My motorbike diaries in Cuba with Che Guevara’s son | Journey

It’s so quiet in Havana that I’m the one visitor at Gran Lodge Bristol, within the clammy coronary heart of town. “Do you want a taxi?” the concierge asks with a hopeful smile as I move via reception. The reply comes as a roar from the shiny black Harley-Davidson that has simply pulled up exterior. The rider, wearing black with thick-framed sun shades and a facemask, tosses a helmet in my route. It’s Ernesto Guevara, the youngest son of Che, and he’s come to take me on a tour of his metropolis.

Following within the tracks of his father’s epic experience throughout South America 70 years in the past, Ernesto began La Poderosa Excursions in 2014 — named in homage to his father’s bike, translating as “the mighty one”. Profiting from the thaw in US relations throughout President Obama’s tenure, Ernesto had 14 Harleys shipped to Cuba and commenced giving guided excursions, alongside together with his childhood buddy Camilo.

The itineraries absorb places together with the tobacco fields of Vinales, the serrated peaks of the Sierra Maestra mountain vary, a Havana Membership rum distillery, the powdery sands of Varadero, cobblestoned Trinidad and, poignantly, Santa Clara, the place the Cuban Revolution’s ultimate battle came about and Che’s stays are interred.

Ernesto Guevara, the youngest son of Che, leads tours on his Harley

Ernesto Guevara, the youngest son of Che, leads excursions on his Harley


Ever since I learnt that Ernesto was internet hosting excursions of his nation, I’ve dreamt of seeing Havana on two wheels. Sadly my romantic imaginative and prescient is promptly shattered as I attempt to get on the Harley — I’ve by no means ridden a motorcycle and I misjudge the width of the rear seat, embarrassing myself with an inelegant lurch. Ernesto courteously suppresses his smile.

We start at Gran Lodge Manzana Kempinski’s rooftop, which has sweeping views over the previous city. Ernesto factors out the important thing sights — El Capitolio, its dome barely taller than its twin in Washington; the Nationwide Theatre; and the Vedado neighbourhood the place he was introduced up.

The subsequent cease is Chacon 162, Ernesto’s favorite bar. It’s a little bit early within the morning for drinks, I believe, however I inform him I’m in. We zigzag simply via Havana’s labyrinth of potholed streets. Motorists toot and passersby cease and gawk — some as a result of they recognise Ernesto; others in admiration of the thundering machine we’re using. We breeze via Previous Havana, a mishmash of colonial, brutalist and artwork deco types. Pastel-hued buildings blur in my peripheral imaginative and prescient, together with the dusky-pink El Floridita, Ernest Hemingway’s bar of alternative.

We arrive at Chacon 162 and Ernesto slides onto his most well-liked stool, warmly acknowledging the workers. He directs my gaze in direction of the pink 1950 Harley Flathead mounted behind the bar. When his buddy was opening Chacon 162 he was requested for assist, and “my assist was lending him my favorite bike”, he tells me.

Ernesto and Shelley at La Casa del Habano

Ernesto and Shelley at La Casa del Habano


We transfer exterior for a lunch of citrusy ceviche, and Ernesto lights a cigar. I search his face for echoes of Che, however none are apparent — though I discover that, like his father, he shuts down any questions he doesn’t wish to reply with a quip and a hole snigger.

Once in a while somebody walks previous in a T-shirt emblazoned with Alberto Korda’s picture of Che — the tousled guerrilla fighter with the decided, faraway stare. As one more looms into sight I ask Ernesto if it’s tough to come across this model of his father each day. He shrugs, saying: “I used to be born and raised this fashion, so it’s regular.”

Does he have any sturdy reminiscences of his dad? “Nothing,” he says stoically. Ernesto was two when his father was killed, and most of his household footage that includes Che — together with one through which Ernesto is being cradled — are within the public area. With one final puff he agrees to fulfill me once more in a few days.

Ernesto appears relaxed at our subsequent encounter, and we circle town on his Harley, passing streets lined with queues — due to Covid, meals outlets in Havana are restricted to 5 clients at a time; case numbers stay low, however with a national lack of medical provides, nobody needs to get sick.

We attain Plaza de la Revolucion, the place greater than 1,000,000 Cubans gathered to mourn Che’s loss of life. Ernesto factors out a memorial to the poet and hero Jose Marti. We park and stroll via the sq., and I discover that Ernesto is distracted — his eyes are mounted on the large metal rendering of his father’s face on the Inside Ministry constructing reverse. Does he really feel something? “Nah,” is the response. However he nonetheless stares.

One of the best lodges in Cuba
Greatest issues to do in Cuba

We speak concerning the subsequent tour he’s arranging, which can take him to Santa Clara. Visiting the location of his father’s mausoleum “may be difficult”, he says. “I strive to not combine my feelings with the riders, so I get them there and allow them to see it for themselves, and I’ll then typically have a personal second to myself.”

After a drive via El Bosque, a forest referred to as the “lungs of Havana”, we end up at one other of Ernesto’s favorite haunts, La Casa del Habano, a cigar membership the place he’s welcomed with bear hugs.

Hotel Kempinski Manzana, one of the stops on Shelley’s Harley tour with Ernesto Guevara

Lodge Kempinski Manzana, one of many stops on Shelley’s Harley tour with Ernesto Guevara

Easing right into a brown leather-based armchair he puffs on one other cigar, and between sips of rum tells me concerning the time he dined with Naomi Campbell and Paris Hilton on the metropolis’s annual cigar competition in 2015. He laughs — the pair had no thought who he was and by no means requested why he was sitting with them.

We take our ultimate experience collectively and I dismount like a professional. Because the roar of Ernesto’s Harley fades into the gap, peace descends as soon as extra on the streets of Havana.

Shelley Rubenstein was a visitor of Havana Membership (, Gran Lodge Bristol (B&B doubles from £174;, Gran Lodge Manzana Kempinski (room-only doubles from £287;, So/Paseo del Prado La Habana (room-only doubles from £142; and La Poderosa Excursions, which has six-night full-board excursions of Cuba from £2,788pp, together with bike rental and transfers (lapoderosa Fly to Havana

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