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February 28th 2018
Published: March 11th 2018
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Today we arranged to go on a tour of a cacao plantation and a coffee plantation. Coffee and chocolate, my two favourite things. Our tour took off around ten (scheduled start 9.30) and we made our way to the plantation. Now in my mind we were going to see two plantations, however, they grow the coffee and the cacao on the same plantation. As it turns our both plants prefer the shade, so to shield them from the Cuban sun they also grow palm and banana trees around them. The end result is the plantation looks like a thick tropical forest, which explains why the area around Baracoa looks so beautiful.

Our guide, Benny, started talking us through the growing and harvesting of both plants. While he was talking I felt some pain in my stomach. Nothing much at first but I knew I’d have to make use of the banos before too long. He walked us to another area near the farm house where they had laid out the cocoa plant in the various stages of production, from plant to paste. At this point I was really starting to feel uncomfortable. Benny cut open a cacao pod and showed us the fruit inside, it was long, white and in sections. He allowed us to peel of a section and encouraged us to suck on it. You could taste the sweetness, it was quite nice, but we couldn’t bite on it in its current form. The fruit is then sun dried for thirty days and it becomes a hard, little seed looking thing. We were each given one of these to eat, and now it started to taste like chocolate. At this point I was wondering if my stomach ache was going to come up the top or the bottom end.

Benny explained the beans are then ground to form a paste, which can be left to separate. The heavier paste is used in chocolate, the lighter can be used as a lip balm, a contraceptive, and something else. At this point I had to excuse myself to look for the banos. The farmer’s daughter showed me the way and I sat down with great relief. This is an unexpected turn of events. Once I had relieved myself I went back out to the group. They were now drinking hot chocolate. I had one sip and then thought, no, now its time for the top end. Rushed back to the banos and lost my breakfast. The Benny and Jo were called to my aid. The farmers wife gave me a home remedy for the stomach ache, it tasted like cough syrup. Benny told me if it didn’t settle to keep him informed and we would swing by the farmhouse on the way home for another remedy.

We continued on the tour, with me now feeling very delicate. The home remedy did help some. When we stopped at the next point I was feeling pretty good. We walked up a steep hill that looked over Yumuri gorge. The gorge itself is quite beautiful. The story goes when the Spanish first settled in Baracoa, they forced the local Taino people into slavery. The conditions were harsh and many of the Taino would throw themselves of the cliffs shouting “Yumuri”, Death is better. We were taken down the bottom of the gorge where the river runs through it. We were treated to a boat ride out to the island in the middle of the river where wild almond trees grow. By this stage my stomach ache had returned and I spent most of the boat ride hoping I could hold it together long enough to see another banos. Damn shame because the vies (what I saw of them) looked marvellous.

After visiting the island, we rowed back to the meeting point. Because it was downstream the guests were allowed to have a go at rowing. Jo had a go it. Now because of my delicate condition I had been seated in the bow of the boat, “like Christopher Columbus”, so I had some joy in telling her to “row, heave, heave, heave.” It was all fun and games until the actual captain called out to our guide. “Benny, rain!” Within seconds we were caught in a downpour. Our captain pulled a tarp from under the seat which we all held above our heads to try to keep dry while he rowed us back to shore. Being the only one at the front of the boat to hold the tarp, I got drenched.

On reaching the shore we sheltered under the cliff until the worst of the rain passed, then we made our way up the path and across to the road to a conveniently located bar. The bar tender set about teaching the group how to make a cocktail…. something starting with C. I can’t recall, I was a little distracted with trying to get warm and not crap my bathers. Everyone settled in with a cocktail, except for me, I settled with a lemon tonic water, which while not terribly tasty, is really good for an upset tummy. Jo felt sorry for me and got me a virgin pina colada.

After the bar we were taken down to one of the local beaches, which was just lovely, but it was a little too cold for swimming. There was a beachside bar that served basic food. Some people had a bite to eat, some had a few more drinks. I settled for a coconut and a refreshing sea breeze. At this point I was absolutely cursing my body for packing it in while we are in Baracoa. It is the most beautiful part of Cuba I’ve seen so far, and I was so miserable I couldn’t really absorb it all. Jo wandered for a little while but came back to keep me company.

Around 3.30 Benny rounded us all up and took us back to town. Once there we brought some water, cigarettes and sat down at a café on the main square to access the internet. We had not booked our accommodation for our last night in Havana. Our original plan was we would get the lay of the land whilst we were there and then make a booking later. However later seems to have slipped on by and now we have one night left and we’re homeless. We had no luck. We spent half an hour on our phones, we could see the hotel/BNB sites, but clicking Book Now just produced one error after another. Jo suggested we wait until we get to Havana, cab it to infotur and see if they could make a suggestion. Its not the way I would prefer to travel but I didn’t see any other option available.

We made our way home, were I took off my damp clothes, and crawled into bed to moan. Jo hung around for a while to make sure I was OK then went back into town for some dinner. When she returned later we watched a movie and went to be. Such party animals.


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