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Published: June 12th 2016
I love going to a country’s lesser explored nooks. ‘Off the beaten path’ is the cliché, which is ironic, because the whole point is to be the anti-cliché. Does that make it more cliché? I’m going to need a drink. Anyways, no to be cliché, but I knew I wanted to check out an area of Cuba that most people hop over, preferably where I could hike. Enter: the Artemisa Province, home of the barely there village of Las Terrazas, and an Eco reserve area southwest of the Capitol. I, though, was not going to Las Terrazas, I was going to Soroa, an even smaller village, less Eco obsessed, and a bit more real life I guess, I dunno! I wanted to go!
The guidebook said I had to take the bus to Las Terrazas, and since the bus didn't go to Soroa, get off, and then take a taxi the rest of the way. The map looked like the bus would go relativly close to Soroa, but the ticket sales guy gave me a solid No. Thanks Cuban Bureaucrat. I got on the bus anyways, and upon arrival in Las Terrazas, I got my pack and started
wandering around looking for a taxi. None to be found. Then a friendly man came up to me and asked, in English, "Can I help you???"
Yes, you 100% can help me! I said I wanted to get to Soroa, to which he told me to chill for a few minutes and he'll get back to me. Ok. Chill I will!
Five minutes later, this friendly helper came back saying the bus driver, of the bus I just got off, would drop me at the turnoff to Soroa, 90% closer to Soroa than I currently was. Wait, the bus goes right past the turnoff and they can literally just pull over for 20 seconds and I can hop out??? Why were they being so bitchy about it at the bus station?!
Note to self, don't talk to people behind desks in Cuba, talk to people behind the wheels. That's where the real power lies, the WHEEL! After confirming who I was with the bus driver, I thanked my Friendly Helper, and got back on the bus, probably confusing some other passengers who saw me get off it 15 minutes earlier, and
then hopped off again 15 minutes later at the turnoff to Soroa. For free, no pesos! All the dinero in Cuba couldn’t have bought me a ticket to this gas station on the national freeway of Cuba. I was immediately accosted by taxi drivers.
One said it would cost me $10 to drive to Soroa. I said it was only a few km away, he said the road was bumpy. Oh, yes, those bumpy roads. I then asked a guy inside the gas station, while I was eating microwave pizza, and he said I should just walk up the road a bit and hitchhike. That sounded like a better plan, plus it would save me $10! Ok! Off I walked, up the freeway off ramp and onto a country road. Standing on the side of the road with my pack on, I totally looked like I was in my natural habitat. I did not stick out in the least. Not one person stared at me.
I waited about 10 minutes, giving marginal efforts to get a ride, when a man in an old Lada pulled up and asked what I was doing. I said
I want to go to Soroa. He asked if I had a casa reservation. No, obviously not. He said he had a casa. Ok! His name was Julio, and 10 minutes later I was settled in a lovely room with a gigantic bath tub. And the skies had opened up with torrential rain. Good timing Julio.
I spent the rest of the day on Julio's front porch in a rocking chair reading. The rain was relentless and I was happy to not be in it. At around 1:30pm, a retired couple pulled into the casa, completely drenched, on bicycles. They had come 90km. Yes, they were septuagenarians bicycling an Ironman in a Judgement Day-like downpour, and making me feel completely inadequate. Until I remembered that I was dry and my ass didn't hurt, then I was ok with my life decisions.
By dinner time the rain had let up some, and since there was nowhere to go I had dinner at the casa with the Lance Armstrong's grandparents and another retired couple from Holland. I was the youngest! We had a really great meal, very tasty, and exchanged war stories from our youths.
The next day the skies were moderately clear, so Julio drove me up to the area of Soroa (which is less a village and more of an incorporated region along a 4km long road) where the sights were. I started off with taking a picture of a map, which didn't do me much good, but nonetheless! I walked into the jungle along the path I thought would take me to the remains of an old coffee plantation. And I am sure I was on the right path, except that unfortunately, the river that this path seemed to normally cross, well it was, impassable, probably do to the previous 24hrs of squall. So I turned around and went a different way, which led me back to the same river. Ok, I get it. I made my way back to a turnoff that had a sign pointing to a Mirador, Spanish for lookout. Great! I like looking out. I wound my way up this path, up, up, up, to the top of the peak which offered a 360 view of the hills and the Soroa valley and even a glimpse of the Caribbean 60 km away. It was
a gorgeous view, peppered with swooping turkey vultures floating around the peak. I took some selfies, obvi, and basked in finally finding something high to look out from.
After I made my way down, I checked out a 23 metre waterfall, that also had water aplenty, again probably thanks to the rain, and ate lunch. During lunch I was joined by 5 begging cats at my feet. I like cats, but it was a little scary. 10 hungry cat eyes, yikes.
It still hadn't rained yet, so I thought I shouldn't push my luck and started back to my casa, which was about 4km away. Walking. 2 km in, the rain came. Oh well, I knew arriving back merely sweaty was a lofty dream, sweaty and soaked was definitely more appropriate.
And it continued to rain for much of the rest of the day. I finished and then started a new book.
The cycling couple were from Colorado and were not actually Lance Armstrong's grandparents. Though, it was mentioned that the man, now 70, was once up there in the top national triathlon
and ultra marathon rankings He even placed in the World Ironman Champs in Hawaii back in the day. So really, my hyperbole isn't actually that hyperbolist.
Cuban people always ask where in Canada I am from. When I say Vancouver, they say "ooohhhh, frio!" I have since learned the Spanish word for ‘rain’.
Getting out of Soroa was not nearly as fun as getting there. Julio simply drove me back to Las Terrazas to catch my bus to Vinales. Oh well, it can't always be time consuming and on the brink of apoplectic rain.
As I was walking back to the casa after my hiking adventure, a man on a large tractor slowed down and looked at me. I think he was deciding whether or not to offer me a ride. I wish he had of.
What Cubans think is a serving of rum and what non-Cubans think is a serving of rum are two TOTALLY different measurements. Cubans are generous to say the least.
Can I just say, officially, how much I love my iPad and how I can get ebooks for free from
my home library on it. Lifesaver. I will post my full reading list later. It's a good one!
My mom emailed asking when I was getting home. When I told her, she responded "You do know Wednesday is both squash league night and Trivial Pursuit night". No Cuban cigar for her!
Before leaving Havana I once again tried to get a boat ticket to the Isla de la Juventud. This was my third trip to the station to purchase this ticket. And again, I was unable to buy it. My hope is dwindling. There is only one more opportunity for me to buy this ticket and it is the day before I want to sail. I don't love those odds, seeing as I am 0/3 right now.
Well that was Soroa, next up is Vinales, home of caves, coffee, and cigars!
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