Robaina's plantation

Saturday 23 May 2015

The Road to El Nicho Waterfall (Cienfuegos & Trinidad Provinces)

                     My previous post the 'Mirador de Topes de Collantes' in the Trinidad Province was our first stop along this road leading to the 'El Nicho' Waterfall. There is one other way to get there and that is from the other side which means driving to Cienguegos (an hour) and then taking a better road for about another 30 minutes. The way we took may not be as comfortable a drive but it certainly was the most scenic as you will see from the pictures.
                      It took us about 2 hours to get to the waterfall but besides stopping at the lookout we also made a stop at a coffeehouse museum about halfway there. The longer we were on the road, the steeper it got with Dead Man's Curves and Hairpin Curves being commonplace. It certainly made for an interesting drive, we couldn't go much faster than 20mph along most spots but what a view. We drove by some locals from time to time but didn't see a vehicle on the way there or on the return trip, unless you count horses and donkeys as vehicles, I'm sure the locals treat them as such. As we got deeper into the middle of nowhere, we thought, what the heck does everyone do out here for work. This is an agricultural area that's best suited for coffee which prefers cooler temperatures and shade. They're also growing other crops out here but I don't know if that's for export like the coffee or for local consumption. We past several schools, so people out here are being educated but our thoughts went to hospitals...what would happen if someone got really sick out here. The last 20 minutes (or so) drive were the worst, the road turned to quasi dirt and we had to go even slower. The only consolation was that we were close now.
                      As I had said previously, this isn't the most comfortable drive but I can tell you that the drive to Cienfuegos isn't that spectacular. I don't know what you'll find on the drive from Cienfuegos to the waterfall. In the previous post I mentioned to not undergo this trip without a proper vehicle. We went with a Taxi Service that you hire for the day and specializes in these kinds of trips. The company has a fleet of 4x4s so they can accommodate large groups. They charged us $90cuc total from 9am until about 5pm for the two of us. I believe for this kind of trip in these vehicles, you should have no more than 3 passengers, one per window, that means the cost would be 30 per person. Not bad for a trip this long and complicated.

Preferred Transportation


A Pig's Life (Until New Years)

The Local Watering Hole

The Long and Winding Road

Embalse Hanabanilla

Time to go Home

Our Taxi

Friday 22 May 2015

Mirador de Topes de Collantes (Trinidad Province) Cuba

                   Topes de Collantes is a nature reserve park in the Escambray Mountains range in central Cuba. The Mirador (viewing platform) that these photos were taken from are within the Sancti Spiritus Province. The park lies within two other provinces as well, Cienfuegos province and Santa Clara province. We were on our way to the El Nicho waterfall which was North from Trinidad for about 2 hours to Cienfuegos province. This spot is about 30 minutes from Trinidad. I would recommend that if you travel beyond this point don't do it without an adequate vehicle...we were in a 4x4. Peaks can rise up to 1000 meters beyond this point and driving can be a little tricky or impossible if you're not in the right type of car. This was the first of two stops along the way. There was a little snack shop in a separate building below, to the right, a fairly long set of steep stairs that make their way to the platform. Great views, definitely worth the 10 minute stop. No Charge

Thursday 21 May 2015

Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña (Cigar Shop) Havana

                   I had the impression that this was a 'La Casa del Habano' but I was mistaken. Just going by my experience, this is probably one of the less visited of the Cigar Shops in Havana by Cigar Aficionados. Even though it contains the worlds longest cigar at 11meters (36-ft.) that's registered in the Guinness Book of World Records, it's still more of a tourist attraction because of the history behind the two fortresses on this side of the bay. The day I was here the store was filled with the typical tourists buying their usual mix of cigars to bring back home to friends....not an Aficionado in sight except for myself. I hadn't come to do any shopping or to see the man who rolled the famous cigar, Jose Castelar Cueto. I came to see the new director (not anymore, he's been here for close to 2 years now) of the shop, Rene Valdes Miller. I met him while he was director of the RyJ Cigar Shop in Centro Havana and haven't visited him while here at his new place of work.
                    I found Rene to be very relaxed while enjoying a sporting event playing out on the television in the other shop at the Castillo de los Tres Reyes Magos del Morro a short walk from La Cabana. He's been organizing things over there so to increase sales. When I asked if he misses the action he said he's happy for the time off from all the stress. He's concentrating on getting the Morro Shop in better working order and has all the time in the world to do so, no stress.
                   I've been at a couple of events where Cueto was present but have never had the pleasure of meeting him. This was not going to be that time either, he wasn't there. Only a wax replica of Cueto would be present at the Cabana Shop next to his rolling table. Both my girlfriend and I thought that was a little creepy since he's still alive. However, it does look exactly like him.
                   For the Aficionados, as far as buying cigars here goes, my guess is that (from what I could see) it's geared more for the tourist market with all the big names as far as pedestrian cigars goes. I would think that the Aficionados would come here for Cueto's Custom Rolls. If you decide to visit here, make it a half a day affair and visit the two fortresses and maybe have a meal in one of the restaurants on this side of the bay. I wish I had more to tell, I hope you enjoy the pictures.