Trinidad, Once was not enough!

15 03 2010

TRINIDAD, CUBA, Feb 10

By Nicolas Lakoff

© Copyright 2010-2012

In February 2010 I had a chance to return to Cuba but this time I wouldn’t be alone.  A friend who was visiting with me in Montreal had never been to Cuba and we decided on a whim to go on a trip together.  I had been so impressed with Trinidad that I suggested we go back there for a weeks stay.  I enjoyed my stay at the Club Amigo Playa Ancón so we decided to book our stay there.  Now this was the first time in a very long time that I was travelling with someone so I had to make some compromises regarding my diving.  Those of you who are divers with non-divers know what I’m talking about!  However I did get to do 7 dives while I was here, re-explore Trinidad more in depth and make a really exiting excursion to some out of the way mountain falls.  

Those of you who recall the winter of 09/10 will remember that it was very unusually cold all along the eastern seaboard of Canada and the United States.  Of course it also affected Cuba with extremely unseasonably cold weather.  The Island was hit by an unusually high number of cold fronts and registered the lowest temperatures on the Island in 50 years varying from 2.0 to 4.5 Centigrade (35 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit).  By now the temperatures have returned to normal but I wondered how the cold snaps had affected the ocean and the corals recuperation from the bleaching I had observed my last trip.  

Leo and Ovi were very happy to see me so soon after my last trip.  It turns out that its Leo’s birthday this week and he is going to be very busy with guests that have come specifically to celebrate with him.  Most are from a Cuban motorcycle club that he belongs to, others are local friends and some are Canadian friends that are here on holidays.  Most if not all of them are bikers which means Leo is in hog heaven.  He was sorry that he didn’t know that I was coming otherwise he would have made arrangements so he could spend more time with me.  On the night of his birthday, my friend and I stopped off at his home in Casilda and had a drink with him in his honour.  Many of his friends and family were there including many of his brothers, including Lenin the manager of Casa de la Trova.  We didn’t stay for long wanting to show my friend some of Trinidad’s night life.  

One of the things I noticed right away during my first dive is how much the corals had recuperated.  I would say that about 50% of the bleached corals are back to normal and the rest will have a complete recovery barring another record hot summer.

Trinidad 29 jan - 5 feb 10 334     Trinidad 29 jan - 5 feb 10 481     Trinidad 29 jan - 5 feb 10 286Trinidad 29 jan - 5 feb 10 009        Trinidad 29 jan - 5 feb 10 263       Trinidad 29 jan - 5 feb 10 427

Although weather conditions were perfect, I just didn’t get lucky this trip for diving subject matter but I’m happy to be in the water regardless.  Read the rest of this entry »





Trinidad, Cuba, UNESCO World Heritage Site

5 12 2009

TRINIDAD, CUBA, Nov 09

By Nicolas Lakoff

© Copyright 2009-2012

 In November of 2009 I took an important decision that would have important repercussions on my life and my well being.  After 6 years of owning and operating my massage therapy company, I decided to walk away due to personal reasons.  After a few weeks digesting my decision, my mother offered to pay for me to get away for a week.  I could never express adequately how much I love my mother, who is a most exceptional human being.  She is the kindest, sweetest, most generous person I know and hasn’t had it easy in life.  She is truly my hero and once again she came to my rescue.

I decided to go to Cuba and do a little scuba therapy to soothe my soul.  For this trip I selected the city of Trinidad in the province of Sancti Spíritus.  The city of Trinidad (pop. 75,000) along with the Valle de Los Ingenios was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988.  This 500 year old city is a spectacular example of Spanish Colonial architecture.  The historic quarter is complete with cobble stone streets, intricate wrought-iron grill gates, pastel coloured building and red tapered barrel clay roof tiles.  The city is located at the foot of the Escambray mountains and 8 km from Ancon peninsula facing the Caribbean Sea.  To get to Trinidad I had to fly into Abel Santamaría International Airport in Santa Clara in the province of Villa Clara.  The transfer to Trinidad took about 3 hours since the direct route through the mountains is too steep for the tour buses.  I was told however that in the winter months, once direct flights to Cienfuegos were re-established, the transfer from the airport in Cienfuegos to Trinidad takes half the time.  

