Poem a Day 2015 #13 – On my way to meet Fat Mary the Prostitute

Poem number 13 for April 2015. Another snippet from my Cuba journal:

On my way to meet Fat Mary the Prostitute

18th June 2005

I’m cycling on the Guanahacabibes Peninsula, to the westernmost point of Cuba to see Fat Mary the Prostitute. She’s not there anymore, but the town of Maria La Gorda is named after her. Maria was an aboriginal Venezuelan woman, cast aside by pirates once they had tired of her. When the pirates departed, she set up an “inn” where she made a living by entertaining sailors and locals, and grew fat on the proceeds. The inn is now a Cuban hotel. Cuban hotels are almost all terrible, but there’s nowhere else to stay at Maria la Gorda. Once I’m on the peninsula, the landscape changes from small farms to thick scrub, which is high enough to cast much-needed shade over the quiet road. Clouds of white and yellow butterflies rise up in front of my bicycle. Thousands of small red crabs scuttle sideways across the road. A vulture flies along the crest of the road in front of me for a few hundred metres after I disturb it from its road kill. I stop by the roadside about 11:30 for an early lunch. 44 kilometres covered. A hundred mosquitoes descend on me, but obligingly disperse when I wave my arms frantically. My backside is sore. I adjust the height of the saddle and get back on the road. At 52 kilometres I reach the sea at Bajada. I was told there was high security here because of the fear of U.S. invasion and the sparse population along the coast. There’s a boom gate across the road. The guard is asleep in his hut. I stop obediently but it seems a shame to wake him. I cycle around the boom gate. The last 14 kilometres is alongside white sandy beaches. The road gets rougher. It’s completely washed away in places. It’s covered in white debris – what looks like a mixture of sand and marble. I’m wearing an old long-sleeved business shirt I bought in a shop in Vinales for 33 Cuban Pesos (about $2). I didn’t know it was old until I unwrapped it and saw the soiled collar, but for $2 it was still a bargain. The long sleeves and high collar will give me some protection from the Cuban sun. To try to stay cool I have unbuttoned the shirt all the way down the front. Despite my downward facing position on the bike, I find that my stomach and chest are turning lobster red from sunburn; the sun’s reflection off the white road. I reach the hotel at Maria La Gorda. I haven’t booked, so if it’s full I either sleep out in the open (not a good idea) or turn around and head 70 kilometres back to Sandino (impossible, I’m exhausted). The Señorita at receptions says “Si”, they have a room. She is not fat. Her name is not Mary.

 

 

Copyright Mike Hopkins 2015

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