|Page Type:||Trip Report|
|Lat/Lon:||19.98987°N / 76.8361°W|
|Date Climbed/Hiked:||Jun 4, 2014|
|Villa Santo Domingo ||Casa Santo Domingo|
|Setting||Clean, modern, western type layout||Rain forest, quiet, private|
|Meals||expensive, basic||inexpensive, home-cooked|
|Internet access||2 PCs, 3cuc for 30 minutes in tour lobby||Walk to hotel and use it the same|
When you arrive, drive past the hotel on the left until you come to a fork in the road. To the right, you’ll see a gate where is the park entrance and guides; to the left the road continues down a bit and dead-ends. From here, go to the river edge and you can see the Casa Santo Domingo hostel across the river. It’s a low flowing river and you can cross it on large stepping stones.
NOTE: In 2012, the municipal governments of Granma and Santiago de Cuba decided to create a tour company to package all hikes to Pico Turquino, and of course, to get more money. You cannot hike Pico Turquino by yourself any more. You have to arrange a guide and the hike through Eco-Tour, the agency so named. The agency rep, Heidi, is located at the hotel in the Eco-Tour lobby. She’s there daily. If not there, ask someone for her—she lives 4 houses down and will come and set you up. I recommend speaking to the guides first so you know there is one available. I didn't like this set up. It's better for the local governments (the workers don't get more), but worse for hikers like me who don't need to pay someone to "walk them up and down a trail."
You pay Heidi with CUC—no credit cards or US/CAN. Here are the prices for the hikes:
S.D.to Pico Turquino Hike (1 night at Aguda de Juaquin), to Pico and descend to S.D.—68cuc
S.D.to Pico Turquino Hike (1 night at Aguda de Juaquin), to Pico and descend for 1night at La Plata, and descend to S.D.—90cuc
Hikes include: Park entrance, Taxi from hotel to Alto de Naranja, Guide, taxi from Alto de Naranja back to hotel, and boxed lunch at hotel on return. (Don’t go during a holiday or there may not be a guide or taxi available). Heidi will issue you 4 separate tickets to be handed to the appropriate people when asked(taxi driver, park entrance, guide, lunch at hotel).
Comandancia Hike—From Alto de Naranja where hike starts: 6K round-trip. Easy
0—1.5K:easy path, see Medina house where you pay 5cuc if you want to take pictures of Castro’s hiding places.
1.5—3K:4 different thatched bungalows to see with historical objects and pictures. Castro’s headquarters. Ask guide if you can continue to see Radio Rebelde. He may not take you there, so try to bribe him. It’s about 400meters uphill from Castro’s hideout.
On return, stop at Medina’s house for a coffee, then back to Alto de Naranja for taxi back to hotel. Arranged Pico Tuquino hike with Heidi.
Pico Turquino Hike—From Alto de Naranja to Aguada de Juaquin (Overnight) to Pico Turquino: 13K. Medium-Difficult.
I wanted to hike and spend 2 nights up there and then descend to Las Cuevas (to the other side), so Heidi booked me the 68cuc hike and told me to arrange payment for the other side with the guide who would meet me at the peak. NOTE: Since Pico Turquino is shared between the 2 provinces, payment for hiking is split in half. Any hiking from the peak on down to Las Cuevas is paid to the guides on that side. They are informed ahead of time of your hiking and will meet you at the peak after you ascend.
Late start (10:15am) due to Father’s Day--Guide and taxi driver reluctant to show up. For that reason, don't come here on a holiday.
0—1K:Easy, pass the turn off to go to La Plata.
1—2K:Stair-stepping hike begins, railings in some parts for balance. AT 1.5 there is a shady rest stop.
2—3K:Steeper climb. Hike is stair-stepping. At 2.8 another rest stop available.
3—4K:Hiking up, stair-stepping. At 3.2 another rest stop available. At 3.4, trail flattens and descends.
4—5K:Up and down, bit difficult, shady and muddy. Available rest stop at 5.0
5—6K:At 5.2, Lora de Liones—good views, no shade
6—7K:Difficult part. Steep stair-stepping. Alto de Loma rest stop
7—8K:Flattens, muddy. At 8.0, you reach the base camp Aguada de Juaquin where you will overnight. They will not let you sleep on or near the peak. They invent reasons, but the real reason is they don't really care to be up there and would rather get the hike done with as fast as they can. Sleeping out in the exposed weather is foreign to these guys, Sad.
From Alto de Narnaja to Aguada de Juaquin took 4 hours with full backpack and water.
