Walking Picos Turquinos
In June 2010 I and my girlfriend ,a couple from Israel,spent three weeks in Cuba . As we enjoy walking in mountains and since Cuba does not have a lot Turquinos was an obvious choice. I found one personal experience online from May 2009. A pair of people who went south to north but most important they gave a name and email address of the Cuban who organized transport ,food and guide .
Ricardo of Ecotur at firstname.lastname@example.org .
We got in touch and he confirmed the price 350 CUC (Convertible Pesos) for the two of us. This includes transport to and from the hike,entrance into the park and guide (compulsory for foreigners) ,one liter of water per person per day ( this is not enough and there is no water on the trail), breakfast
lunch and dinner the first day and breakfast and lunch the second day. Remember this is Cuba. We didn't get breakfast the first day but had fortunately brought sandwiches. What we where give in camp the second day for breakfast was a joke. Bring food and snacks. Lunch both days was pasta with a little sauce. Dinner was OK. Because of a mix up between Ecoturs ,the merchandiser and Flora & Fauna , the service provider (both of course Government companies, there was no water for us for the second day. I simply filled our bottles from the drinking water barrel of the camp.
The route from side to side is 24 kilometers. Las Cuevas in the south is sea level , Turquinos 1974 m and Alto de Naranja about 900m. From Alta to Camp Joaquin where you have a place to sleep and get lunch and dinner is about eight and a half Km.From the camp another 5 to the top. There are then roughly seven and a half to the next stop for “lunch”. From there the last 3 down to Las Cuevas.
We had thought to do the trip from the south to north . Ricardo insisted , and in retrospect I am glad, that we do it from north to south. He cited rain in the afternoon as the reason but difficulty with a 4-wheel drive vehicle had something to do with his position. We did have three hours of torrential rain shortly after arriving at Camp Joaquin about 16:00. I have been in rain this heavy in Mexico but for 10-15 minutes not 3 hours. Most Cubans arrive at Las Cuevas and climb from and descend back to there. If you are very fit or start very early this is doable in one day. The road to Las Cuevas is still in bad shape from the 2008 hurricanes and Rcardo admitted that not wanting to drive it in the dark was one of his considerations in the Northern start.
We were picked up in Santiago from where we stayed ,Juan and Nastia Tejera
email@example.com at 6:00 in the morning and arrived at Villa Santa Domingo about 8:30. From there we transferred to a 4 wheel taxi for the steep climb to Alto de Naranja (750 meters in under 5 kilometers). There we met up with the park guide , Oskar. There was only one other walker, an Argentinian Jew . Cubans can hike by themselves but foreigners are required to employ a guide. Oskar was very knowledgeable about the flora and the birds and lizards. The first days hike is a series of climbs and descents of between 100 to 300 meters . I lost track after 12 and estimate we climbed and descended over 2500 during those seven hours of walking. It is only eight and a half kms and you are at 1350 meters . The camp has beds and there were to our surprise blankets. We brought a double sheet. The warmish pasta was lunch. The walk was psychologically hard. I thought to myself today only 8.5 kms and tomorrow almost 16 , maybe we should have done this in three days. Maybe I over estimated our powers . After all we are both 63 . I planned this trip . I am responsible and maybe we bit off more than we can chew.
Then rain a nap and then dinner. On the hill opposite there was now a large waterfall. Now we wondered if we could even continue the next day . When asked Oskar said oh yes no ploblem. Just will a little slippery. And it was.
The next morning after coffee and a small piece of bread and cheese we set off.
The day starts with the climb of Pico Joaquin 1650 roughly, then back down to 1300 , then up to Pico Redondo almost 1700 , then back down to 1350 and then finally up to Turquinos.You have gone 5 kms. Just before the summit there is a large bare boulder to the side of the path which gives a view of the route as if on a map. By the statue of Jose Marti on the peak we found the new guide who would take us down. Also there were a group of firemen (Bomberos) and as we started down a bunch of soldiers arrived from the south who when they heard we were from Israel insisted on photos with us.
Coming down from the top you reach maybe 1500 before climbing back up to 1750 to walk around the side of Pico Cuba , the second highest oeak in Cuba.
From there it steadily down for 7-8 kms to reach 600 meters above sea level and the other camp for lunch , more room temperature pasta and a soft drink. Another hour and a half brought us at 16:30 to Las Cuevas and a pair of COLD beers.
Ricardo and his brother were waiting for us and drove us back to Santiago
One further point , at one point because of problems with email and telephones there was no contact with Ricardo. I turned to Juan Tejera with whom I had arranged to stay the five nights in Santiago and asked his help in reestablishing communications. It happened that he already knew Ricardo because of a previous guest who had used his services. Juan became a dependable intermediate. He is
a retired Professor of Physics and a man of many facets. He led a band on a European tour a few years ago. Nastia is a gracious hostess and we left feeling that we had made new friends. That is one of the points of travel isn't it? Meeting the other. In short I highly recommend them as a Casa.
If you have further questions I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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