Southern Highway. The Concupiscence of the Sea and the Mountains

One of the most spectacular Cuban routes is the southern road in Granma that connects the city of Santiago with Pilon and goes through a delicate line where the Caribbean Sea kisses the Sierra Maestra Mountains. True, Dennis cyclone largely destroyed the man audacity of wanting to nose that amatory relationship, but even so, the scenery is so beautiful that I accept the challenge and I adventure myself through broken bridges. Want to joint me?DSC00831

If you decide to make the trip to Santiago by this road, I recommend you do it in the morning, so you avoid the risk of being surprised by heavy rain or worse, you miss the sun and have to drive during the night. We, stubbornly and incorrigibly, started the journey past three in the afternoon.
Initial point: Marea del Portillo hotel, a peaceful place, almost mystical, located in the Ensenada de la Mora (The Moor Inlet). Mainly visited by Canadians, the hotel has a gray sand beach, formerly the refuge of Barranquilla the pirate.

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You need to take the road of the Marea Village and continue straight along the coast, but at the very beginning we are surprised to find out that road is somewhat inaccessible for our car; luckily we found a detour in good condition that introduces us in the Mota village. It is a very rural place, and has a special micro-dry climate; soon we find coconut trees and grapevine plantations in full production (perhaps the only place in the world where the coconuts and vines coexist). Without thinking it twice, we purchased some, but at midday the fields were deserted.

DSC00820The road became increasingly intricate and we started to believe that we were lost. We saw a boy and asked, he explains that we are on the right way, that later would see the main road. We offer him a ride, and although he doesn´t need it, he accepts the favor. The obvious question: Where can we buy grapes? Although we passed his house, he takes us to a plantation where they are selling

What is this grape variety? I don´t know, here we call it grapevine. It is the answer that we get, but the grapes are delicious, nothing to do with the acidity of the wild ones..DSC00821 DSC00823

We said goodbye and soon we found the southern road, certainly it is affected and in many places is just tortuous road or embankment.DSC00859

The traffic is rare in this road, due to its conditions, but in every step you can find people riding horses or wagons. These in the pictures seem to return of some rodeo, a whole cowboy family.

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The sea today is quiet and a gentle breeze quietly wrinkles the water sheet that intermittently covers the mountain, but I can imagine the waves´ fury and their destructive power when a cyclone strikes. Pure concrete pieces shattered, abandoned transit tunnels, twisted steels.

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But the landscape is increasingly impressive; sometimes you are too close to the sea, others the road climbs through the mountains with wild cat agility. Suddenly someone gestures insistently; he is a thin young man with artificial flowers in his hand, obviously wanting us to give him a ride. We know that traffic is limited in this area, if we do not to help him, he will have to make his journey on foot and God knows where he is coming from and to where he is going to. We pick him up, people call him Chichi and he is from Ocujal of Turquino. He has been walking from Marea del Portillo; he was at a birthday party, lost his bus and was obliged to make the journey on foot. How many hours have you been walking? About three hours. And since I get confirmation that he has not had lunch, I give him a banana I had saved me as a snack and a bunch of grapes. We didn´t think of picking you up because you look like a criminal- I joke with him. No at all, I am a worker, poor but honest, I get into the countryside and do crafts with guaniquiqui.

DSC00880 Then, the unexpected passenger becomes our guide, telling the names of the villages, interesting sites, the weather behavior, what happened with Dennis Hurricane, the more dangerous steps … (steps bridges the force of the sea overthrow)

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This cove is very deep, so no one swims and it´s called the Witch Cove because here a bird screams just like a witch –he warns. We laugh hilariously with this and other stories, and we realized we appreciative more his company, than he does the favor we gave him.DSC00899

We pass the Mula River camping, the Uvero Town, and others smaller along the roadside. He also tells us about the Caves, one of the points from where you climb to the highest mountain in Cuba, Pico Turquino. Finally, we said goodbye and we decline his coffee invitation because of the hurry we are in.

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We continue, and so included a visit to the hot springs of the Cuquita to our route, with an included swim in a too square for my taste  pool.  The water, not as hot as expected, truly, only about 37 celsius degrees, but with a high minerals concentration, is however a relaxing experience. The place could be much better but it is worth a warm swim after such an intense trip.

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Rain threatens us, we have to go fast, heavy rain can be dangerous in these places, for the rivers growth and who knows if the sea is also participates in the party. Neither it is convenient that night surprises us, and if so we would stay in Chivirico (a small town, but it is the most important in the area and surely lodging appears)
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The road from Uvero is spotless, newly arranged, so the “jeep safari” ends, to focus on the landscape enjoyment. The closer we come to Santiago, the road is more touristic, soaring keys begin to appear with  hotels in their tops, water sports, restaurants, shops and other services for visitors; but above all, people swimming in the many varied beaches offered by this coast. Not all of them are fine sand beaches, it doesn’t matter, they could generate envy to the  French beaches.

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Santiago and can be glimpsed in the distance, and we end the trip but we have the complicity of having witnessed, from the southern highway, the close relationship between the Caribbean Sea and the Sierra Maestra Mountains. Relationship that is sometimes passionate and often destructive, but still … endearing and sublime.DSC00863

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* Traducción realizada por: Lic. Zenia Bermudez López. Graduada de Lengua Inglesa y Francesa en la Universidad de Holguín “Oscar Lucero Moya”

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