Cuba’s second ‘international’ Harley-Davidson Rally (Encuentro Harlista!) took place from Feb 8-11, 2013. This was bigger and better than last year with more bikes, activities, sponsors and definitely more beer drinking! As this event grows and matures it also has become a highlight of the Varadero cultural calendar with fames Cuban rocker, David Blanco performing a leading role at a packed concert in Varadero.
Ana Lorena, a Cuban student who had never seen a Harley before, let alone been on one, was along for the ride. This is her story:
The road to Varadero is one that I know well, especially since I entered the university. My friend Betty lives just 10 minutes from the famous resort city. Every year we celebrate her birthday at some nightclub in Varadero. My story, however, has nothing to do with the university (or my friend Betty!).
For the 2nd Cuban Harlistas Meeting (Varadero, February 8-11, 2013), I was on the list, definitely going. The point of departure is the Cupet service station in Guanabacoa, a town in the outskirts of Havana. I wake up early not least to work out how to get to Guanabacoa.
The best and fastest way to get to the meeting place is via an “almendrón,” one of the many vintage cars that (fortunately) cruise the streets of Havana day and night. It’s already 11:30 am and the departure to Varadero is supposed to take place at noon, so I am panicking.
When I finally get to the famous Cupet, it crosses my mind was that I have arrived late and been stood up. Trucks and cars come and fill up but there is no sight of any “Harlistas.”
Half an hour later, after walking up and down the place and making inquiries, I see some men getting a camera ready. Yes, they are there for the Harley meeting, and no I have not arrived late but an hour too early. The Harlistas are supposed to meet at 1 pm.
Max Cucchi, one of the organizers of the event who is to choose a biker for me to ride with, arrives at 12:30. Meanwhile, the Harlistas start coming in and my camera goes wild. I am in a vision, surrounded by so many of these cultural symbols, Harley-Davidson motorcycles that range from very old to very new, from original to hatched-up bikes. In a few minutes, the Cupet becomes an interactive museum.
Three hours later, everybody is ready to hit the road: Cuban, Italian and Spanish bikers will join some Canadian colleagues who were already in Varadero. It was the first time I ride a Harley-Davidson, and this day I get to ride on three. Three different Harlistas take me to Varadero on their bikes.
Our first stop is at a place just exiting the province of La Habana. Although it’s early February, the sun is really hot and everybody needed a refreshment break. I drink some heavenly orange juice. The riders start out again in a disciplined manner, everybody in a pack. I don’t know, however, if some bikers, including my personal driver, enjoyed something other than orange juice to drink, because in a little while, we are racing down the road.
We reach Varadero around 5 pm and head to the park on 43rd and 1st streets, the event’s main venue. I am not only tired (unaccustomed to riding motorcycles) but my stomach is crying out for food. The weekend is packed with bike competitions, shows and rallies. Saturday evening we attend a concert with the popular young musician David Blanco, who is also a Harley-Davidson aficionado. All in all, this has been an unforgettable experience and I’m already getting into contact with some Harlistas for next year’s meeting.
Contact details: Max Cuchi: Tel: +(53) 7 879-0506 / 5-263-1339 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Abel Fish Tel: 5-264-4546 email@example.com
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