Orchids and Waterfall in Soroa, Cuba

Soroa, 7 kilometres north of the Havana-Pinar del Río Freeway is a village known for both its waterfall and orchid garden. As fans of orchids the latter attracted Rocío and me and we made a detour to Soroa between Viñales and Havana.

Getting to Soroa from Viñales without private transport took two colectivos and then a Jeep organised by a tout from the mechanic near the Candelaria/Soroa junction. The travel logistics and costs are listed below this post.

Soroa Waterfall (Salto del Arco Iris)

The Soroa Waterfall has two entrances. The Jeep dropped us off adjacent the lower, southern one where we paid the 3 CUC (US$3) entry fee.

Entry signs to waterfall Salto del Arco Iris; entry costs Cubans 10 CUP (US$0.40) and foreigners 3 CUC (US$3)

Entry signs to waterfall Salto del Arco Iris; cascada is Spanish for waterfall; entry costs Cubans 10 CUP (US$0.40) and foreigners 3 CUC (US$3)

January is well outside the May to October wet season so the waterfall was a relative trickle. Despite this, the overhang and surrounding greenery still made a beautiful setting.

Soroa's waterfall Salto del Arco Iris

Visitors enjoying Soroa’s waterfall

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Reserva Ecológica Limones-Tuabaquey – Waking up Christmas Day on a Hut Floor in the Middle of Nowhere, Cuba

Reserva Ecológica Limones-Tuabaquey (Limones-Tuabaquey Ecological Reserve) features giant millipedes, a huge natural depression, caves with indigenous art and endemic flora and fauna. Who knew it would be so difficult to get to!

Rocío and I wanted to spend Christmas eve 2016 in a cabin at the reserve near Cubitas. At least that was our intention after reading Lonely Planet’s 2105 Cuba guidebook.

Our Multi-Faceted Journey to Reserva Ecológica Limones-Tuabaquey

Getting to Cubitas from Nuevitas involved taking a passenger truck for 10 CUP (US$0.40) each to the junction of Camagüey-Nuevitas Highway (Carretera de Camagüey a Nuevitas) and North Circuit (Circuito Norte). From there we would hitch-hike along North Circuit to our destination.

The North Circuit (Circuito Norte) road was desolate while we waited for a ride in the roadside shelter

The North Circuit (Circuito Norte) road was desolate while we waited for a ride in the roadside shelter

At the junction we waited more than an hour for a ride. It was the 24th of December and the highway was desolate. While waiting, lizards, birds, cows and butterflies entertained us. Continue reading

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

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Two Amazing Day Trips from Macusani, Carabaya Province, Peru

In October 2016 Rocío and I undertook two amazing day tours in the southern Peruvian Andes Mountains as part of our 2016 Interoceanic Highway Trip. We saw stunning scenery, prehistoric history and witnessed something extremely rare: a condor hunting and dive-bombing. From Macusani, guide Ulices and our Hilux driver took us one day to Ayapata District and the next to Corani District.

Video of the condor hunting and dive-bombing near Lake Qañuqota, Ayapata District

Located in Puno Region’s north, Carabaya Province is rarely visited by foreigners. In fact, in ten days, we did not see a single foreign tourist. This is despite being situated between touristic cities Puno, Cusco and Puerto Maldonado. One reason for limited tourism is elevation. Carabaya Province’s capital and largest city, Macusani, lies an inhibiting 4,315 metres high.

With fun couple adjacent Lake Qanuqota, Ayapata District, Carabaya Province, Peru

While hiking to Pitumarka we met a fun couple relaxing against a stone wall seemingly in the middle of nowhere, Ayapata District Continue reading

Oroya: Butterflies, Boats and Gold Mining in the Amazon Basin

The village of Oroya straddles the Inambari River and is known for its gold. Spanish speakers may find this unsurprising as oro in Spanish means gold. Oroya, incorporating Puerto Manoa, lies adjacent the Interoceanic Highway in Carabaya Province’s San Gaban District.

Inambari passing through Oroya, Carambaya Province, Puno Region, Peru

Oroya/Puerto Manoa including a suspension bridge over the Inambari River, from near the Interoceanic Highway Continue reading

Machu Picchu – the Culmination of the Inka Jungle Trek

15th century Incan citadel Machu Picchu is a world famous historic site and Peru’s biggest tourist attraction. First publicised to the outside world in 1911 by Hiram Bingham, it is one of few significant pre-Columbian sites not discovered and destroyed by the Spanish conquistadors. Machu Picchu was also the final destination of my four day Inka Jungle Trek.

Machu Picchu, Cusco, Peru

Located between Hidroelectrica and Aguas Calientes, Machu Picchu is approximately 75 kilometres by straight line from Cusco Continue reading

Inka Jungle Trek – Four Days of Fun and Amazing Scenery

A popular way to visit tourist magnet Machu Picchu is via a multi-day trek with the primary treks being:

  • Inca Trail: the most expensive and prestigious route, often requires booking several months in advance
  • Salkantay Trek: an alternative route that can be hiked independently
  • Inca (or Inka) Jungle Trek: a hybrid, activity based trek staying in hostels instead of tents

I chose the Inca Jungle Trek and in August 2016 enjoyed a fantastic four days with a wonderful group of people including Dale, Wian, Johann, Damian, Magali and Nicola along with super guide Jhimmy. The good food, reasonable accommodation and great value topped off the trip.

Booked through my Cusco hostel Ecopackers, Inca Path Peru operated the tour.

Day 1

The tour began with a drive from Cusco up to 4,350 metre high Malaga Pass. From the high Andes mountains with glaciers visible we mountain biked downhill to hot and humid Huamanmar.

Inca Jungle Trek, Cusco

The Inka Jungle Trek driver removing mountain bikes from the van roof with a glacier in the background Continue reading