La Gran Piedra
If you take a taxi from Santiago de Cuba to this place, it will cost you too much. So with some Q/A, I figured out a better way to get there, but you better like hiking if you do it this way.
Took 10cuc taxi to Carretera de Siboney and Carretera a la Gran Piedra (the road that leads up to Gran Piedra). From here, I hiked 13-14K to the Gran Piedra hotel. Very little shade. Mod difficult--Difficult. Here are my hike details:
1—3K: Flat road, small communities. Pass Rio Carpentero (water stop), small waterfall to bathe in. Incline begins at 2.5K. There are many butterflies all the way to the top—very pretty.
3-4K: Road steepens. At 4K there is a small water area on right. From 4K all the way up, the road is steep and the hike is moderate difficult-difficult, depending on your health and what you’re carrying. I carried a half-full backpack and water.
7K: Small mountain stream on the left for water.
8K: Small water stream on the left.
8-9K: Killer part. Very steep.
9K: Small water stream on left.
9.5K: Souvenir stand selling trinkets and fruit. Bought a few grapefruits and rested. The couple lives off the side. Man’s name is Misael—nice fellow.
10-12K: Steep and difficult, no shade. At 11K there is a car pull off area.
12—13K: Steep curves. Lots of trees cut down to make room for more tourist places—sad. (Later I asked where the swaths of pine trees being cut down are going. They said Venezuela—who imports cheap nasty gas). AT 13.5, reach Hotel Islazul Gran Piedra.
Duration for hike: 10:15 to 2:30, 4 hours with breaks.Hotel Islazul Gran Piedra
: Not really a hotel, just a main lobby, a restaurant, and a bar. All the rooms were destroyed a few years ago by Hurricane Sandy, but they have remolded and opened half of them. I was the only guest here—my own hotel. The area has many dead trees from the hurricane. The rooms cost 22cuc (with breakfast) in the slow season/24cuc in the busy season. All have double beds, bathroom. The rooms are separate from the hotel and each other, all nice views, balconies, hot water, plenty of space, televisions. Restaurant serves all meals during standard times. Careful—they tried to rip me off by adding something to one of my bills. The meals are minimal and a bit costly I thought (5—10cuc). Your stay includes the entrance to the rock stairway.
The Gran Piedra is 450 steps up--a piece of cake that takes 10 minutes. You can go up and stay up there as long as you like. I went up 6 times during my 2 day stay. Staying 1 day is enough, but I stayed 2 for the fresh mountain air and quietness, and to detoxify my lungs from the city truck exhaust. I was the only one there in the evenings besides the night managers, who are on duty until the AM. The botanical garden is NOT a botanical garden. It’s a nursery that sells what is grown in the markets and businesses in Santiago de Cuba. There was nothing there that you have not already seen in Cuba. Plus, they charge 1cuc to enter and 2cuc to take pictures. I paid the 1cuc, took the mini tour, and left. The coffee museum did not sound inviting. I was told they did not serve coffee, just showed you antique furniture and pictures, and charged entrance. I did not go there.
There is a 3rd
class gua-gua that leaves the hotel parking lot every Sunday-Monday-Wednesday—Friday to the city central of Santiago de Cuba. They leave at 8am and cost a measly 2np. It takes a little more than 1 hour to reach the Santiago centrol area. From there you can walk to Casa Celita, or take moto-taxi dude to Casa Isabel. Got back to Casa Isabel, and paid her 10cuc to use a room until that afternoon departure. She called to Havana for me and arranged for her sister-in-law to accommodate with a room in her house, just for the next day until I departed for the airport. I would only need a place for Wednesday AM until midnight. (EVERYONE in Cuba will accommodate you with a room to rent for $). She asked for her nephew to pick me up at the Havana bus station. Took a shower, packed, and walked over to the Viazul bus terminal at 6pm. Bus left at 6:45pm. I took a half-bottle of rum and a coke with me, so at 12 midnight. I made a strong cuba-libre to help me sleep the rest of the ride to Havana. This express bus made only 1 stop, so we arrived almost the same time as the 3pm bus.
Arrived at 7am and was met my Isabel’s nephew. He took me to his family’s house where they gave me a room for the day. Showered and then had the nephew take me to old Havana. Dropped me off at noon, had fun until 9:30pm. He picked me up at the El Capitola and went back to the house and had dinner with his family and chatted. Slept for 2 hours, and then the nephew took me to the airport at 2am for my early flight home. I paid the mom 20cuc for the room/dinner and paid the nephew 25cuc (private taxi for day). They were super friendly and helpful, like all Cubans.WEDNESDAY:
: Get there 3 hours before flight—the airline attendants work fine, just slow.
1. You exchange your CUC back into US or CAN upstairs in the departure area. (NOTE: Remember what I said about the exchange rate, ask and request a 1-for-1 rate). Remember to keep 25cuc for departure tax.
2. Check in for your flight with your ticket, visa, and passport.
3. Go and pay your departure tax. Need passport, boarding pass, and 25cuc. They will afix a "departure tax paid" sticker on your boarding pass.
4. Go through immigration. Need passport and boarding pass.
5. After that, if you still have any loose CUC, you can buy snacks or drinks in the departure gates.
PREPARING FOR A VISIT:
+Get acquainted with the Cuban currencies: CUC = pronounced “cuuk”/ NP = National peso. Study them like a college exam.
+Bring a large bottle of hot sauce.
+Practice sitting on and using a toilet without a seat.
+Bring a comb or brush.
+Practice bathing with a bucket and cup.
+Practice answering the question, "Where r from?"
Bring toilet paper.
Reflect: You can probably get a better price than the one being offered.
Don’t eat chicken for 3 months prior to the start of your trip.
Practice saying, "No gracias."
Get used to breathing dirty truck exhaust.
Get used to not using the Internet.
+Bring another bottle of hot sauce.
I loved Cuba, and the people are fantastic. I hope to return some day. If you have any questions, go ahead and e-mail me.
No comments posted yet.