Viñales including its surrounding national park is one of Cuba’s premier tourist destinations. Three hours by road from Havana, its picturesque limestone outcrops (mogotes) and tobacco fields attract day-trippers and longer-stay travellers.
View of mogotes surrounding Viñales
Rocío and I visited Viñales twice in January 2017: a day trip from Pinar del Río and then four nights. We arranged our Casa Adela accommodation a day in advance to ensure we had a decent stay. Over the new year we heard reports of tourists sleeping in Viñales’ streets because all beds were full.
Parque Nacional Viñales (Viñales National Park) sign; note the different hand shapes
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; 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 classic US sedan ride to La Gran Piedra stopped abruptly by a recently fallen tree
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.
Oroya/Puerto Manoa including a suspension bridge over the Inambari River, from near the Interoceanic HighwayContinue reading →
Ayapata in Carabaya Province, Peru, is a place I never knew existed*. This was until Rocío and I saw Macusani posters advertising Ayapata’s first coffee festival for 25 September 2016. We thought it was a great excuse to visit, despite the excellent Maps.Me showing no roads leading to Ayapata. Even today, Google Maps still shows a road-less town of Ayapata District.
An unsealed road did link Macusani to Ayapata, with vans departing from Macusani’s bus terminal for the two hour journey. Flamingos, Andean geese, ducks and other birds inhabited the stunning Andes mountain and lake scenery.
The journey’s second half encountered fog, darkness and rain. Rocío feared the steep roadside drops and poor visibility combined with the usual South American driving style.
Sitting in front of the van travelling to Ayapata on mountainsides in low visibilityContinue reading →
Puerto Iguazu is the Argentinian gateway to one of the largest and most spectacular waterfall systems in the world: Iguazu. Near Iguazu the borders of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay join, although the waterfalls lie within Argentina and Brazil, with most occurring in Argentina.
Upon arriving to Puerto Iguazu Airport in May I transferred to a bus for the final journey to the town of the same name. Outside Puerto Iguazu the bus stopped for passengers to pay a town entry fee. Being squeezed on the bus, I left my wallet on my lap instead of placing it in my pocket. Once at the bus terminal I exited the bus, forgetting about my wallet until I arrived to my accommodation. The hostel staff member assisted selflessly, calling the bus company and advising them about the missing wallet. Later, a driver arrived with a wallet. Alas, it was not mine. Luckily my wallet only contained limited cash and a debit card which I blocked.