I booked a stay at the Club Amigo Playa Ancón which is the oldest resort in Trinidad.  Built right after the revolution its main building smacks of Russian box style, utilitarian and spartan mass production construction.  Fortunately there is a newer section next to the original main 5 story building that offers superior rooms at a reasonable rate.  Since it was still low season I got the room I wanted on the second floor facing the ocean at no extra charge.  The Ancón is a 2 to 2.5 star resort although some might find the food not up to their 5 star standards, it is abundant and there is a reasonable variety.  The Ancón beach is superb and run along most of the peninsula.  There is a large pool that is clean and well maintained in which I did my laps every morning around 6 am, nothing quite like having the pool all to yourself!

         

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Third Time’s The Charm, Return to Santa Lucia

28 07 2009

By Nicolas Lakoff

© Copyright 2007-2012

After returning from Holguin my foot was still hurting and knowing there wasn’t anything to do for a broken bone in a foot, I still went for an x-ray to confirm what I suspected.  I had broken my fourth metatarsal in my left foot.  Nothing to do about it said the doctor but in time it would heal nicely.  Karen and I were in continual contact about our next diving destination.  I decided that I would be going back to Santa Lucia and she decided to see it my way this time.  However she decided to stay at the Club Amigo Manayebo (one of her internet bookings) which is quite a ways from the dive center and I stayed at the Grand Club again time around.  At the last minute my mother decided to join me, having gotten a ridiculously low price (she paid 200$ less than I did and I already had a great price!).  I’m very close to my mom and she is a hoot to travel with and independent enough not to have to worry about her while I’m doing my dives.  I was happy to spend some quality time with her when I wasn’t diving.  She and Karen got along very nicely which was great as well.

All the usual suspects were at the Shark’s Friends Diving Center and they seemed genuinely happy to see me!

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Holguin, La Costa Verde 2009

20 02 2009

By Nicolas Lakoff

© Copyright 2007-2012

After my last trip to Cayo Coco, Karen and I stayed in touch by email, her being in Toronto and me being in Montreal.  She enjoyed diving with me so much that she started suggesting that we book a diving trip together.  Of course it didn’t take much to convince me to go for it.  She and I could only get away for a week so we started looking for a Cuban destination separately and see what we would come up with.  She loves using the internet to shop or book her trips and being Chinese is always looking for a bargain even though there might not be one offered.  I on the other hand have had the same travel agent for some time.  Martine owns with her husband two agency’s called “La Rose des Vent” and is a top professional in her field.  I’ve never had a problem with any of my trip and she always finds me the best deals.  I was inclined to go back to Santa Lucia, even staying an extra week after Karen had to leave.  She on the other hand was sold on going to Holguin also on the north coast of Cuba.  Of course this decision was rather more expensive than my option!  For the price I paid to stay one week in Holguin I could have stayed two weeks in Santa Lucia.  We decided to stay at the Gaviota Playa Costa Verde.  I have to say that the resort was probably the best I’ve stayed at in Cuba.  Written up as a 4 star hotel, I have to say that I agree.  The staff was great, the food excellent and of great variety and the many restaurants were also excellent including a Japanese restaurant serving grilled dishes and sushi.  The grounds are beautiful and well laid out, there are many outdoor bars and café.  So for the extra money, you really do get the extra perks.  Since I am not very difficult when it comes to these things it didn’t make much of a difference for me but for Karen who is a vegetarian it made all the difference.  Here she got a variety of dishes that catered to her diet.  

