Jeep Safari Tour – Holguin Cuba
The Jeep Safari Tour was one of two tours that I participated in while on vacation at the Occidental Grand Playa Turquesa in Holguin, Cuba. The other outing was the All Day Catamaran Tour with Swimming with Dolphins and Jet Skiing.
In the morning, a number of blue Suzuki Jeeps where lined up and waiting at the front of the resort for us. Our guide had a silver grand Vitara. After a quick “rules of the road” speech by the guide about how to drive in Cuba, everyone got into their jeeps and we headed out. As I mainly wanted to take photos and ask a billion questions about what I was taking pictures of, I opted to go with the guide. The Cuban “rules of the road” mainly dealt with some differences with respect to right-of-way and passing slow-moving vehicles and horse-drawn vehicles.
We did a quick stop at another large resort to pick up some additional blue jeeps and a second guide (to take up the rear of our convoy) and away we went.
We drove though a number of small towns and farm land until we reached a Cuban cigar manufacturing centre, mainly a lot of slightly larger buildings which looked similar to the houses we had just driven past. No pictures were allowed inside but it was basically several long rows of tables with Cuban workers rolling cigars by hand with an area in the back for tobacco leaf preparation (workers with big semi-circle knives cutting leaves to a size suitable for rolling a cigar of a particular size). Our guide explained the whole process as we walked along the tables, a few Cubans waved “Hi”, but most seemed very focused on their delicate precision task. Given the sharpness of the blades that they were using, I can’t really blame them. I could see, on close inspection, that finger nicks where not uncommon.
Next we headed to a Cuban farm. Here, we could tell we were off the main path. There were a number of semi-constructed buildings at the end of a ‘paved’ road and it was gravel from there on out. The holes in the road from wash outs were big enough to eat the Grand Vitara and have one of the smaller Suzuki Jeeps as a snack.
At the farm we met the farmer and his wife and they gave us a tour of their house and surroundings. We did go into a crop field (I think it was tobacco) which was kind of neat.
After the farm we were apparently going a short distance to where we would taste test a lot of Cuban agrigcultural products (fresh fruits and sugar cane). So the guide asked me if I wanted to drive, totally not paying attention to his driving, I said yes and we switched spots – only then did I notice it was manual transmission…
So we will just say that combined with the road, and the fact that it was my second time driving a manual car (the first time was at home when I was looking to buy a car…) it was a very bumpy 1.5 miles to the next stop. Our guide was overjoyed once we had arrived at our destination and I handed him back the keys…
So we tried a variety of fruits, and sugar cane juice. Quite enjoyable.
Then, we headed out again and drove quite quite a ways (yes there was a lot of driving on this trip), to get to another farm where we saddled up to ride some horses around a hilly vista (very beautiful). Now, unlike the manual transmission car, I have ridden horses before, so I set up the stirrups such that my bum would not regret this in the morning and got my camera strap set up so I could ride with one hand on the reins and another with the camera snapping pictures. My Nikon DSLR is quite large and I didn’t look through the finder much so it was a bit ‘pray & spray’.
It was a fun ride and the horses were quite responsive to their riders commands to go faster or slower as we meandered around the hillside. There was a trail, of course, that we were supposed to follow, but with a bit of a pull to one side, I got my horse to take a quick detour to get a nice shot.Then, getting back to the trail, my horse decided to pass under a low hanging branch and I had to do a quick duck and hold on hoping that the branch would bend more so that I wouldn’t get knocked off; much to the amusement of everyone else. Then, we were full circle back at the ranch to get back into the jeeps.
Finally, we went for a long ride around the country passing by some larger cities (for they had buildings a nice roads) and the guide explained how the Cubans lived, showing where many of the hotel workers lived in a nearby complex, etc. Very educational, if you ever wanted to live there.
Finally we returned to our resort just as the sun was setting.