Day 4

Rick became sick during the night, from maybe the mayo served at lunch?  We had to change rooms at 1:45am when the toilet stopped working!!

He was down for the day.

The rest headed out in 7 jeeps for a rugged day of adventure.

Signs of timber cutting noted along the way to our first stop a botanical garden. Where of course there were local entrepreneurs selling their wares.

emJay helped the local economy by buying a red necklace and bracelet. Only 1 CUC!

The main entrance.

Our guide for the day who works for Ecotur, the Cuban outdoor touring company. All the jeep drivers were from Ecotur.

View looking south toward the Caribbean coast of Cuba. We were in the Baconao Unesco Bioreserve.

Jeff and Tom made buddies with the pups everywhere we went . . .

. . . this one was a little too shy.

The prized bloom of the ave de paraiso, bird of paradise.

Eliseo also added information along the way.

Ruins of an old home add interest to the gardens.

There was an area with many different orchids.

We enjoyed seeing the green emerald hummingbird here.

Hey – looks like our common daylily!!

The national flower of Cuba which has a wonderful scent!

Sample a fruit (perhaps at your own risk if you are being really careful about what goes in your mouth…)

One sees message boards like this all over Cuba.

Revolution  . . .  under construction?

Then we began our hike up to the Gran Piedra, a 63,000 ton boulder that sits perched high above the Caribbean.

Nearing the top of the climb . . . Tommy and Jon made a dash to the top . . .

. . . which is actually a ‘HUGE’ rock geologists can’t explain how it got there!

Fog started to blow in from the SW but we could see the hills to the NE.

And of course there were vendors on the top of the rock! Tom takes home a copy of the Santa Maria. Only 8 CUC’s!

Next stop was a family producing coffee the old tradidtional way. Beans roasted over an open fire . . .

Then cooled a bit prior to grinding . . .

Spreading out the beans after they have been roasted to perfections . . .

And ground in a wooden mortar and pestel.

It’s the rrrrichest kind . . . many of us brought a pound back to the states.

We next went to a Unesco World Heritage site, Cafetel la Isabella. It is the first coffee plantation in SE Cuba, built by a Frenchman and named in honor of his favorite concubine.

Alberto, our driver and strong conservationist Joel, Laurie and emJay say goodbye after a great day.

We stopped to visit a war monument complete with grazing cows!

Happy travelers, including our wonderful bus driver Alberto in tie on left.

After lunch at a local café, it was on to tour Morro Castle built by Spain, about 1700. It was later used as a prison . . .

A lonnnnnnng hike to the top from the sea.  Discouraged invasions!!!

. . . complete with a moat.

Walls made up of limestone with lots of marine fossils.

We used a reconstructed drawbridge to enter the castle.

Lot’s of info about pirates . . .

. . . great views from the top. You could see the enemy coming from a long distance away. Time to develop a plan!

Ready for attack from any side . . .

Local guide!!

We drove through Santiago’s area of (previously) fancy homes and wealthy folks. Now many of the houses are offices or government buildings.

Some people were living quite nicely . . .

. . . while most are not.

We finally arrived back at Hotel CasaGranda  . . .

. . . and were greeted by this beauty

. . . and a band concert by the Cameguey city band. Music everywhere, all hours of the day!!!


After an hour or so of listening to the band and having a few rums at our roof top bar is was time for dinner for a few of us at Restaurant Matamoros, a government run restaurant. The food was tasty and we had a live band to entertain us.