The first day I did something very stupid that caused me great discomfort for the rest of the trip and taught me an important lesson.  The dive shop for this area was near the Blau Playa Verde which was a short walk from where we were.  In addition to using 1 kilo lead weights they also have 2 kilo weights which I had not seen before in any dive shop.  Since I require 10 kilos average on my dives this was particularly convenient for me since it allowed me not to have a weight belt in addition to weights in my integrated pockets in my BCD.  Over the years I had seen instructors throw their rigs over top their head to don them.  I decided to do the same in an instant of childish stupidity.  What I didn’t realise was that one of my integrated pockets was not fully closed and one of the 2 kilo weights landed directly on my left foot.  Luckily I was wearing my booties but it still hurt like a son of a gun.  It started swelling and there was a bump but I simply figured that I had badly bruised it and did nothing permanent.  I could still walk on it although hobbling a bit.  I also figured that the cool water would help the pain go away.  After the first two dives I realised that I had probably done something more than just a bruise.  I realised that I probably had broken a bone.  When I was not diving I had a bad of ice on my foot pretty constantly and I luckily had a bottle of Advil extra strength that helped with the pain and the swelling.  Being very stubborn and having just arrived I decided to trooper on and was able to complete 10 more dives till it was time to call it a day and fly home.  So in a sense I was lucky in my unluckiness.  

Of course because most of the time out of water I was laid up icing my foot, I didn’t get around to taking pictures of the resort or the dive center.  I also didn’t get much of a chance to bond with the diving staff there since I was dealing with quite a bit of discomfort even for me.  

         

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Return to Cayo Coco

18 11 2008

After 3 years since my last trip to Cayo Coco, I was very happy to go back to the Tryp Cayo Coco and see all my friends at the Coco Diving Center.  All the old gang was there including Paolo, Osvaldo, Noidel, Yaroy, Norgel and Colorado the boat Captain with one new addition, Pablo Jr., Pablo’s son.  The center has a brand new paint job and all new equipment including masks, snorkels, fins, wet suits, bcd’s and tanks.

The only thing was wasn’t quite right was the weather.  On a day when we were waiting to see if the weather was going to calm down, Pablo showed me one of the permanent decorations of the shop.

          

An original Spirotechnique second stage regulator in excellent condition.  Spirotechnique was the diving equipment company founded by Jacques Cousteau and Émile Gagnan (a Canadian Engineer).  I told Pablo to hold on to this as it was definitely an antique and a big part of diving history. Read the rest of this entry »





Jardines de la Reina, the Caribbeans largests marine protected area

2 11 2007

JARDINES DE LA REINA, CUBA Sept 07

By Nicolas Lakoff

© Copyright 2007-2012

On every dive trip that I have gone on in Cuba so far, every time I asked local dive instructors what the best place in Cuba was to dive, one name kept coming up.  They talked about this place as if it was magical, mystical almost unattainable.  I’m talking of course of the Jardines de la Reina, named by Christopher Columbus after the Queen of Spain, Isabella I, who funded all of his voyages to the New World.  As a national park, it is Cuba’s second largest protected area.  It is said that Ernest Hemmingway fished here and it was a favourite fishing destination of El Lider Supremo himself, Fidel Castro who was also an avid scuba diver.  With an area of 2,170 KM2 and consisting of more than 600 cays and islands, it is as of this writing, the largest marine park in the Caribbean.  “It is located in the Caribbean Sea between the Gulf of Ana Maria (north-west), Gulf of Guacanayabo (south) and Caballones Channel (west). It extends on a general north-west to south-east direction, paralleling the Cuban coast for 150 km (93 mi) from Cayo Breton to Cayos Mordazo.” (ref. Wikipedia).  

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Santa Lucia, La Bahia de Nuevitas and Bull Sharks!

20 05 2007

 SANTA LUCIA, CUBA April 2007

By Nicolas Lakoff

© Copyright 2007-2012 

A few months after my trip to Playa Gìron, I was yearning to slip under the waves and dive again.  I decided to return to Santa Lucia but this time opted for the Brisas right on the other side of the dive center.  I asked my travel agent to request a room that was as close to the dive center as possible, saving me walking time in the morning.  After landing in  Ignacio Agramonte International Airport near the city of Camaguey and a 90 minute bus ride I finally got to the resort.  The room they assigned me was in the closest building to the dive center.  The A/C was central and didn’t seem as strong as the wall mounted units I was used to but in the end it turned out that I preferred this as it didn’t get too cold and I got acclimatized that much quicker.  This resort is better laid out for socializing as all the tables and chairs are laid out near the bar that is right next to the main pool.  In fact I can say that during this stay I made more friends amongst non-divers than I did in my previous three trips.  The food here was about the same standard as the Grand Club if not a notch above. 

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