Cuba – Cayo Largo

April 28th was our last day in L’Habana, and for Clara in Cuba. We accompanied her to the airport on our way back to Cienfuegos. We arrived at the marina late in the afternoon and started preparing Zoe for our trip to Cayo Largo, planned for the following day. The distance to cover was about 60 miles, so we left around 6pm on the 29th in order to arrive in the early morning at the marina in Cayo Largo.

As usual in Cuba, as soon as we docked we received the visit of the officials checking our “despacho” and giving us clearance to stay. At the dock we met Giuseppe, an Italian skipper who just returned from a 2 week charter with a catamaran. As we discovered later, Cayo Largo is a very popular destination for Italians chartering boats. As a matter of a fact, in Cayo Largo there are also many resorts hosting (mainly?) Italians and Russians.
The area around the marina is fairly small and with no special attractions. In fact, after walking for about a hour, we  decided to explore the neighborhoods by dinghy. We ended up in Playa Serena, on the north side of the island, a typical tropical beach, with white sand and palms providing shadow. Not too bad as a start, but in fact the real beauties had to come. On our way back we stopped at the a cute near by island. What a surprise when we landed; a large iguana came toward us showing curiosity for the new comers. In fact we later discovered that this is a popular stop for tourists that unfortunately feed the many iguanas that populate the island. We were lucky to be the only visitors that evening and to have had the attention of these creatures all for us.

Island of the Iguanas

Island of the Iguanas

Island of the Iguanas

When we returned to the marina we heard loud music coming from the main “plaza” – which we assumed was part of the preparation for the 1st May celebration. Surprisingly no one was there apart from the loudspeakers! We went to bed expecting something to happen the next day, but in fact at around midnight we were woken up by someone loudly announcing a list of “authorities” who were participating to the celebration. We were too asleep to check what was really happening, but this “parade” went on for quite a while. Conversely, on the 1st of May nothing happened.

At the anchor in Cayo Largo

At the anchor in Cayo Largo

We therefore moved to a bay close to the marina at the anchor, where in the evening we finally had a show, though quite different: the most beautiful and natural fireworks we ever experienced. The dark sky was crossed by a multitude of lightnings which every few seconds were making the night becoming day. As we realized later on, this was the phantasmagorical announcement of the rainy season!
The following days we explored the nearby area. We sailed to Cayo Rico where we found the most beautiful waters we ever seen (how many times did we make this statement already?). Make your own judgement…

Cayo Rico

We did not stay as much as we would have liked to, as we were heading to Cayo Cantiles where -based on what we read – there was a field station for studying a population of monkeys imported from Africa. When we got there at sunset we found three people, the guardians of the island on duty. They were extremely welcoming, but frighteningly surrounded by clouds of mosquitoes. They invited us to return in the morning when they would feed the monkeys, reassuring us that the mosquitoes at that time would have disappeared. We thanked and escaped followed by the nasty blood suckers.
When we returned in the morning at the agreed time, we were quite “disappointed”: the monkeys were already been fed, and on their way back to the bush; the mosquitoes were still there and thirsty of our blood. Even so we took on a trail leading to a pond where supposedly we should have observed crocodiles in the wild. We heroically reached the pond where we did not spot anything, other than the thousands of mosquitoes which seemed to be totally insensitive to our repellents. We walked back beating ourselves with palm leaves, action that reduced the bite rate from dozens to a few per minute. We will never forget the place! We left the island feeling quite sorry for the three guys leaving there.
Cayo Rico
We then returned to Cayo Rico that in our opinion deserved another visit. We enjoyed more swimming and observing the landscape; we left a little piece of our heart in this beautiful island.
The following day at 5.00am we set sails toward Grand Cayman.
We left Cuba with mixed feelings. On one hand, we experienced beautiful, unspoiled landscapes, on the other hand the relationship with the people dealing with tourists was in many instances not very positive. The Cuban social pyramid seems to be upside down – more educated people struggle to keep up with daily needs, while those who are involved in the tourist business earn wedges that are 20-30 times those of a medical doctor, a university teacher, etc.
Everyone we talked to seems convinced that drastic changes need to happen soon, but no one can predict the direction that they will take.
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