Tobacco farms amid Limestone Cliffs

Trip Start Feb 19, 2010
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Trip End Jan 31, 2012


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Where I stayed
casa nela

Flag of Cuba  , Pinar del Rio,
Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Day 1 - Transit, Loop around Mogote del Valle past Murial de la Prehistorias
Walk down to the bus station with my pack and caught the bus without to much hassle. Less people on the bus than expected.

Coming into town had some nice views of the limestone cliffs and the surrounding farmland. Upon arriving in the center of town the bus entrance was crowded with casa owners trying to get people to stay at there place. In the end decided to just head to the casa I had picked out of the guide book since I knew where it was and knew it wasnt to far from the center of town.

Managed to get a nice room for two nights and then since I still had half a day, decided to go for a bit of a wander in the nearby countryside. Was nice to note that there werent to many tourists around town. Not to many locals either (guessing thats becauses it was Sunday).

Tried to find somewhere to eat but except for a few small storefront in front of people homes not much around. Ended up settling for a beer and two toasted ham, cheese and tomato sandwichs at this small cafe by the main square.

From here decided to try and see if I could find the path that ran from from the town and into the limestone cliffs. Found a dirt road which took me past a bunch of tabaco farms and at one point was passed by a tourist and local on horses riding through the countryside.

Upon passing one farm had a guy working there come out and try to sell me a horse ride. Only felt like walking so turned him down but ended up going to see his tobaco farm and how the tobaco was processed and the leaves rolled. Ended up buying a single cheap cigar from hime. Dont smoke but worth trying at least one. Could tell that while the tobacco was cuban the cigar was of lower quality. Tabaco a bit dry and not to soft to the touch. Guess the stuff hadnt been soaked in any port or any yet.

Kept walking down the trail which thankfully didnt fork to much and was trying to get to a small village in the distance but the main road had lots of little roads running off of it. Wasnt sure if they were public or private so decided to to go wanderinga round to much.

In the end just enjoyed the cliff scenary along the way and the farm lands I was walking through. Was considering whether I should head back but given I had this great big limestine hill to use as a landmark, ended up deciding to keep going and hope I ended up where the map said I would. Along the way hear a lot of shouting in the distance and at a guess there must have been some kind of match or competition going on. Never did find out what.

Eventually reached the campgound that was on my map so was pretty sure I was getting near the main road back to town. Had a horse drawn wagon pass me and was offered a ride (paid of course) but turned it down. If I knew some spanish might have been able to ask what the noise was about since it seemed like they were originally heading in that direction.

From the campground could see the prehistoric murial in the distance painted by someone famous, but didnt fell like spending the cash to get closer. Ended up continuing onto the road and had a 3km walk along it back to town.

Unfortunately upon returning to town I found the place overrun with tourists. Guess people must stay in Havana on the weekend to party then venture out into the countryside  (Vinales not that far from Havana) during the week.

Decided to try the tour offices (though only one open) and look for what tours were running on the following day. Had hoped to go diving but for one person the cost was to much. Ended up booking a tour to the beach where I could check out the sand and go for a swim.

Had another toasted sandwich for tea and head down the road out the other end of town but it was getting late so headed back to the casa and called it a night.




Day 2 - Cayo Jutias
Early morning start of the bus to the beach. Upon getting to the beach decided to walk along it. Lots of fine white sand and clear light blue water.

First thing to stick out on the beach was the 70 year old man with the 17 year old local girl. Guess paying for some company to travel around the country with you is pretty common here. Though you would think the guy would pick someone at least a little bit closer (maybe 30) to his own age.

Every 50-100m you could see one or more jelly fish. These were large ballon like things with long tentacles hanging down from them Given the number of them I was guessing that a fair few of them were floating on the water. Since they are poisonsous decided it probably wasnt a good idea not to go for a swim.

Guess I wandered 2-3kms before the trees were hanging out to far in the water to wade around and I had to turn back. Along the way spotted a hell of a lot of hermit crabs. Initially only one or tow but at one spot where I stopped and just watched the top of the sand I ended up seeing over a dozen crawling over a small area of sand.

Headed back to the main part where we got the lunch that was included and then wandered down to the beach again. Since I wasnt swimming I considered snrkling but given it was $5 an hour I decided against it. In the end hire a kayak for $2 an hour and went for a paddle out to the reef which consisted of small mounds of coral whose tops were a dozen or so cms below the surface of the water.

Along the way saw lots of jelly fish suggesting it had been a good idea to not go swimming. My bright idea was that instead of snorkling I would just stick the water proof camera under water and take a few photos to look at later. Compared to teh other reefs Ive seen this one wasnt particulary colourful and didnt have a lot of fish around.

After coming back in kill some more time at he beach before heading back to town. Visted the other tour operator and found that transport to punta maria was available but since I had already booked a tour for the following day I would have to wait til wednesday to go.

Had a bit of a wander around town before heading back to the casa. Had hoped to extend my stay by another night but the place was already reserved. Casa owner was kind enough to help me out, call one of her friends and find me a place for the extra night.


Day 3 - Gran Caverna de Santo Tomas and Cueva del Indi

For todays tour headed out to the cave known as Gran Caverna de Santo Tomas. This place had a museum since it appears that the caves here were used by rebels during the cultural revolution. Spent some time here waiting for the previous group to go through the cave.

On the way to the cave came across an interesting plant that reacts to touch. It appears that whenever the plant is touched, it automatically closes its leaves as a way of protecting itself.

Only visited a small part of this cave which was near the entrance. Had helmets and lights though with the size of the cave the helmets werent really necessary. Ended up only wandering a little way into the cave.

This cave is probaly the least interesting one Ive been in but it was nice for the fact that a few large parts of it were open so it let in lots of light to see by.

Upon getting back headed back to the casa to move my gear and then to the tour operator to book the dive. Unfortunately it seems that the weather was going to turn to shit the next day and there was a large chance that the boat wouldnt be able to go out. In the end decided against risking a wasted day of doing nothing and so booked a bus to Cienfuego instead. Dont have enough time to do what I want so no point wasting a day doing nothing.

Had originally planned to go directly to Trinidad but since I would get in late at night and have to spend the whole day on a bus, decided to have an overnight stopoff along the way and get and earlier bus into Trinidad on the following day.

Still had half a day left so decided to head out on the road leading to Cueva del Indio. Once again lots of tobaco farms and interesting limestone cliffs. Also lots of houses and locals wandering around the place. Found it interesting that tractors pulling wagons and all other sort of vehicles were used as taxis and buses by the locals. Also saw lots of russian trucks, buses and cars. All of which have a unique look to them when compared to your typical western style models.

Along the walk wander past one cave that I could have entered but due to time restrictions decided against. Had basically left town around 3pm and wanted to get back before 6pm to do a salsa class. This really didnt leave me much time to walk all the way out to the cave and back again. Especially since I wasnt rushing it out there. Part of the reason for the walk was the views along the way.

Ended up just making it to the cave which was a bit different to the one I had been in that morning. This cave was basically full of water and visiting it basically involved a short 15min boat ride through a very small part of the cave. Most interesting part of this visit was the guy with the buffalo at the exit of the cave.

Took so long to get out to the cave that I had to push my rate of walking to make it back it time for the class and ended up doing a one hour class before heading back to the casa for a rest. As mentioned in guide books, have found it hard to find decent food in Cuba and should have bought dinner at the casa but at $8-10 considered it to expensive (meal in Havana was about $5). Looking back though I probably should have just forked out the money.

Ended the night going out to a local bar where they had a salsa show which I watched for a bit. Was approach by locals wanting to make friends but given I dont speak spanish that conversation didnt last long.
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