Cuba 2: Havana

After a brief rest period, Simon and Ang who were first to arrive at the pit stop at 4:00am, departed seven hours later at 11:00am to explore Havana.

Standard Havana photo

Their first task for this leg of the race was to complete a walking tour of Havana and map their route using a smuggled GPS logger.  This tour took in the Malecón, Centro Havana and Old Havana.

Havana building
Capital building and another classic car Capital building

Having been warned by their host, the team was easily able to spot the Jinateros, many of whom decided to introduce themselves to the team. A Jinatero or Jinatera is a girl or guy who has no formal employment and who instead makes a living by using ‘their mind to take money from tourists’. Typically they would make idle chat or ask if the team wanted to buy some cigars.

They were no worse than those in other countries and were easily ignored or defeated through questions.  Ang found it particularly fun to ask them what their job was, which usually meant perfect English was quickly replaced with confused Español and a hasty departure.

Cuban street art inspired by deadmau5

The team’s extensive walking tour allowed them to identify a variety of historic and famous sights. On this walk they were able to complete the first viewer challenge for this leg of the race.  This challenge was provided by Sandy and was to locate La Bodeguita del Medio (birth place of the Mojito). However, short on time, they did not enter the bar and restaurant at this point.

Typical Havana street

Changing their Euros into CUC was the next challenge of this leg of the race. They first located a suitable bank, and then proceeded to complete the transaction.

Before the team could leave the counter, the teller tried to sell them an Australian dollar note.  Simon initially thought they wanted him to check to see if it was a forgery, as the condition of the note was very poor and it was missing some security features when he held it up to the light (the teller quickly grabbed the note off him to show that it had the UV marker).

While actual inspection time was limited before she snatched it back, Simon thought it was highly likely to be a fake.  Simon’s main disappointment was the 30 CUC she was asking for the note was much more than the 5 CUC he was prepared to pay for the note as a souvenir.

Cuban cops walking the beat, defending socialism

The only other real problem the team faced in Havana was that at each government run Mercardo supermarket, the team was consistently short changed.  The simple solution was to consistently check their change and to challenge the teller automatically (sometimes even before checking the change), and by doing so they were able to avoid losing any CUCs.

Yes, please defend socialism

Food challenges include eating lots of traditional Cuban food in particular chicken and Moros y Cristianos (a recipe for fancy non-Cuban Moors and Christians). On two occasions, the team had dinner had in China town.  This amused Simon greatly as on one of the occasions, the restaurant was state run and staffed by Cubans who were not of Chinese descent.  They served an interpretation of Chinese food with a distinctly Cuban twist.  Simon and Ang liked the combination of rice, beans and fried chicken with Chinese five spices.

Later they walked through Centro Havana to Vedado where they sampled some ice cream at Coppelia (a huge cathedral dedicated to ice cream) before they headed to the National Hotel where the team enjoyed sunset mojitos.  This completed two viewer challenges for this leg, which were provided by Sandy and Callan respectively. The team received their next clue and set off for the pit stop.

Che neon by day (Plaza de la Revolución)
Dude fixing his car Moijitos at the National Hotel

Racing back to their casa, stopping only for dinner, the team checked into the pit stop for this leg of the race, once again arriving first.


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