Friday, January 6, 2017

The Beach on the Bay of Pigs

The Beach on the Bay of Pigs
 December 21 – 28 2016

To see photos of Batey Caletón, Playa Larga on Google photos, click the following
see Batey Caleton Beach photos

Was Hostal Yaimé y Manolito, in Batey Caletón, a suburb of Playa Larga on Bahía des Cochinos (the Bay of Pigs), going to be as good as our memories from two years ago? Yes it was. Yes, our Casa Particular accommodation was still simple. Our room, one of three in the house, had a double bed and a single bed, a mini-fridge, a small bedside table, a stand with hangers for our clothes, AC, a noisy fan we didn’t use and a compact bathroom with a hot water shower. Yet it was the welcome of the owners and their staff that made us feel right at home. It was only a moment before we were remembered from our visit two years ago. Yaimé and Manolito, the owners, were alerted and came to give us hugs and a welcoming kiss. That warm feeling stayed with us for the entire week of our return visit.

A big draw for Ray and me was the long, sandy beach right in front of our house. We were there for the Christmas holiday week, bringing more tourists from Europe, Canada and a few Americans than our previous visit, but it was never crowded. The water was clear, warm and inviting, perfect for our daily swims. We had brought our snorkels and mask with us to find the corals growing on rocks about 100 M offshore. We entertained ourselves floating above the corals admiring the tropical fish and searching for the best fan or brain corals. Walks on the beach after swimming and through the small village in every direction in the morning kept us occupied the rest of the day.

The one activity we repeated this year was a visit to Punta Perdiz and Cuevas de los Peces, two excellent snorkeling and diving spots farther along the Bay of pigs towards Playa Girón. The same retired Quebec school bus came along the beach road in Batey Caletón and Playa Larga at 9 AM picking up tourists as it did two years ago. After stopping at the one Dive Shop in the area to pay 10 CUC each for the excursion, rent equipment if you didn’t have your own, and arrange for optional scuba diving. 

From the dive shop it was about 20 minutes to Punta Perdiz (lost Point). The shore is rocky but a ladder or simple steps get you into an aquarium of tropical fish amongst the corals. The drop off of the reef is just 50 M from shore, waiting for divers to explore the deep and find a scuppered US landing craft left over from the Bay of Pigs landing in 1961. After 1-1/2 hours at Punta Perdiz, we were back on the school bus to drive to Cuevas de los Peces (Fishtank Cave), about 10 minutes back towards Playa Larga. About 100 M into the woods across from the beach is a 70 M deep flooded cenote, a limestone cave with a collapsed roof. The water fresh water is suitable for swimming but it is so dark the fish are barely visible. Divers need a light to explore the deep. Ray and I prefer the ocean with more tropical fish and corals to explore. It is a great way to spend the day and suitable for children wearing life jackets, as well.

Two years ago we took guided birding trips into the Ciénaga (swamp) de Zapata to see the water fowl and the Zapata forest to find zunzunitos, the tiny bee hummingbird. We didn’t repeat the visit this year but a British couple staying at our house visited and reported that they were thrilled with the variety of birds and wildlife they encountered. 

A French-Spanish family we befriended, who live in the 13th Arrondisement in Paris, stopped on their taxi ride from Havana to visit Criadero des Cocodrillos, a crocodile breeding center, about 20 km north of Playa Larga. They arrived in time for feeding hour, which especially impressed their young 7 and 10 year old children.

We took all our meals at the Hostal because the cook Maira, was still there, practising her magic on the limited selection of ingredients available to Cubans. Tables under a long shady palm shelter were the perfect place to have a drink and enjoy our meals. Hostal Yaimé y Manolito is not an official Paladar, the Cuban private restaurant, so it is not set up officially to receive guests, other than those of us staying at the hostal, unless enough food is available to feed extras that day. I don’t think that Playa Larga or Batey Caletón even has an official Paladar yet. That meant, that given the reputation of the good food, tables shaded from the sun, good outdoor bar and comfortable beach chairs facing the sea, our house was a magnet for other tourists to share the facilities with us and hope to eat one of Maira’s good meals.

Breakfast and dinner is priced separately from the room, but is still a bargain. Breakfast is a plate of fruit, buns, sliced meats and cheese, eggs any way you like, fresh juice and coffee or tea. Each dinner came with a homemade soup, vegetable salad, rice and a fruit salad. The dinner portions were so large we convinced Maira to give us half portions, and still we had more than enough to eat. We had our choice of fish, shrimps, chicken and other meat. Christmas Eve brought the arrival of a freshly killed pig, which was butchered on site and offered for dinner that night and for the extended family of Yaimé and Manolito who gathered to celebrate Christmas. The roast pork was enjoyed by everyone.

Entertainment by a Cuban band is always welcome. Our house was host to a six piece group at dinner time about every two days. We were more than happy to listen to their Latin rhythms and contribute some CUC to support their efforts.

We left for Trinidad on December 28 after more hugs and vows to come again. Our transport was a shared taxi, a big 1950s Oldsmobile station wagon, the precursor to the family van with three rows of seats seating all eight tourists and the driver. Luggage went in the small trunk and strapped securely on top. Four of the passengers got out in Cienfuego, about half-way into the three hour drive to Trinidad, so we remaining four had lots of room to spread out.

1 comment:

mariela cádiz said...

Dear Jeanne and Ray, it was a pleasure meeting you at Playa Larga. We hope to meet again in Paris, when you come visit your family. Happy new year from the french-spanish family! Mariela, Denis, Lucía & Elio