Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Cuba Day 5: Cayo Levisa

The friendly government information people in Viñales hadn't got the memo that they are supposed to say "No" to all requests, so I was able to get a ticket for a day trip to Cayo Levisa, a white-sand islet off the north coast.  The remarkably cheap ticket included the bus to the coast, the ancient ferry to the island, lunch and beer.  I'm not a beach person, so I was ecstatic that this was the one stormy day of my trip.  The beach is about 3km long, with a thin strip of forest and mangroves behind it.  There is one small, fairly rustic looking resort of beach cabins, but very few people on the beach.

I did my little bit of lounging on the beach and swimming in the waves, but mostly I walked the length of the beach in both directions.  At one end, the beach ends at mangroves.  I did some mangrove bush-whacking - probably the only visitor to the island ever to do so.  It doesn't work; don't try it.  But there were some good birds, including a Cuban black-hawk who was very tame, but showed his displeasure in my intrusion by screeching "I HATE you, I HATE you" in a very squeaky voice.
At the other end, the beach fades into an eerie dead forest, where the shifting sands buried the roots too deeply.  But just where the open sand ends, there's a tiny hand-painted wooden sign saying "Bar a Punta Arena" (bar at Sandy Point), a little arrow and a barely discernible trail through the dead trees.  I couldn't resist following it, even though the high waves were washing into the forest at places.  After a good 500m, the trail pops out of the woods onto another open beach, with another little wooden sign.  Way off in the distance at the very tip of the island, there was a little palapa, and, miraculously, a tiny bar, complete with a nattily dressed government bar-tender.  There was nobody else within a kilometer of us, although the bartender said he had had a few customers that day.  I was wondering if they were Gilligan, the skipper, Mary-Anne...  
Back in Viñales, I defied the common wisdom that there is no good food in Cuba by having another great dinner, as I did every night I was in the country.  This was on the main street, so I could draw the colourful building across the street.  

A note from the family I stayed with in Viñales: "Please tell everyone who comes to Viñales to bring earplugs".  It turns out the quiet little town of Viñales is not so quiet on Saturday nights.  From, say 11:00pm to 2:30am, when they bring out two enormous speakers into the plaza and play the loudest music I have ever heard (and I was three blocks away).  There is no glass in any windows in the town, which I originally thought was due to hurricanes.  I now realize that this is because it would all be shattered by the Saturday night music.  I told one of the sleep-deprived family members that I love the music (electronic dance/salsa) but I like to choose when I listen to it.  She said "En Cuba, no escogimos" - "In Cuba, we don't choose"... 

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