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Phespirit goes to Cuba
Havana     July 2000

AROUND CUBA

Map of Cuba

1 Pinar del Río

A reasonably large low-rise town, capital of the Westerly province of the same name. This province is supposedly the source of the best Cuban tobacco.

Phespirit visited one of the local factories and observed rows of highly skilled workers meticulously assembling the finest quality cigars for a quantum of wages.

The fantasy of voluptuous, wet-lipped women rolling fat cigars on the supple flesh of their inner-thighs is well wide of mark.

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2 Viñales

The richly foliated valley of Viñales - all tropical greenery, palm trees, fine red soil and densely wooded Mogotes - presents the pick of the Cuban panoramas.

The Mogotes are peculiar things indeed: mountainous lumps of limestone, usually flat across the top, sheer drops at every side, and invariable covered with trees. They are strewn in isolation all across the valley floor.

Here in Viñales a young English paediatrician shared her dismay with Phespirit that, "ninety percent of Cuban women are beautiful; the other ten percent are over seventy."
A slight exaggeration, but grounded in fact.

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3 Soroa

Things to do in Soroa:

  1. Take an exhausting half hour route march up to the local apex - the 'Mirador de Venus' - to enjoy fine views in the company of vultures, dragonflies, butterflies and lizards;

  2. Slip and slide over slimy rocks, dodging the ankle-sucking giant tadpoles in order to swan about under a waterfall;

  3. Visit a large Orchidarium - pointless for Phespirit without an expert guide or any knowledge of orchids.

Best thing of all, though: to see hummingbirds in the wild.

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4 Las Terrazas

Las Terrazas (or 'Moka') is a so-called "Biosphere Reserve" - a forestry and soil conservation centre covering 260km².

A visit with one of the local guides, Lázaro Fiallo (well informed, a polyglot and all-round character), made for a nice, lazy day away from the rigors of the city.

Phespirit, Lázaro and a Mexican couple discussed the caldera of Yellowstone Park over a traditional Cuban lunch of pork, rice and beans.   It is indeed strange where destiny takes one .....

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5 Havana

Old Havana has all the decaying splendour that one would think to find in a place of such historical significance; it appears in dire need of extensive restoration work before too much is lost.

The Capitol building and Batista's old presidential palace - now the "Museum of the Revolution" - are still immaculate. The latter displays the yacht Granma, which Castro sailed from Mexico in 1956 to launch the revolution, plus the remnants of an American B-26 bomber shot down over the Bay of Pigs.

Most historic hardware is still to be seen on the streets of the city. Phespirit would hazard that at least one car in seven is an American classic from the Fifties.

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6 Varadero

This is Cuba's premier beach resort, located on the Península de Hicacos, a 20km sandspit jutting into the Atlantic Ocean.

Just one day here was enough to cripple Phespirit with sunburn.

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7 Guamá

Situated on the Península de Zapata, near the Caribbean coast, Guamá is surrounded by lagoons and swampland. Phespirit was amazed to get away without a single mosquito bite.

There is a replica Indian village here which has a nice setting but is otherwise desperately contrived for tourists. More interesting is their crocodile farm which breeds the native 'Rhombifer' species.

Here too is the so-called "living fossil", the Manjuari fish/alligator, which Phespirit thought looked suspiciously like a Pike.

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  1. Pinar del Río
  2. Viñales
  3. Soroa
  4. Las Terrazas
  5. Havana
  6. Varadero
  7. Guamá
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Pinar Del Rio Vinales Soroa Las Terrazas Havana Varadero Guama