Once here, select a bed form the dorm room. There are 3 bunk-beds and 2 single beds.There are no screens on the windows, so bring mosquito covers. There is freshwater to stock up on. There are 3 shower stalls—but no running water. You use a bucket and a cup to bathe with. There are 3 toilets, but no running water and no toilet paper. You flush your shit with a bucket of water. There are no sinks. There is a clothes line. You have 2 meals included in your hike price you already paid to Heidi—1 dinner this night and 1 breakfast before you takeoff the following morning. The food was okay. I was the only one here. Night was cool but not cold. I slept with the dorm room open for the fresh air.Sleeping bag or layers will do.
Woke at 3:00am, had breakfast, and started to hike. My objective was to capture the sunrise on video. Need headlamp.
8—9K: Very difficult part. Trail rises sharply stair-stepping. At 8.8 trail eases for a bit for a rest stop. 9.0 is right after the rest stop.
9—10K:Trail rises and you are on Pico Regina and then Pico Tarquin, but you have no idea because the trees and vegetation surround you. Begin steep descent through Paso de los Monos. Lots of tree roots and rocks to step through.
10—11K:Up and down. Muddy and slippery.
11—12K:At 11.5, there is an open area for pictures. Good view. We decided to stay here and take video of the sunrise. Got a good clip and pictures. From 11.5 to 12K,very difficult hike, steep stair stepping.
12—13K:Trail still ascends but not as bad, levels a bit. At about 13K, you reach Pico Turquino. There are no views from this peak—you’re surrounded by trees and vegetation. But if you make it up early, you will have sun and a clear sky. Flat area with some rocks to rest on. Monument of Marti to look at. Duration from Aguada de Juaquin camp to Pico Turquino—3 hours will fully loaded backpack and water. 2 hours without.
We rested for about 30 minutes before the next guide from the Las Cuevas side came up and met us. I told him I wanted to spend a night at Pico Cuba campismo, but he told me it was permanently closed. I couldn’t believe it! That camp has the best 360 degree view of the entire range and sea. I was pissed off also because the guide, like I said, wouldn't even bargin with me to stay the night--they just want to get back down to there homes. . . .assholes.
NOTE-1: My first guide told me of another route to Pico Turquino that would have to be planned on the sleeve. Start from Bayamo and take taxi to Buey Arriba. At Buey Arriba, find a guide, and hike across the range (there is a rough trail) for 2-3 days, pass El Umvero, Altos del Cojo, Campo El Cujo, and meet up at Aguada Juaquin camp. No cabins or facilities to sleep in until Aguada de Juquin, so you’re roughing it. Total estimated time: 4 days. This is what I plan to do next time back so I can get my time's worth of hiking.
NOTE-2: He was not exactly open about why they closed it, but I later figured out that the guides did not want to spend the night so far up, and preferred to spend in at a lower camp (La Majugua) to get home quicker and easier to resupply there since it’s close to Las Cuevas. There is no reason to stay at La Majugua since it’s too close to Las Cuevas (4K) and too far from Pico Turquino. If you want to climb Pico Turquino from the south side, just do it in one day and return to Las Cuevas, or overnight it on the other side at Aguada de Juaquin and descend to Santo Domingo the next day). If you hike, put some verbal pressure on your guide and tell them to reopen Campismo Cuba.
Since Pico Cuba campismo is closed, I decided to forgo the extra night at La Majugua (La Dump) and hike down to Las Cuevas. I told the guide I would pay him/tip him 15cuc and nothing else since I did not consider this a "trip". He agreed, so we started off. The hike down on the south side is not marked with kilometer markers like the north side, so my notes reflect what my guide told me. From Pico down to Cam La Majugua, you walk down one, long staircase without leveling off. For me, this seemed quite boring, except for a few stops for views. A few views of the Caribbean Sea and that’s all. If I had a choice to go up and back, I would prefer to hike the Santo Domingo side.
At 4K, we stopped at camp La Majugua. This place sinks for an overnight spot. There is no view of anything, pigs and chickens run through your eating area (no tables or chairs), and the place looked unkempt, probably because no one stays there. The meal was measly--the first cheap one I had in Cuba. Tell your guide this place is a stupid place to overnight since it's only 4K from the coast.
4K—Arrive at Las Cuevas: The trail surprisingly widened and leveled off, yet sloped downward and became very slippery, even in the dry weather. I had to fight all the way down from slipping on the hard clay soil and the gravel-scree. The level of the trail did not allow ease with a heavy backpack. I think if you did not have a backpack, it would be easier. Also, from this part I spotted a lot of wildlife. Nothing poisonous in Cuba (scarce scorpions), but did see 2 snakes (4ft black racer and a few garter-looking ones. Many lizards and butterflies.