My best walk in Cuba

Trip Start Jan 16, 2007
Trip End Mar 01, 2007

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Flag of Cuba  ,
Friday, February 9, 2007

We met Trina, a young woman from Vancouver, on a brief walk yesterday morning. The heavy rains of the previous day had saturated the soil, and the blood-coloured mud was too hard for Lucy. After sliding around for a few minutes, we bade farewell to Trina who continued solo. Typically for Vinales, we discovered later that day that she's staying right beside us. She came over for a beer that evening, and stayed for the first part of "An Inconvenient Truth" playing on the state station.

TV is an odd composite here -- morning English classes (difficult classes: "Today we're going to talk about compound verbs -- the difference between pass away and pass out, carry on and carry out"), fairly creative and fun kids programs and lots of talking heads. There's something odd, yet appropriate about watching Al Gore's timely cautionary view on global warning from Cuba. You can see how obscene our consumerism looks to the developing world. Trina experienced a similar displacement watching "Supersize Me" in Cambodia. The reason Castro would allow "An Inconvenient Truth" to play here is obvious, but I wonder how many Cubans recognize the level of pollution in Havana, realize how much energy is spent in this country moving bottled water around?

This morning Trina and I set out for a three-hour hike around the sudden, jagged rocks and hills that dot the green landscape of this farming area. The mogotes vary in size from five-foot obelisks that jut druid-like from fresh-plowed fields, to the massive hills and ridged rock faces that burst into your view in every direction.

It's impossible to take a bad picture in this UNESCO World Heritage Site -- when there's sun like this morning. Yesterday I set out in the dark to capture sunrise at Jazmines Hotel on its cliff about 6km out of town (an odd and other worldy experience, full of smells and pregnant sounds), only to have the day break flat and cloudy. Not a problem today.

We ogle the grey-blue fields and mist-enveloped valleys, attempting to fit the best pieces in our camera viewers. Except for odd artsy still life's, it's the only time this trip I haven't felt compelled to include people in my photos (the idea of Cuba without its people is bizarre), but they're still there in many, even at this hour, driving oxen through paprika-coloured earth, riding horses across fields, putting the reluctant green of the tobacco plants out to dry.

We finally leave these ox tracks and lanes at the bizarrely psychedelic Mural de la Prehistoria, created in the 60s. Someone in the campground beside the vast cliff which the mural has desecrated is blaring out cheesy Latino muzak. It's a very odd transition from the quiet, moist backcountry we peacefully traversed as the day gathered about us.

Now in the full heat of the sun, we follow the roads back into town. We know we need to go a bit quicker to make my 10 a.m. ETA, but even here there is so much to see, to vainly attempt to capture on now-full flash cards.
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