Beach Days In Bay Of Pigs – Part One

2 Jul

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This has been a great trip. I know I repeat myself, but when else did I have the time, the energy and the solitude to travel by myself around Cuba spending time doing nothing and relaxing on a beach or a tobacco farm ?

After just two days in Havana picking up & ordering some cigars and greeting friends, I left all my stuff at the Casa Particular in Nuevo Vedado, packed a small bag and left heading south.

It’s been a few years since I last spent some leisure time at Bay of Pigs and I don’t regret I did it again, despite the humid heat and the nightly mosquitoes.

This time I chose Caleton, a two crab “suburb” of three horse Playa Larga.

The house I stayed in, Casa Mayito, has excellent reviews and very rightly so.

The owner, Mayito and his family, have a four room oasis and are very professional in the tours they offer, diving, snorkelling, fishing, swamp tours and bird-watching as well as in maintaining the house and offering finger licking home food. They also speak very good English and explain nature, sea- and wildlife and the swamps to their guests.

I enjoyed my stay there, the room was large and modern, a/c equipped which was a bliss in the humid heat, and the bathroom one of the best I’ve had in Cuba.

Meals were equally superb and shared with the other guests, making it a family affair shared with friends.

As I had local friends in Playa Larga, Homero and Silvia I also had dinners there with them and arranged for local transport with them. That would save my ass the last day as my trusted driver’s rust bucket gave up life in Havana and I needed to get back.

The ride into the Zapata peninsula swamps takes 2:30 hrs from Havana and J., my HAV driver took J.jr along as he already had trouble with his car. Little did I guess it would be terminal trouble caused by a faulty ball bearing this time. Never a dull day with this car ….

We had a big lunch after arrival and Mayito loaded the table with all kinds of tasty meals, shrimps, pork, chicken, lobster, salads and some lizard bread … The food I’ve had in Bay of Pigs has been of the best and more varied in Cuba. Cobo, Jutia, crab, shrimps, pez perro, lion fish, all kinds of fresh fish, lobster, crocodile, pork, chicken, you name it, plus all the fresh fruits for breakfast – yummy paradise.

I liked  Mayito from the start and booked a snorkelling tour for the next day along with a Belgian couple that became friends and turned out to be Frank’s neighbours in Leuven … small world. I would see Matt & Karen later on in Varadero and will meet them again in Belgium this week-end.

After lunch is always before lunch, so I went over to see my friends and ordered some crocodile meat for lunch at the pick up in 4 days time to share with J. & L. from HAV as they never had eaten it – alas, the car trouble made sure they will have to wait again …

Nights were quiet and familiar with all the guests and Mayito’s family in the veranda sharing conversations, cigars, rum and travellers tales.

Mornings were also very quiet after the daily mosquito fumigation bi-plane, a sturdy Russian light aircraft, did his rounds overhead the swamp at 07 am sharp. I loved the low level flying routine, took a video  and would have loved to hitch a ride, but was told the base he flew out from was a bit too far and I would certainly not get the permit. Pity.

First day we drove a few klicks out of Playa Larga towards Playa Giron and found a spot to get into the water for snorkelling. Surrounded by mangroves ( mangle in Cuban ) we were welcome food for the mosquitoes until Fernando, my local driver with a 1958 Peugeot sporting a Lada emblem and a Daewoo steering wheel, prepared a fire for lunch.

We got into the water, careful of the sharp dog tooth rocks and the sea urchins and swam away. The snorkelling is good but even better a few hundred metres off the shore where visibility on corals, fish swarms and a shipwreck is better. The waters are deliciously clean and beautifully coloured.

I had to quit after 90 minutes as my borrowed mask would not close tightly due to my moustache, and I would inhale more salt water than I could use, but not before I saw Mayito fishing an octopus and going for a large crab.

I then waited on-shore with Fernando and fought off not just the mosquitoes, easy to do with a cigar, but also a jeep load of Cuban border guards that wanted to see our fishing permit and enquired why we had started a fire ( fire = lunch ). We were lucky they took us seriously when we honestly replied there was no lunch ( yet ), just mosquito grilling.

After another 90 minutes the rest came ashore with the octopus, the crab and a few lion fish, normally poisonous due to their coloured tips, but very tasty once they are cut off. Mayito is an expert in these fish and has appeared on Cuban tv on the subject.

But Karen had a last minute mishap while getting out of the water as she plunged her right hand fully into a sea urchin. It was painful as hell to her and we had to sit her down. The open air lunch was cancelled and we drove back to treat her hand and have a long lunch at Mayito’s. The hand was disinfected and it would take a few days for her to feel well again, the sea urchin skin that slammed into her hand being slightly toxic.

We celebrated Matt’s birthday in style with cigars and rum and called it a day. The first Belgian birthday party in Cuba with another two for Reza to come that week.

That night I would see the crabs wandering around the village like ants and some people with headlamps catching them after I returned from dinner and watching the Copa America from Chile at Homero’s.

Crazy pilgrimage that is even worse in April when cars will suffer multiple tire punching a day driving the coastal road.








One Response to “Beach Days In Bay Of Pigs – Part One”

  1. Frank 02/07/2015 at 14:13 #

    Looking forward to visiting that place in feb. Great seeing you having a good time and being happy my friend.