Cienega de Zapata

ZZZZZZZZZZZ Gnargh? Aaargh – it’s 6.30, and the alarm didn’t go off – mainly because it’s on Oz time, and set for 18.30…. A toot of the car has alerted us, so we throw on clothes, stagger out and pick up our morning guide half an hour late. No Problemo

This time we set off down another amazingly similar dirt road, and spend an hour in the car before arriving at our destination, mostly dozing. After all,  one dirt road looks pretty much like every other around here. Even our guide nods off quietly.

We finally arrive in Santo Tomas, shortly behind another two tourists, dressed in camouflage gear and toting some serious camera gear, including tripods. Must be twitchers (collective term for bird enthusiasts).

We head of in another direction, and after a short stroll through peaty, sometimes boggy forest, we arrive at a narrow canal and climb into a small boat with a man who poles us along this long, straight canal of peat-brown water. I am expecting to see the snake-headed fish and maybe a few cayman, but there is nary a snout to be seen.

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There are a few fish, lots of frogs’ eggs clustered on foliage just above the tree line, and lots of birds, but hard to spot. Our guide has the bird song app as well, and we manage to attract the attention of a handful of local feathered friends, but nothing overly startling happens. After a while, I am overcome with concern for W’s sit bones on the hard wooden seat, so we turn back and pole our way back.

On our return, there’s a little man who seems to want to show off his cart, a rickety collection of sticks and planks which he tows around behind him.20160504-IMG_3542-58 As he pulls it along behind him, I take a photo, which seems to amuse him enormously, and he pulls a few peso notes out of his pocket to indicate I should give him some money for the privilege. I press two coins into his hand, and he hoots with glee and does the local equivalent of the high five with the guide, then asks how much he’s got. 50 cents is a bit of a disappointment, but he is quite amiable and after his cigarette he trundles off towing his contraption.

A mother turkey and her fluffy brood are pecking away, one of the chicks seems to like my chirruping and comes to investigate my feet. Pigs wander about, and the horses graze on the sparse grass, hip bones poking out.

Off we go again, snoozing our way back to the tourist office. Back to the casa for another delicious sandwich and a shot of caffeine by way of the rocket fuel that passes for coffee here.  It’s best drunk as a mix of 1/4 coffee, 3/4 reconstituted powdered milk; fresh milk not commonly available here.

Swim, snooze and we’re off to the blue side of the bay; first to a beach for which there is an entry fee of 15 cuc which includes snorkel gear and an unlimited bar, but we decide that we’d be well drunk if we made the most of the bar, so we carry on to Playa Giron, where the US funded ex-pat Cubans came ashore at the Bay of Pigs to be met by the well-informed and well-resourced might of Castro and Guevara.

A sandy beach shaded by palm trees beckons, but there is a shallow break-water of sea grass and coral that keeps the cooler water out. The beach sand gives way to rocks and sea grass in the water and the temperature is more bath than bathing. Even further out the depth is only thigh high, there are few corals dotted around, colonised by spiny sea urchins and a few different fish, but the sand swirls around and makes visibility poor. The snorkel we brought has seen better days; the plastic brittle and perished to the point of no return, so it only survives long enough for three ventures into the water.

We return to our spot from the day before, where the waves are more whipped up today, and getting into the water from the rocks is somewhat more hazardous. But I am rewarded by a few bright parrot and angel fish. The water is cooler and more refreshing, and the lounge chairs are only 2 CUC, compared to 5 earlier. I pose as a bathing beauty on the rocks with waves splashing up around me, desperately trying to hide my thighs from the prying camera.

The drinks vendor is closed up for the day, so when we’ve dried a little we return for dinner at the Casa.

Lo and behold, a masseur has set up his table on the beach out back, so S and W treat themselves to a rub-down to the sound of the waves. Shortly after dinner we see dark clouds massing and flashes of lightning. I decide to try my hand at photographing the lightning, but by the time I’ve figured out how to assemble my new tripod, the deluge is upon us and we dash for cover as the rain hammers down. Most of the night is punctuated by flashes and rumbles, and by mid-night the power is out altogether and stays out until after breakfast. Fortunately they’re cooking with gas…. 🙂

And we’re off once again, bidding a fond farewell to our hostesses, who think it’s very unlikely they will ever be able to visit us in Australia, but who knows. We have exchanged email addresses (yes, they have them here), and bid them hasta luego.

On the road out Edgar tries  the the road via Playa Giron, but there a gazillion crabs Crabs on the roadcrossing the road en masse, and he decides to turn back – one car has apparently already suffered a tire puncture, so he doesn’t want to risk his. We leave the crab road kill to the vultures and use an alternative route.

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