At long last, a day with Internet access! Hooray! So you should see all the missing days in the Diaries. We are in one of the strangest and most unexpected hotels in the trip, in a National Park. But let’s start at the beginning.
This morning we woke up in a thick fog, the kind that you might expect in a sauna bath – the outside temperature thermometer read 36C, so it was probably around 30C. Unbearable high humidity, until the air-conditioning in the car kicked in. Later I wound down the window to take some pictures from the car and the lens immediately fogged up with condensation! Our goal today was to get to Trinidad, only some 90 km down the road on the south coast and without cactus stops scheduled to slow us down. We took a bit of time to get out of Sancti Spiritus, because the sign-posted road through town was blocked by the weekly market. So we followed an ambulance that seemed to know where it was going, until it had reached its destination.
We drove again through land that had been heavily cultivated and although there were some rocky outcrops, they were too far from the road to make it practical to inspect them on foot. We were unable to find side tracks to get closer.
At Banao, we spotted a sign to the Empressa National para la protecion de la Flora y Fauna Lomas de Banao, Reserva Ecologica. We passed through a gate on a variable track straight into the mountains, close to the cloud base. All very nicely laid out, with a cafeteria, visitors centre and trail to a waterfall (S1725). Mike was in his element as this was a good spot for bird spotting. Cactus wise, we spotted a few Selenicereus pteranthus in the trees, including one growing out of a termite nest in the top of a tree.
We continued south through a much hillier landscape than we had been used to seeing since leaving Holguin. But all still cultivated and many small villages all along the road.
Trinidad is supposed to be a major centre renowned for it’s culture and scenic streets. We’re obviously not in tune with tourist preferences. There were some huge ‘hotel cities’ with prices two to three times what we had been paying, for ‘all inclusive’ fun and entertainment. Really not our scene. We decided to head for tomorrow’s target, Santa Clara, and needed to negotiate our way through the narrow streets that looked as broken and dirty as those of any of the other Cuban towns we had seen. No wonder, with regular minor earth quakes and frequent hurricanes and no money or aid to fix the damage. As soon as we slowed down to look for signs, we had a couple of people knocking on our windows with cards for cassa particulares and offers of cheap cigars. No, thank you!
Eventually we were out of town and after 4 km of level road turned north inland. We had not expected that the narrow road would wind itself in such steep and tight twists up into the mountains. Soon we were near or in the clouds. A couple of viewpoints were useless as there was no view to enjoy in the clouds.
Eventually, and in the mist, we reached the nature park of Topes de Collantes. A wrong turn took us to a Kur Hotel, a massive building built in traditional Russian style. We were soon told to turn around and look for hotels down the hill. I think this was probably a mental home.
There was a village of badly maintained tenement housing, presumably for the staff of the kur ort and of the tourist hotels that we finally found. Yes, they had rooms! in our budget range! With one computer terminal in reception that has internet access!! That will do!!!
Unfortunately, while I could use hotmail to send and receive messages, the page that enables me to update the blog was blocked. It was displayed OK, but would not allow me to enter text. Si I sent the saved up Diaries as an email attachments to Angie who has kindly updated my blog. Many thanks, my dear!