We awoke around 5am to the constant crow of roosters (they start well before dawn here) and barking dogs a plenty. Fortunately since we’d retired pretty early the evening before due to the blackout we were still pretty refreshed and rose with the sun. Our Casa host was awake and offered to make us a breakfast for 5 CUC a person. Eager to get out and explore the nearby national park we gladly accepted as them seemed a much better option than strolling about hoping to find an open restaurant so early on a Sunday morning. She provided quite a spread including fruit platters, ham and cheese platters, home- made cream cheese, muffins, biscuits, a small loaf of bread coffee and fresh pressed juice. The coffee was espresso strength and served with honey and warmed dehydrated milk and would become an essential way to jumpstart our date. Turned out there was even enough leftovers to bring along as lunch and snacks for our day trip.
We quickly packed for our trip and made a stop at a small grocery store we’d discovered for some water and juice. Taxis were looking to charge $15-20 for a one way trip and $30-35 wait for you to hike and take you back home after. Since we were told the park was only a few kilometres away and keeping in mind we were budget travelling we decided to hike there seeing it as an opportunity to see some more of the city and some of the countryside up close and maybe even meet some interesting people along the way. Shortly after passing the welcome to Trinidad sign, we did indeed encounter a farmer named Ruen and a friend heading home after delivering their goods to
restaurants and markets in the city that morning and they offered us a ride to the trailhead for $5 CUC in their horse drawn homemade cabbage cart. We happily accepted the offer as we knew this money was going to a good cause and it fit the profile of the way we were hoping to experience some travel here. Turns out we really benefitted from the ride because the few kilometers was to the park road off of the main road and then it was a good couple of more to the trailhead. He dropped us off at the official park entrance and we started to walk in from there and encountered a nice gentleman from Wisconsin venturing out to the park with a Cuban friend who offered us a ride yet another ways down this road to the entrance.
We thanked them and parted ways for now. We had procured some national pesos from our hosts with the understanding that it would be much more affordable to gain entry to the park. It turned out this particular location currency didn’t matter any tourists had to pay the 9 CUC entry fee. It was a bit of a surprise but we were prepared and paid up for the opportunity to experience the natural beauty offered here. The main trail to the waterfall was not much more than 45 minutes long but there were side trails and many things to stop and see from giant termite mounds and strange twisting trees to large cliff nesting bird settlements and swimming spots en-route. Along the hike we reconnected with the people we’d met in the cab and the Cuban was pointing out many bird and wildlife sightings including the Cuban national bird which was grey with a red splotch on the chest and some very tiny green birds as well as a something that looked like a Chinchilla on a tree. Some hikers are recommended here as there were some slippery rocks, potential for mud and a river we crossed a couple of times. The people attempting the hike in flip flops did not appear to be enjoying it. At the end of the trail we were rewarded with a really neat waterfall that looked a bit like a giant waterslide with a drop at the bottom. We ran into a number of folks here, a good blend of tourists from around the globe and Cubans. There were cliffs of varying heights that you could jump from into the pool at the bottom of the waterfall and you could swim under it to explore a cave full of bats and really cool rock formations. The water was cool but not cold and a very welcome reprieve from the high humidity that day. Unfortunately this is where I parted ways with my camera/cellphone when someone was filming us jumping off of the cliffs. We managed to recover it but it had swum with the fishes a bit too long. Note to self: If using cell phone as primary camera in the future, invest in a Lifeproof phone case. A large snake made an appearance and caused quite the stir as it slithered across someone sunning on a rock and after entertaining us for a few minutes it departed and so did we. At the trailhead we decided to relax a few minutes and enjoy a drink while recapping the highlights of the hike. Shortly after starting the walk back to the city we again encountered the same folks in a cab and were happy to split the 5 CUC rate that they had arranged with the driver. Back in the city we picked up some more supplies and headed to our Casa to see if our hosts could prepare a seafood dinner feast (10 CUC) and change for some evening exploration. We explored some Cuban art galleries and small market places and then headed out to enjoy some Cuban nightlife. My favourite spot that evening was called Castille de Cerveza (Castle of Beers) where it was easy to meet and dance with people from both Trinidad and abroad. It was an outside dance space in what appeared to be the partial ruins of an old castle like building.
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