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Posts Tagged ‘Cuba’

Cubans

I went for a walk along the beach front one morning. it was kind of a run down place and eventually I reached a settlement of some kind that had served as a holiday resort for Russians. On the way back these two characters emerged from the trees and followed close behind me making conversation.

Well one thing led to another and before I knew it I was getting a guided tour of their world. I saw the swimming pool – Olympic size but empty, the disco (a concrete pad beside the ocean with a barbecue) and the inlet from where a nearby oil rig was drawing water. A security guard was stationed there but these two guys were his friends so hung out a while and they chatted with him in Spanish.

I also met the community dog, a little runt that they seemed to love. Sadly it was almost hairless and covered in big pink welts and scabs.

If nothing, Cubans are happy, smiling and very generous. They don’t have much, and crime seems almost non existent. I get the feeling that these people are kind of innocent. There is no doubt in my mind that their poverty would be hard to take, but I also think that as a society they are in many ways better than us. Check out this site (Child of the Revolution), this person thinks otherwise.

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Lake of the Dahlias somewhere beyond

P1010079, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Here it is – over the hump. I pressed through this low slot and on to the passage beyond – an elliptical tunnel that wound off into gloom. Its hard to imagine but somewhere further on the helictites become so dense and interwoven that it is impossible to go onwards without damaging them. I did not get much further than this, but I was shown a map that indicated the most fantastic formations were isolated beneath a military zone. After my little private jaunt I saw a 3D movie that the curators were making of what was deep within – unbelievable!

One General Frederico F. Gavada wrote in 1870 in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine of his experience in the Cuevas de Bellamar saying that he eventually reached an underground lake, 18 feet deep and 180 feet long. He called it the “Lake of Dahlias” for the crystals that looked like petaled flowers.

As the general wrote …

“These dahlias are formed by triangular, concave crystals, starting from a common centre, in layers one above the other, precisely as the petals of dahlias are arranged. They vary from three to five inches in diameter. Their greatest beauty consists in the exquisite manner in which they are tinted with veins of violet and blue and delicate yellow and pale crimson. These colors are probably due to the presence of mineral salts which filter down with the water from the overlying strata.

Here, then, we have an enchanted lake in which the most fastidious of naiads would not refuse to dwell. A lake with its surrounding landscape of fantastic, sparry forms and its beds of wondrous flowers, and with its own sky bending above it full of sparkling constellations – a lake on which the sun has never shone, and whose smooth and silver surface the light wings of the breeze have never rippled, nor the rage of the tempest ever maddened into foam”.

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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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Fantastic Formations in this Cuban Cave

P1010091, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

I just got back from Cuba and am busily crafting several travel articles. My intent had been to visit Cuba and do some kind of special on the Cuban caves in the Valle de Vinales but from where we were staying it was just a great big hassle to get there (Around 200 K’s on roads that were anything but straight – also I dont speak Spanish all that well).

Anyway, I still managed to visit the Cuevas de Bellamar and I was given permission by the guide to go beyond the tourist section for a short distance. I believe the Toronto Star might be interested in that article.

The Cuevas de Bellamar were absolutely spectacular – the most incredible glassy helictites that cover the roofs of the caverns and at times go all the way down the walls as well. There were also well formed prismatic calcite crystals an pockets on the walls.

This particular picture is about where I left the tourist section and headed off for a short jaunt on my own. I wish that I could have gone a little further but I did not want to abuse the generosity of my hosts – in particular “Jesus” – my guide. As for the beauty of the formations – alabaster pillars, lacy rimstone dams and fantastic contrast between the red cave walls and the white deposits this place is unsurpassed – more on this to follow.

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