22nd to 24th november - Sancti Spiritus

Trip Start Nov 06, 2013
1
6
58
Trip End Ongoing


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Friday, November 22, 2013

An hour away I arrive, and mikael as promised is waiting from me, his english is a bit like my spanish but between us we understand each other, he works for the red cross in sancti spiritus has a 5 year old boy, married and I can see is excited about climbing. Yarobi in vinales has given me his contact details, and he seems really excited that a visiting climbing has come to sancti spiritus for the weekend, there are two areas we are going to visit, which arent in any published guidebooks. We talk about a competition that is being planned in holguin province in february, hes arranged a casa for me, and a friends restaurant is across the street, I couldnt ask for a warmer welcome. We go for some food and talk more im pretty sure he should be at his work and throughout the morning when he offers to stay longer I ask if he needs to go to work, but hes chilled about it. He also brought with him 2 american climbing magazines and is very excited in showing me a picture of Craig Leubben on one of his routes in Viņales, called Mr Mogote, craig earned this nickname from the locals after several sessions putting up this route hacking and chopping on the limestone casts. I spend the rest of the day relaxing in the most plush casa yet, more an apartment, sorting photos and writing the blog, and reading the magazines mikael had left with me. That night another friend of mikaels calls for me, hector...hes already a few beers and rums in at 8.30 when he calls for me. Hector speaks a little english but we manage to understand each other mas or menos. He takes me to la casa de trova in town where live music plays and we have a few more beers. Im the only extranjero (foreigner) in town it seems, bus loads came in during the day for day trip and restaurant meal, I get a lot of stares and questions from various of hectors friends, one yabbers away at a high rpm rate I ask him to slow down I only speak a little spanish, he then takes the mick repeatedly until I say enough I no longer find it funny, he then has the cheak to ask for a beer! This instance aside I have a good night with hector hes pretty loco!
 
The next morning mikael picks me up and I meet the sancti crew, I ask mikael if he understands the article about craig luebben, he says no, so I manage to translate the opening paragraph which is a tribute to craig as he died in 2009. In the opening paragraph, the author tells the story of his first visit to cuba with craig to new route in vinales. Being american they get in through the back door by entering cuba via cancun in mexico. Craig.... To save weight in his hold luggage decides to put the drill, batteries, drill bits and other tools into his hand luggage! The bag goes through the xray machine, and the mexican security go from calm to full scale alert. The author is left to try and explain themsleves to mexican airport security, as craig speaks no spanish. Between mimmicks and demonstrations trying to explain what they need this kit for, craig grabs a climbing mag that features him new routing in puerto rico, unbelievable the guards calm down and let them board the plane with the new routing kit! So...I know attempt to translate this into spanish... First obsticle none of them have ever flown, so I explain the two bags for flying, I just about manage to get the key points across to mikael in my spanish, who then relays the story to all the other climbers in the car, they all laugh out loud....that was a very cool momment for me.
 
We climb on a mogote, quite different to vinales, more like dinas rock (a local crag for swansea climbers) just not as horrible. Very cool day, everyone very welcoming and makes me feel like ive known everyone for years. Mikael is clearly the defacto club chairman, looking out for the young lads, top bloke. We climb together all day, swapping stories about climbing, ethics, cuba, wales, all sorts. Mix of spanish and english, oh imget partially stung again by a wasp...brill. We make arrangements for tge next day sunday, a venue a little further away, but very beautiful apparently. Saturday night I go on the town again with hector, a great giggle, although there were some quite serious times aswell, I learnt a little more about the ration book for food supplies, wages in cuba, and the difficulties of getting the more valuable currency cucs.
 
Sunday the group is smaller, and the crag is next to a river, stunning location, with low grades, sub 6b, but what a fantastic day. The access to the crag is via an absail, on lowering the days supplies of water in on top rope, mikael proclaims its just like yosemite! I manage to get some great shots as you can see, later on we go swimming in the river. Which turns into a bit of short deep water soloing, and some jumping in to finnish the day off. That night im taking a 10 hourbus journey to Santiago de Cuba, the next biggest city after Habana. Mikael hosts me for the evening where I meet his family, and eat tea with them, so welcoming, a true gent. At the bus station Hector is waiting for me with some photos from our nights out, with a message of 'To my dearest friend stuart, safe travels and best regards to all the welsh women!' he asked me the previous night if I can bring a 40 year old welsh lady to meet him next time, as we say in wales...bit of a boy that one! I foolishly hadnt booked a seat for this bus, as the timings with early climbing starts meant I couldt get to the toursit office, thankfully hector stayed around and managed to get me on the bus, I wouldnt have got the bus without him. So a bit of rushed weekend but so glad I made contact with mikael, it was a great weekend to see another group of climbers in cuba, and possibly a more true cuban home, with a great family.

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