Robaina's plantation

Friday 25 September 2015

Cueva de Los Portales (La Güira National Park) Pinar del Rio

                 Cuba is home to about 1000 caves or caverns....and those are just the ones that are registered. Of the registered caves, not all have been fully explored. They serve a dual purpose, the obvious being as a tourist attraction but they also serve to show a history of the island. I didn't realize how extensive the cave systems were in Cuba until recently while doing research on this and a couple of other caves.
                 The Cueva de Los Portales is on the border with the Sierra del Rosario and Sierra de Los Organos mountains and part of the Rio Caiguanabo San Andrés cave system. This particular area had been the estate of a wealthy landowner and politician, José Manuel Cortina. His properties were confiscated in 1959, after the revolution, and his mansion and gardens had been left to deteriorate. Today the grounds where his house once stood are being restored to their quasi former glory in time for the rush of US citizens being forced to take cultural people-to-people tours. This site would be right their alley as would these caves and the history behind them. In 1960, Che Guevara understood the strategic possibilities of this area and in particular the Cueva de los Portales. In 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis (for 45 days), Che Guevara made the caves his headquarters as commander of the Western Army. He returned once again to train before his mission to Bolivia where he died. The cave is maintained and contains furniture and some personal belongings of the man himself. I would recommend paying the couple of dollars and the guide can explain everything to you. There's a really cool spot going up some carved stone steps to a stone table and chairs (like the Flintstones) where Che used too plan his strategy....or so the story goes.
                 The site was declared a National Monument July 25, 1987 but the Campismo Cueva de Los Portales with 12 cabins (Camping) located right next to the caves has been in operation since May 16, 1981. There's a guide on site, bathrooms and a snack and beverage stand. It's very interesting if you care at all about Cuban history and of course the area is quite stunning, it's suppose to be superb for bird watching.
                 It's a bit out of the way and I don't think it gets visited a lot but we encountered a group of about 20 cyclists that were doing a bike tour of Cuba, this was one of their stops. They had come from Vinales like we did. To get there we took the road via the town of La Palma. When leaving we took a road that brought us to the main highway....we asked for directions (several times) to make sure. The roads aren't too bad for Cuba but you won't be breaking any speed limits, that's for sure. Depending on where you're coming from in Havana, it's about a one and a half hour drive from there.