Lovely Coastal town

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

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Where I stayed
Sra Lourdes Balga (72 Malecon Ave)

Flag of Cuba  ,
Friday, February 4, 2011

Day 1 - Transit, Castle hotel, Wander along Coastline and to Small village
Had an early start so decided to use the same taxi driver even though I knew I was going to be overcharged. To early to wander down to the bus station or plaza where a taxi might or might not be waiting.

Was expecting to get charged 4 for dinner but got charged 5 CUC. When I asked about it the guy said that he had only said that he was willing to go down to 4 CUC not that he would. Guess I should have checked the price before asking for dinner. Also guesing I would have got a different meal for the cheaper price.

Definately will look for another place to stay on my way back through.

Another 6 or so hour bus trip through some nice country side and along some nice coastline. The guy from the casa met me at the bus station ( rather then sending someone else) and was willing to walk down to the casa rather than get a rickshaw.

The casa was nice and while it wasnt the one the guys in Cameguay had written down for me, it was by the sea shore and the guy spoke reasonable english, for once. Ended up having a coffe with him on the front porch and chatted for a bit. Must say the coffee I've had in Cuba has been really good. Nice strong and chunky arabian beans.

Only half the day had passed so far and decided to go for a wander through town. seems like a nice small town rather than small city location.

Started out by heading up a hill to an old castle that had been turned into a hostel. Decided to wander in and made my way over to some terraces and balcanies where I had a nice birds eye view of the town, mountains and coastline. From here could also El Yuquene which looked like a flat top mountain.

Decided to visit the tour agents office since I wanted to make sure I didnt miss out on the ticket I needed back to santiago. Also looked into the tours I could do and found one that was heading to El Yunquene the next day.

Headed to the coastline where I watched the waves come crashing in for a bit. Could see the waves pounding the shore and it reminded me of what the casa owner had said about how some of the houses near the shore could get damaged by the waves that came crashing over the sea wall when a big storm hit the coastline.

Went round point to the bay area where there was a small fort as well as the rusted remains of a large ship sitting in the bay. From here headed through town for a bit before returning to the shore line and heading to the large basball stadium. Really dont understand why though someone would build it so close to the shore. Part of the place looked traced by the ocean even though it was in one of the more protected parts of the bay.

Wandered down to the beach and walked along here for a bit past the stadium, passing some people I had seen on the bus here. Kept walking for a while before hitting a stream outlet and rather than wade through decided to pay the few cents for the ferry man to take me across.

From here moved away from the beach and into the jungle for a bit. Decided to buy the local sweet dish which ended up being a big mistake. This is basically a coconut, mango, sugar, ect sweet thats wrapped up in palm leaves. It didnt psrticularly taste that great and was even to sweet for my sweet tooth.

Eventually reached a small rickety bridge that took me to a small town. Wandered around the small village and reached a control point. Had wanted to go further but had read somewhere that part of the point was restricted at some point. While this was a control point (money collected when someone there) it wasnt the point I had read about. could have gone further even though it was getting close to the end of the day had I known better.

Got back to the casa just in time to puke up my guts and start leaking fluid out both ends. Only thing I think that could have caused such a reaction was the sweet I had during the walk. Ended up sick as a dog and I didnt even enjoy the food that caused it. Had ordered some octupus for dinner but had one mouthful and just felt crap. Decided not to try and force myself and just went to chuck instead. Ended up asking the guy if it would be OK to leave it and have it the following night. He seemed Ok with that.

Really feeling crap so decided to pop some antibiotics and call it a night with the hope that it would clear before my tour the next day.

Day 2 - El Yuquene
Still not feeling the best but at least I had stopped leaking. Wandered through town to get to the tour office and picked up some snacks for the day along the way.

Had to other guys on the tour with me and found we were heading in a car to the trail head. Found the place not so far from town and definatwly would have been a nice bike ride out if I had a better map of the area or at least a better command of spanish. Guess the only down side would be that it wouldnt leave mt to much time to go up the hill.

Met our guide up the hill at the base and took the shorter of the trails in the park. This trail would take us up to the top of what I thought would be a flat top.

Started out along a dirt road which wandered past some houses and near a rivers edge. At one point had to cross the river and had tried to cross jumping from rock to rock. Unfortunately reach a point about 2 thirds of the way across where I had no hope in hell doing this and had to wade the rest of the way across.

