Santiago de Cuba, Where the Cuban Revolution Began

Cuba’s second city Santiago de Cuba lies far from Havana and is known for both its music and rebellious streak. Rocío and I visited Santiago twice in December 2016, firstly for Fidel Castro’s memorial rally and funeral and later, returning from Baracoa. While based in Santiago we had an epic day trip to La Gran Piedra I blogged about here.

Moncada Barracks and the 26th of July Revolutionary Movement

Children at a school that used to be the Moncada Barracks, where the Cuban Revolution began; note the bullet holes in the walls

Children at a school that used to be the Moncada Barracks, where the Cuban Revolution began; note the bullet holes in the walls

On 26 July 1953 Fidel Castro led an unsuccessful armed attack on Santiago de Cuba’s Moncada army barracks. This is regarded as the start of the Cuban Revolution and the official revolutionary movement is named 26 de Julio (26th of July) after this date. The former barracks was converted to a school although some of the battle’s bullet holes remain. Continue reading

The Epic La Gran Piedra Adventure

Wildfires, tree rat stew, a fallen tree blocking the road, slavery, a butterfly with clear wings, and a ride with the Cuban Air Force, this December 2016 La Gran Piedra day trip had almost everything. La Gran Piedra National Park (Parque Nacional de la Gran Piedra) is named after the monolith at the top of the mountain about 28 kilometres from Santiago de Cuba.

Waking up early, our Santiago de Cuba hosts kindly provided a 6am breakfast. We walked to bus terminal near the port on Jesús Menéndez Avenue. Our options from hear were a bus to Siboney 1 hour later or a 10am bus direct to La Gran Piedra (The Big Stone).

The bus schedule to La Gran Piedra from bus station near Santiago de Cuba's port

The bus schedule to La Gran Piedra from bus station near Santiago de Cuba’s port; buses leave Santiago 6am Monday, Wednesday and Friday, returning from La Gran Piedra at 3pm. There is a 10am Sunday bus which I guess also returns 3pm but it’s Cuba so who exactly knows…

Instead of these options, we:

  • Rode moto taxis across town (20 CUP; US$0.80 each) to El Palo del Aura where more frequent transport departed towards Siboney.
  • Caught a bus for 1 CUP (US$0.04), exiting at the junction to La Gran Piedra. Here we watched lizards while waiting with others for a ride up the mountain.
  • Took a private car (organised by a man in a tractor) up the mountain for 20 CUC (US$20; negotiated down from 30 CUC).

This car should have delivered us to the top, however, we came across the following:

Our old US sedan ride to La Gran Piedra stopped abruptly by a recently fallen tree

Our classic US sedan ride to La Gran Piedra stopped abruptly by a recently fallen tree

Continue reading

Awesome Hot Chocolate and other Baracoa Food

Baracoa, known for its seafood, coconut, banana and cacao, stands out amongst Cuba’s generally plain cuisine.

Casa Fernando

Rocío and I enjoyed breakfasts and multiple dinners prepared by our hosts on our December 2016 stay. Casa Fernando prepared good food despite the limited ingredient availability.

Prawns first night at Casa Fernando

Prawns on our first night at Casa Fernando

For dinner we had choices of chicken, fish or prawns. This was usually preceded by soup and accompanied by salad and rice, bread or chips. Continue reading

Food and Arequipa – a Delicious Combination

Peruvian cuisine’s variety, taste and freshness make it South America’s finest. Although Lima has Peru’s best restaurants and food festival (Mistura), Arequipa is the city most synonymous with food. Following are culinary highlights from my time in Arequipa, including my favourite food from the city, country and continent: a true chocolate delight!
For ease of navigation I have divided the article into the following sections:

MARKETS

Mercado San Camilo

Doña Julia's juice stall, Mercado San Camilo, Arequipa

Doña Julia giving the thumb up behind the fruit at her great juice stall in Mercado San Camilo Continue reading

Colca Canyon: a Volcanic 2 Day Birthday Tour

In November 2016, to celebrate our birthdays, Rocío and I took a two day tour of the picturesque Colca Canyon. In southern Peru’s Caylloma Province, the Colca is one of the world’s deepest canyons and a must visit to see the Andean Condor. I had previously hiked the canyon. This time we wanted a relaxing trip. Booked through our YES Arequipa hostel, the tour was extremely good value.

Day 1

On our first morning we were picked up from our accommodation by the tour bus and driven north to Chivay, the canyon’s principle town.

Vicunas in front of Misti Volcano between Arequipa and Colca Canyon

Vicuñas in front of the Misti volcano Continue reading

Deliciousness and Australian Songs at Festi Sabores 2016 – Arequipa’s Food Festival

Festi Sabores, Festival of Flavours in English, is southern Peru’s most important food festival and a highlight of the Arequipa calendar. With free entry, Festi Sabores is held at Plaza Yanahuara over multiple days around October-November each year. Rocío and I enjoyed the 2016 festival enough to attend two days.

Cuyassic Park, guinea pig stand, Arequipa Food Festival, Peru

Cuyassic Park: like Jurassic Park but selling roasted guinea pigs instead (cuy in Spanish is guinea pig) Continue reading

Tantamaco’s Potatoes and Stunning Scenery

In southern Peru’s Macusani District, circa 4,000 metre high Tantamaco is the organic native potato capital. Potatoes are indeed widely grown here and in fact originated from this part of the world. However, for me this aspect of Tantamaco was overshadowed by the awesome Andes Mountain scenery.

Stunning valley views on way to Tantamaco, Macusani District

Stunning valley views on the drive to Tantamaco Continue reading

The Interoceanic Highway Trip

Llama with a view near Tantamaco, Macusani, Carabaya, Peru

A llama with a view near Tantamaco in Macusani District

Rocío and my month-long trip along and around the Interoceanic Highway in southern Peru and eastern Brazil was one of my greatest travel experiences. Continue reading