You might imagine that the streets of Old Havana – like most old towns – are narrow, pot-hole-hazardous and heaving. What you might not know is that the majority are also one-way. Regular taxi drivers roll eyes and purse lips at the prospect of traversing this part of the city and – protective of their tyres – avoid it whenever possible.
Enter, then, Cuba´s version of the most efficient human-powered land vehicle. Other countries may have their rickshaws, velomobiles and cabin cycles but ours is totally a lo cubano. These wonderful Bici-taxis range from the quite basic to more full-blown affairs, the latter adorned with CD players, mirrors, family photos and sparkly bunting. More important, their muscle-bound drivers know exactly how to get you from A to B in one, smiling piece.
Our young, charming (and handsome) chauffeur is called Yonulis and has been peddling Havana´s highways and byways for over 4 years. A former medical student he has slowly – one wheel here, another there – put together this beloved Bici. He´s pretty pleased with the result so far. Plans to upgrade with better seating and a waterproof roof (this one is made of layers of cardboard) will depend solely on his takings. But he´s hopeful. He works hard, the monthly license costs only 350 pesos (approx. 9 gbp) and the rest is his to live on and invest.
It´s not a particularly cheap way to travel. Drivers charge two cucs (sometimes three) to get from the port area to Parque Central – only a couple of kilometers. But it´s worth the money. Weaving in and out of the city´s odd little back streets you see life at very close quarters. It’s also tremendous fun, especially if you find someone like Yonulis to guide you. He offers an hour-long trip for two (around the Old Town) for 10 cucs. If you can´t find him look for any Bici that takes your fancy. Then, negotiate a price, hop in, hang on to your hat and enjoy the ride.