On The Road: Cuba is a country that's on the move

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The Independent Travel

It is 6am and the pig on the roof next door has just woken up. He's making piggy noises from his pen in the hope that someone will soon come and give him his breakfast. The local cockerels have been in full voice since 3am. Stray dogs are out and about on the streets while their pet brethren bark from their balconies as the traffic builds up below. Trucks belch out diesel fumes and blow their horns at bicitaxis (rickshaws) and horse-drawn buses cluttering up the street, while a train hoots in the distance.

A peaceful dawn in a Caribbean paradise? No, this is Cuba. Forget any thoughts of lie-in: I might as well brace myself for a tepid shower and get on with the day. My task for today is to visit all the B&Bs, known here as casas particulares, in Bayamo, a town off the beaten tourist track at the eastern end of the island. Travellers who want to hike in the Sierra Maestra come here first, but they are not numerous. It is the sort of town where foreigners are not hassled (much), which is a relief after Havana, and your money goes further.

I am going to hire a bicitaxi to take me around, one of the many and varied means of transport I have used. In Trinidad I rode in a cocotaxi, a round yellow shell on a motorbike, which takes two passengers behind the driver; in Holguí*I was transported at a slower pace on a coche, a horse-drawn bus; in Camagüey my host took me around in her Lada, stripped bare of any interior panels or trimmings by thieves. In Santiago my taxi was a 1949 Opel Olympia in pristine condition. In any other country it would have been in a museum, but here it is driven every day, earning a man a living. However, there is a standing instruction to all passengers in antique cars here – don't slam the door!

Footprint's 'Caribbean Islands' (£14.99) is available now.