By Nicolas Lakoff

© Copyright 2010-2017

In February 2010 I had a chance to return to Cuba but this time I wouldn’t be alone.  A friend who was visiting 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 partners and friends 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  2 to 4.5 degrees Centigrade (35 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit).  By now the temperatures had 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 motorcycle enthousiasts 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 and Lenin the manager of Casa de la Trova whom I had met on my previous trip.  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.

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Although weather conditions were perfect, I just wasn’t very lucky this trip in terms of underwater photography subject matter but I’m always happy to be in the water regardless.

On this trip I got to take more pictures of the resort and quite a few of the beautiful sunsets we were privy to.

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On a beautiful sunny day my friend and I decided to go explore Trinidad.  Usually there are taxis waiting at the hotel for a fare but there were none for some time so a hotel employee stopped a converted Russian army truck to ask if he would take us into town

and how much he would charge.  There were a few of us and the driver said he would take us for 2 CUC ($2USD) per person, what a deal!  Even the motorcycle cabs charge 5 CUC to get to town.  The bed of this transport truck had rows of seat that were added to it to accommodate passengers.  Once into town I played tour guide and showed my friend around the historic quarter.

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This time around the tower of the Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco was open to the public and we had time to go up the Watchtower of the Palacio Cantero.  Both these towers offer breathtaking views of Trinidad that combined with a clear blue sky gave me some pretty spectacular pictures!

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Salto de Javira

If you have a chance to take a day trip to the Salto de Javira (Javira Jump) waterfalls while in Trinidad during the winter months, don’t hesitate.  From your hotel a bus takes you to an equestrian center where you are matched with some scrawny looking but hardy mountain horses.  The trail takes you through some breathtaking mountain scenery and you are constantly amazed how these horses can negotiate the extremely rocky terrain without any hesitation.  At times the trail downward is pretty steep but you simply lean back in your saddle and let your horse do the rest.

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Once down the other side of the Escambray mountains you come to a rest station where a waiter greets the group with your complimentary almond cigar cocktail that you sip leisurely… under an almond tree!  Once we wet our palate and cooled off in the shade of the trees surrounding the station we’re off on foot again through Topes de Collantes Natural Reserve Park.  Half the way up is a fairly low grade climb which includes ramps, bridges and trails.

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Then you arrive at a park Ranger station which is no more than a humble shack but where we are graciously greeted with a sweetened tea made from local roots and bark said to have great health and energizing properties.  Drinking hot tea in this weather wasn’t really what I had in mind but in actuality it’s not half bad at all and really quenches your thirst.

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From there the way up to the falls gets more and more elevated and very rocky at points following a small stream that winds and snakes with catwalks and stairs at certain points.  The rest of the way up to falls is pretty and picturesque but nothing to prepare you for the spectacle of the falls themselves.  One of the park rangers greets you at the mouth of a bottle shaped pool of azure coloured water.  The walls of this water carved canyon are lush with green vegetation and the freshness of the water is perceived with every breath.

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A truly stark contrast with the dry seared horseback trail we took a mere half hour before.  Make sure you bring your bathing suit with you since taking a dip after the walk is a Godsend and allows you to explore the large cave that exist under the falls.  Inside you can see where a gigantic limestone stalactite that long ago fused with a stalagmite to form a colossal column.  If you have a waterproof camera or casing, I highly recommend you take it along to be able to take pictures from the inside of the cave, its spectacular.  In fact I forgot my waterproof case but had a good quality Tupperware with me and put my camera and a hand towel in it, swam inside the cave and took some pictures.  I was careful to wrap the towel around my camera and swim with the container above water (rarely are containers truly waterproof without a rubber seal).  The water once inside turns into a jade green that is visually stunning and the air is reinvigorating

The trail is easy to moderate on foot but you have to take into consideration the heat so make sure you hydrate along the way and take occasional pause along the way.  I recommend you have strap-on sandals with good tread or hiking shoes but boots would be a little overkill.  This excursion is easily one of my favourite memories of my trip to Trinidad and as a avid scuba diver who rarely misses a day of diving on trips, that’s saying a lot!

Once again it was time to say goodbye to Cuba but not Adieu!