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La Ruta Mala: Trans-Cuba Bikepacking :: Video of the Week

Lead photograph by Jeanne Lepoix

In La Ruta Mala, filmmaker Jeanne Lepoix captures the essence of bikepacking across Cuba, from the eastern coastal city of Santiago de Cuba to the tobacco plantations surrounding the picturesque town of Viñales. Lepoix and Xavier Tipa take on the 860-mile (1,384-kilometer) route over 17 days, passing through farming communities, past sugarcane fields, horse paths, and mountain ranges and jungles.

Set to a remix of “Chan Chan” by renowned Cuban musicians Buena Vista Social Club, Lepoix takes us on a journey of challenging dirt tracks, a bounty of tropical fruits, past smiling faces and waterfalls, and scenes of everyday life in Cuba. Vintage cars line city streets while vendors hang painted Che Guevara portraits and urban Havana scenes, hoping for a sale.

“The name of the route—‘La Ruta Mala,’ or ‘the bad way’—represents the helpful Cubans’ penchant for telling us we were going the wrong way or the bad way,” writes Logan Watts of bikepacking.com. He and cycling mate Joe Cruz designed the route by examining satellite imagery, paper maps, and several blogs and trip reports written by other bikers. “There were multiple daily instances during our scouting mission where they insisted on giving us directions to a main road. We always smiled and told them that we prefer the bad way.”

The bikepacking.com website features a trip report with downloadable GPX tracks and a Ride with GPS map indicating elevation gain, potential stealth camp locations, food stops, photo stops, and more. The best time to Cycle in Cuba is between December and May after hurricane season.

Following their long-forgotten tire tracks, Laepoix and Tipa found rugged and harsh conditions combined with mentally perplexing and physically demanding route finding—La Ruta Mala indeed lived up to its name.

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Read more: Overland Journal Fall 2017 | Destinations: Cuba

Ashley Giordano completed a 48,800-kilometer overland journey from Canada to Argentina with her husband, Richard, in their well-loved but antiquated Toyota pickup. On the zig-zag route south, she hiked craggy peaks in the Andes, discovered diverse cultures in 15 different countries, and filled her tummy with spicy ceviche, Baja fish tacos, and Argentinian Malbec. As Senior Editor at Overland Journal, you can usually find Ashley buried in a pile of travel books, poring over maps, or writing about the unsung women of overlanding history. @desktoglory_ash