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Archive for the ‘Cuba’ Category

Ontario caver goes Cuban


 

Sloshing through tepid water in the Cuevas de Bellamar I proceeded onwards past the usual path of travel. I am told that these gently sloping tunnels eventually reach the aquifer. Cuba is part of the same limestone plateau upon which is perched Florida and the Yucatan. Oddly this rock in which the Cuevas de Bellamar has formed is reddish – like what you would expect to see on mars and the calcite that has precipitated from within is snowy white – like icing.

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Staying at the Jibacoa – Caving in Matanzas

P1010096, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

I think it might be that one evil green eye that led me on beyond the tourist designated tunnels of the Cuevas de Bellamar. I had been given permission to go further by our guide who was an avid caver himself. I still intend to produce an article for a magazine or something about the experience – in fact I have it produced already. Toronto Star had initially suggested that they would be interested in seeing something on Cuba’s caves but that fell through.

As you can see by my wrist band I was at that time resident at one of the Island’s many tourist resorts (Jibacoa). We had picked a quiet place half way between Havana and Varadero – it was beautiful, but the food – Wow, you cant begin to imagine the spagehetti paste filth they served and called it food -stay away from the fish as well, but conversely, some stuff was still edible. The people, now they were great!

Anyway, here I am sweating off the beer from the night before and wading along in tunnels that were just incredible. More pictures to follow soon – please excusee the lack of caving gear, my exploration was kind of winging it, the guide had lent me his little pocket light.

I should be getting back to my essay, I’m supposed to be writing something on health and safety legislation – I’m doing a course in Conestoga taught by a MOL inspector. Pulled off a pretty decent mark on my test – you might remember that I mentioned avoiding it by blogging about my last trip to Dodge. I’m heading back to Kansas for a health and safety conference in Janurary.

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poking around without a flashlight like the tourists that we were

P1000524, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Sea caves usualy form along weaknesses in the rock that are scoured out by ocean waves – they seldom go to far in, but surprisingly, they often have secret little passages at the back of rather cavernous entrances; I can think of several such instances along the Bruce peninsula and one quite close to home (Guelph).

Here we are way up in the hills in Cuba – having spent an unusual day with our host – M…, who speaks no English and we no Spanish beyond “Mucho Gusto” and “Por Favor”. The Cuban people are exceedingly generous with what little they have and several times that morning M… stopped and bought us beer. We even smoked a cigar between us that left me retching and dizzy. No complaints except the single handle that we passed around to roll down the various windows in the car. Occasionally we pulled them back up at checkpoints so as to remain hidden from authorities; they frown on connections between the locals and visiting tourists – in case we spread our degenerate Western ways.

I think we were somewhere in the middle of Matanzas Province, quite high up, and off in the distance there were sugar cane fields that disappeared beneath a vista of yellowish-haze. Underground, within these chambers roots broke through the roof and crept across boulders like tentacles. “Maggie was excited and wandered off into places that you could not see. Being a caver I was curious, but also cautious, as I had seen a pit on the walk up and wondered if there was any such feature hiding in the darkness.

There was a sign at the front of this cave – written in Spanish and interpreted by M… who with his hand actions indicated that some kind of battle had taken place here. If you can read Spanish I have a picture of the sign in my Flickr account.

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Caves at Escalares De Jaruco – Cuba

P1000527, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Here we are – cruising in the smoking Lada with M… and family. We are at a place called “Escaleras de Juruco” here to see the caves!

As my diary records, ” M… drove us further into the park, thrashing the Lada through the grass and from where he parked we walked along a path in extreme karst pavement, the ground an eroded knot on rock and crevices. We were soon upon several limestone openings – quite obviously sea caves now left high in the hills amongst the palms. Roots hung through the rock and wound over boulders – further in – deeper into the caverns the airflow seemed to stop. I assumed they went nowhere.

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Calcite leaks from a side passage in the Cuevas de Bellamar – Cuba – near Varadero

As mentioned in a previous post, I had visited the Cuevas de Bellamar a few weeks ago. If you are taking a holiday in or near Varadero (Cuba) it is well worth visiting. I had been given permission to go a little beyond the tourist section and in crawling down a tube shaped tunnel I found that the way ahead was almost blocked by this high grey mound. The mound must have been formed by the calcite that was oozing from this hole in the side of the passage. For some strange reason it reminded me of a ruptured blood vessel and its contents – milk dribbling out onto the cave floor. A pothole in the top of the mound revealed that all beneath was as white as this petrified deposit but there was this discolored scab over top. It could be that the tunnel may have been flooded at some time after the calcite deposit and the grey scab had settled out from the water in that passage.

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With beer and lots of disco music!

P1000489, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

This is the mouth of a large Cuban sea cave at a place called “Escaleras de Jaruco”. The environment and what constitutes preservation is not always what we call “preservation”. From my diary I offer the following extract…

“It was still high in the mountains and from the viewing platform I could see the hills disappearing into the haze. Behind us there was a field and then limestone cliffs.

From a huge sea cave entrance the disco music was blasting (The speakers looked like they had been salvaged from a Metallica concert). Behind a concrete counter there stood a red-vested waiter (very animated in his conversation with M…) We drank several beers in quick succession and then crawled up behind the bar to see if the tunnels went – they did not. There was no air flow but plenty of corroded stalactites.

M… drove further into the park – thrashing the smoking Lada through the grass. We walked along a path in extreme “holokarst”  – soon several other more promising cave openings”. (more on this area to follow)

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Youngsters enjoy their school outing

P1000872, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Old Havana had more than its share of school children. Everywhere you looked there were mobs of youngsters, partnered up, boy and girl, following the teacher in a string of hand-holding buddies. I thought this picture expressed their characters so well. Notice the extrovert, the shy one, mrs friendly etc. Each child shows their character when observed through the discrete telephoto lens of my camera somewhere near the Plaza de Armas.

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