The Far West

Trip Start Mar 01, 2006
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517
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Trip End Dec 01, 2007


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Flag of Cuba  ,
Monday, October 29, 2007

Going to the far west of the Isla Grande de Cuba was something I was sure I wanted to do. There is a resort there, Maria la Gorda, but the far tip is Cabo San Antonio. So that morning, Aussie Julia, Swede Klara, and Brazilian Tatiana were up with me to rent a car and go there.

It was a beautiful ride, through Cuban counrtyside and villages, small towns, passing by horsecarts and schoolchildren walking back home. At every town exit, and major crossroads, were people waiting under supervision of an "Amarillo". Los amarillos (the "yellows") are employed to organisa hitch-hiking. There are pickup spots, sometimes with a sign, adn people get there to wait for a ride. Anywhere in Cuba, queuing is very disciplined, more by politeness and good maners than anything else. When you arrive at a shop, a bus stop, or wherever you have to queue (that is, almost everywhere), when you arrive you have to ask "el ultimo?" (who's last?). The last person raises its hand, and you then wait for the next person to come over and ask "el ultimo": it's then your turn to say that it's you. Then you can go and do something else, or just sit somewhere. When the bus arrives, everybody knows who is in front and who is right behind them, everybody takes his place and the queue forms itself in a relative calm.
As for pick ups by car, a state employee is there to provide extra organisation, and mainly stop cars who can take passengers. Pregnant women or ill people have a special line, as they have priority. Every state car (operated by a state firm, taxi, etc...) has the obligation to stop and pick up the passengers, depending on their destination, as dispached by the amarillo guy. Brilliant.

After a couple of hours we were out in the real nowhere, heading north and then west along the big bay that forms the wester part of the island. The whole ride was beautiful, blue sky and big sunshine, amazing water and lush vegetation. We came across a few big land iguanas, and also some kind of huge rats, forgot how they were called.

As we reached a remote resort near Cabo San Antonio, we stopped to try hire snorkeling gear, but apparently the conditions were not the best and the coral was far from the shore. Given that we were going to be really alone, it was maybe not a good idea to go swimming a hundred meters away.

The beach was made of thick sand, nice shore waves, warm temperature, a bit of wind, and we had brought mangoes...

As large dark clouds were rolling in, we got back in the car and made it back to the actual cape, where a small radio outpost was installed. We were not allowed into the lighthouse, but we could talk with the militaries there and they talked to us about what they were doing etc... Then I told them that Julia was part of the US Army, they believed me and were quite uneasy... Yes I know, very bad joke, but I was gutted that they did not let us in the lighthouse, so I had to say something.

On the way back, we stopped at another beach, went treasure hunting on the rocks, while the sun was going down. There were crabs everywhere in the forest, we could hear them making click click noises, and they were zillions of them... big crabs, creepy!

Driving back, the crabs where all on the road. It was quite a challenge to try aim a trajectory so as to avoid them, but occasional "shcraoutch" raised screams of horror and laughter everytime. Such are humans.

As we had been all that way, we decided to make it to Punta la Gorda, on the other side of the bay. It was already dusk when we reached the resort, but a nice drink on the long chairs on the beach was perfect.

Going back by night was ok, except that we struggled to try make phone calls to the resort, as Klara had forgotten her camera on the beach... But it was funny, we got help from a lady who was making calls from a booth in the middle of nowhere, then the employee in a deserted roadside snack who made me try the office phone, and eventually going into a ouse to manage to speak with the resort, who did not want to get their ass out on the beach to see if the camera was there.
Anyway, Klara got it back a few days later.

Back in Vinales we met the rest of the team for an evening at the cultural center, downing beers and trying to dance salsa.
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