Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Cuba from the Inside Out - Part 3b. - Day Two

We began day two of our excursion bright and early with a delicious breakfast at our hotel Los Helechos. We then loaded our belongings onto the bus and waited for our ride, a Russian army truck. This would take us down part of the mountain into the Guanayara Nature Park where we were to take a short nature walk and had the possibility of a swim before lunch. During our bumpy, breezy ride, we admired the magnificent scenery around us. The mountains were lovely, the vegetation was lush. From the royal palms, to the bromelia, the bananas, and the agave flowers, everything looked beautiful. The air was fresh.
After a rough and breezy half hour on the truck, we arrived at our destination. The guide began to describe the "walk" and was trying to discourage some lesser active looking people from going. I was becoming suspicious.
And so it began...5 kilometres of up, down, around, through, crawling, climbing, hanging on for dear life, edging, easing and jumping. The walk in the park became a four hour hike through some challenging terrain.  
Interesting cave enroute.

The "path" was a bit rugged.

There were many log bridges to inch across.
Look before you leap.
El Rocio waterfall.

 We arrived at a flatter area which had a scenic waterfall and a mountain stream. The guide mentioned that people could hop in and swim the rest of the way to the main pond. He also, said to keep shoes on and seemed annoyed that nobody was properly equipped with water shoes and goggles. I happened to have brought mine even though we weren't forewarned, but had no intention of going on this water adventure. Many more youthful and energetic types changed behind a royal palm and leapt in, screaming all the while at the cold, fresh, mountain water.
More pathway obstacles
More balancing acts

Swimmers negotiated these
Hubby finding his way.
Patient turkey vultures waited for one of us to drop.

As we trudged on, I realized that I hadn't been able to take as many photos as normal. We climbed down makeshift rock stairs and back up roughly etched out pathways. It was all I could do to hang on to my footing using both hands and feet. I was glad I hadn't carried too much baggage with me. I wondered as I saw these smaller waterfalls along the stream, how our fellow swimmer- hikers were making out negotiating the river.

Change rooms near the pond
Idyllic scene

After several hours, exhausted and dehydrated, we gathered up the rest of our troupe who had changed in the newly renovated facilities. We then reached our destination. Lunch, drinks and wc at last. Barbecued chicken was on the menu after our free welcome or should I say, survival cocktail.
Bbq area
Today's hatchlings, tomorrow's lunch

Lovely facilities with a campground
After waiting for several stragglers in our group,  completing our delicious family style lunch, we headed back on the trucks toward our awaiting bus. Would we repeat this trek? Absolutely. It was magnificent. The only problem was that we should have had more information and pre-planning.

Our last stop was to be Santa Clara and the famous Che Guevara mausoleum and memorial site. The museum was fascinating and moving. The monument and square were a truly lovely tribute to a man who played an integral role in the deposition of the Batista regime. Santa Clara was the site of the final battle of the Cuban revolution.    
Large tiled plaza using rectangles and squares to
demonstrate steadiness and strength...14 royal palms
for Che's birthday
22 foot bronze statue in the midst of the Ernesto Guevara
sculptural complex with his figure facing south
to reflect his vision of a united Latin America

Che's farewell letter to Castro
Che in the mountains on horseback

Complex was completed in 1988 with the help of Santa Clara volunteers who
contributed almost half a million hours of their time
After a second full day, we returned to our hotel, satisfied that we now had a greater understanding, appreciation and respect for these impressive people and their lives.

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