Shortly before 8 o’clock we arrive at the tour office – there is a couple already waiting at the door that will also go on this trip: Eric and Mary – she’s Scottish, he ‘s English. “I always thought it was Scots had the typical magnificent red-colored hair?” – “A widespread misconception!”. Eric runs his fingers overly elegantly through his hair . A few minutes later, Thomas, Pia and Helena (all from Austria) join our group. We are complete. Jorge, a ranger, is our guide. Together with the driver of the pickup that just now comes around the corner he will lead us through the nature reserve of Topes de Collantes today.
Topes de Collantes –
We get in, some of us on the loading bed in the back and the tour starts. Soon we seem to have gained some altitude – we stop at a viewpoint: From here you can see Trinidad and the Playa Ancon, which we visited yesterday. “Oh, back there is our hotel”, says Thomas, pointing in the direction we were yesterday. Jorge points to the agaves, which are quite numerous here: “Do you know what that is and what you make of it?” – “Agaves, right? Snaps?”. “Exactly! In Mexico, they make Tequila from it, we are not so smart here and just make soap!” he grins. “Cuban rum tastes better anyways” .
We continue towards the Parque Guanayara to the Sierra de Escambray. I wonder whether you can call this a “street” here actually? The road we are on seems more like an “upgraded” forest trail with some steep ascents as descents. The rain of the previous days had torn some deep furrows into the laterite soil, which our pickup driver seems to ignore at all. I have no clue how comfortable the people are in the front, but we’re getting a rollercoaster ride in the back – whoever didn’t have a disc-hernia in his spine does probably have one now !
We still arrive in one piece at the entrance of a fenced-in area, where the hike starts. We follow small trails into a tropical mountain forest with great diversity of plants and birds. Jorge seems to be right in his element and provides detailed explanations on fauna and flora . After about an hour we reach a dripstone cave through which we continue to the waterfall “El Rocio”. Since it is quite humid, we are all pretty glad to have a small and refreshing break, until we continue. We are quite happy we decided for some solid footwear… the trail here is quite slippery and muddy… we fross some provisional bridges to some smaller waterfalls, which however also offer deeper pools. Here can climp up a wall and jump easily from different heights into the water – awesome! The cave behind of one of the waterfalls with sleeping bats and interesting rock formations inside is also worth a look! There is also a nearby hut where you can get some freshly made guarapo – of course with a proper shot of rum. Time to relax…
Though we have a short cloudbreak in the meantime it doesn’t really bother us – the leaves of the forest provide sufficient protection from the rain and the temperature drops to a pleasant level. At the end of the path our pickup truck is already waiting for us to take us to a former coffee house. You can learn a lot about coffee, its harvest and further processing here.
Back in Trinidad we want to take care of the ongoing journey to Santa Clara and Varadero. But fist we agree upon meeting Eric and Mary at the steps of Casa de la Musica after dinner. We buy the tickets to Santa Clara rather quickly at the station (8 CUC (8.00 USD)) and head back to the Casa Particular where we meet Jesús just before we take a shower. We would really like to have dinner here today – no problem for him, dinner will be at about 19:00. I’m fairly curious about the food .
Shortly after the shower, we lie down and have a little nap till dinner time. “Ohhh! Romántico!” I laugh as Jesús calls us. He grins. Dinner for two under the mango tree. Awesome – and the food is great! Pollo, Boliche, Rice, some Yuca con mojo (marinated Yuca) to die for and lots of beans. Add a lot of different salsas and big salad to that. Wow. After the dessert (flan de coco with – of course – mango slices) we are completely stuffed. Top! Cheers to the chef .
Since we should be at the Casa de la Musica between 19:30 and 20:00 we have to hurry to get to Plaza Major. We help to cleaning up and carry the dishes to the kitchen – then we have to get going. Eric and Mary are already waiting for us and Eric orders the first round of cocktails at the window bar – I have a strange feeling of deja-vu . The ongoing evening is filled with convivial drinking and cheerful and “deep” conversations…