Nice jungle walk even though it was a bit muddy and slippery for rain that must have fallen on one or more of the previous days. Along the way even passed some cocoa trees with pods on them. Also along the way had a couple of nice views (when the jungle cleared) and found a few extremely large millipedes milling around.

While it was fairly steep going up I've done worse and not felt so drained. While my fitness was Ok (no hard breathing at the pace the other guys were setting) my muscles felt sore and tired. All I can guess is that my body is still fighting off the bacteria that caused my diariha and so still feels like shit when I try to make it do some work.

Reached the top where I had expected a flat mountain top. Instead found that it was actually a ridgeline. Had some nice views of the town, coastline and surrounding mountains and spent a bit of time wandering around the ridge. Unfortunately could get to far since the ridge dropped off suddenly into dense forest at one point.

Headed back down and made our way back across the river before continuing up the dirt road. Here we eventually got to a waterfall which I stood under, climbed over and went swimming next to. After a short swim we headed back to the trail head and got a car back to town.

Ended up heading back to the casa since I was still recovering from the day before. Had a really nicely cooked octopus ( including some freshly cooked stuff), soup and salads.Way to much food for one person though I defiantely got through the octopus I missed out the night before on. Only down side was that while some of the octopus was in a coconut milk sause this sauce, like most cubian dishes had to much salt in it. Lucky the spices offset it a bit and also the fact that I dont mind a bit of salt. Besides, I had some sauce free octopus as well.

Day 3 - Humboldz NP, Mana Beach
Another day another tour with this one taking me out to a National Park and a beach. This time it was a small minibus with lots of people.

Had a nice drive out to the park and it seems that there are a few local communities near the place since one of the first things we saw as we crossed the stream into the park was a couple of water buffolo pulling a cart.

Nice jungle walk though for the most part it was along a dirt track rather than a trail so the jungle didnt really close in around you. Would have been nice to to have found some trails that took you a bit more into the trees.

Had some nice views of the surrounding hill tops from the ridge line we were following as well as the odd view out towards the coastline.  Eventually entered into the jungle to head down to river and waterfall were we could swim. The small waterfall was a fair way up stream but a few people wandered up it to get to the pool beneath them.

Had a nice swim even though the water was a bit cold. Upon heading back got some coconut milk from a guy selling them to the tourists then got him to chop the coconut in half in order to get to the fleshy part.

During the walk chatted with Zeleena and learnt a couple of interesting facts.First off the average money income is about 25 CUC (30 USD) a month. Even with the double currency this cant be a lot to live off of. Especially if you want to buy something non-local.Guess this is a good reason for locals to make friends with and sell stuff to tourists since it gives them a viable way to go out and have fun and make some reasonable money (compared to average monthly wage).

Note that while the casa owners get a lot of money for their guests (ie average monethly income per guest), they also get taxed heavily by the government. Guess this is why the casa owners are so interested in getting people to buy meals at the casa. No way for the governement to really know about how many meals the casa does or doesnt sell so this allows them get a reasonable amount of cash. Though I'm guessing the upkeep of some of the casas gets expensive.

Second interesting point was the fact that it is illegal to kill cows. This means all beef products are imported onto the island. Found that this was for religous reasons as in India but rather for ecological reasons. Read up about it later and it seems that the cow milk is for the kids and the bulls are important for tillingthe fields. Also read somewhere that your likely to end up in goal longer for killing a cow than a human.

From the park headed down to Mana beach and given I didnt feel like getting covered in salt decided not to swim and rather just walk along the beach for a bit. Got back to town and should have gone out for a drink with Zeleena but didnt.

Headed back to the casa where I had my $10 Lobster dinner (sauce on the side this time). Got to say that the tail I got was huge and had lots of meat in it. Definately one the best meal I've had in Cuba (with a octopus the night before a clsoe second).

Ended up wandering around the town that night and headed to Casa Trova where I listened to the music a bit. Got approached by a Cuban guy who wanted some some money for a smoke. Said no and he left but came back again later. This time only for a chat and I found that it was a nice change that after the chat he didnt try asking me again for money. Even ran into him the next day. He said hi without asking for cash which was nice.

From here headed for a quick drink and ran into Patrick who I had met the the previous two day of tours. He was hosting some cuban friends and decided to join him for a drink and then for a quick visit to the Sala bar before calling it a night.

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