, my wife's bracelets, and anything else they could think of.

9

Boy and his dad in Trinidad

In Trinidad, a man sits on his door stoop while his son waves to the camera. Door stoop sitting is a common sight everywhere.

10

Horses in Bayamo

We could hear them about 30 seconds before we saw them. As they rounded the corner I took my opportunity to snap a few action photos.

11

Baseball spectators in Bayamo

Baseball is Cuba's national sport. In Bayamo, these young gentlemen watch the older boys play some fast pitch.

12

Guitar player in Manzanillo

In Manzanillo, a stumbling, drunk, guitar-wielding man steadies himself on a wall while others look on.

13

Kids on a swing

We caught these carefree kids swinging away near the coast. They weren't camera shy.

14

Happiest cat in the world

The happiest cat in the world? On Cayo Granma in Santiago de Cuba, a local cleans his catch while kitty looks on.

15

Mojitos in Cuba

If you come to Cuba, you WILL have a mojito (or three). This bartender looks particularly pleased with his offering to us.