Coffee – and the germans furiously smoking again or maybe
still – awaits our arrival. It is served in dainty espresso-sized tiny-pink-flowered
china cups with matching petite saucer. It is delicious, grown, harvested,
roasted and ground there on site.
And slices of pineapple – also grown and harvested right
There are tables and chairs sitting under a large thatched
roof and as I walk toward the outer edge, I can see so far down and across, I
see beyond the land, endless water. The guide who lives here tells me that I am
viewing the largest bay in Cuba.
There is the ubiquitous bar, small and off to a corner, then
a wooden path lined by various doors on which Spanish signs hang that say:
kitchen, storage room, and home – all beautiful dark reddish-brown, colored by
the rich earth, small buildings with tile or thatched roofs. And two ‘regular’
bathrooms with a single white ceramic flush toilet and sink in each.
Before we begin our descent to the waterfall, the guide
whose name I have unfortunately forgotten, points out the fruit trees,
vegetables, pineapple, and even the coffee growing among and between the wild
He says he speaks Dutch and English, not German. The germans
tell him no problem, to speak English. I think one of the men speaks better
English then the others, and maybe they all understand a little.
Our guide tells us this national forest has been protected
now since the revolution and this nature center has existed for the past 10
years. He points to another section of the land blaringly barren and devastated
amidst the surrounding beauty but, he claims, slowly recovering (although I
fail to see the recovery) where the u.s. began mining nickel over 100 years
We are taken off the main path opposite the wreckage, to a
little overhang and the view captures all our elation! Waterfalls, arroyos,
vegetation abound. The guide points out a rainforest below, that I have a hard
time distinguishing from the rest of the vegetation.
He tells us there are no big animals there but snakes, scorpions,
“raton”-like small animals (that are not rats), and many birds and butterflies.
He says there are no poisonous creatures or plants on the entire Island and the
biggest mammal are wild pigs that live in deeply forested areas.
He tells us about the indigenous people, who live simply and
probably closest to nature and their pre-genocide/colonization ancestors of all
Cubans in the mountainous forests and who once a year or two, make the journey
into the woods to capture some of the pigs.
He says the whole odyssey lasts several weeks and people end
up walking maybe 200 kilometers before finding and capturing the pigs – some of
whom are slaughtered and sold to support and feed the people, others are kept
to be domesticated.
Julio has already told me there was only one large creature
who came out of the seas but lived in the trees many many eons ago but he
didn’t know the name in English and we couldn’t figure out what it could be. He
also said the next largest animal was a wild dog that was endemic (he likes that
word) to Cuba that never barked! How wonderful.
We continue down the path, even as I wish we could have climbed
up first, to our next stop, an ancient system that appears to hang over the
cliff and I think he says it created energy from water for the revolution and
was discontinued after the revolution, but there are future plans for it to be
renovated and reactivated.
The guide and I speak in Spanish, as the germans go ahead of
us. He shows me an empty hummingbird nest, and reiterates what Julio has told
me: Cuba has three hummingbirds: a larger one that is native to Cuba, a medium
sized one that migrates here, and a smaller one, that is also native and is the
smallest hummingbird in the world!
This nest is made by the biggest hummingbird. The guide tells
me he has seen another nest in the forest that has the most minuscule babies in
it but this is the only nest we’ll see today.
We arrive at a very noisy intersection where water is
rushing through pipes and some kind of mechanical metal thing is loudly moving
up and down. I’ve been thinking all along as he talks about the water system,
he is saying ‘bomb’. The germans are also confused.
Finally I get it – a pump! The germans repeat, oh pumpa.
The guide tells us when they first opened the nature center,
they used so much electricity, I can’t remember how much they had to pay, but
it practically closed them before they could get established but 6 years ago
they found a very old man who was a farmer living in the mountains with this
pump. They brought the old man to the center and bought his pump, which he
explains, is totally mechanical and somehow provides all the energy they need –
and for free – once they installed it here.
He told me it’s a pump that all farmers in the mountains – I
think who lived along or close to the rivers – used to use to get energy for