Cuba Ad­ven­ture

Gripped - - AREA PROFILE -

In early Jan­uary, a close friend of mine sug­gested the trip. He heard that there was rock climb­ing in Cuba and it was sup­posed to be fan­tas­tic, but un­for­tu­nately banned and nearly im­pos­si­ble to ac­cess. I asked around and it was the same re­sponse from al­most ev­ery­one: “No, it’s banned. Non-ne­go­tiable with the author­i­ties, you won’t even get to climb.” It sounded like an ad­ven­ture to me.

Af­ter a long red-eye f light and a three-hour lay­over in Toronto, we landed in Veredero, Cuba. I must have been smil­ing for a good half-an-hour be­cause I no­ticed my face was aching when I went through cus­toms. All four of us looked like typ­i­cal Cana­dian tourists with pale skin, big smiles and warm cloth­ing. We were ready to ex­plore the trop­i­cal coun­try and do what we all loved to do: climb. Our des­ti­na­tion was the small ru­ral town of Viñales in the western province called Pi­nar del Rio, 90 per cent of Cuba’s climb­ing is lo­cated there.

The moun­tain-filled province of Pi­nar del Rio has a lot of un­touched lime­stone karst crags, which we couldn’t wait to get our hands on. It is no won­der Cuba’s nick­name is the “Pearl of the An­tilles.” A few years back, Cuba of­fi­cially made the Valle de Viñales a Na­tional Park and unesco made it a World Her­itage Site, which has made it harder for climbers to de­velop the area. The Mo­gotes (moun­tain­ous karst for­ma­tions) have around 250 routes de­vel­oped and have the po­ten­tial for hun­dreds more.

The climb­ing is steep, sharp and over­hang­ing in most ar­eas. It has sta­lac­tites and tufa col­umns and chis­elled pock­ets unique to the area. Most of the routes are within the Valle de Viñales: La Costan­era, Mogote Del Valle and El Palenque. All of the climbs in the main val­ley can be seem from Viñales. With an easy 25- to 30- minute hike from town, the cliffs can be quickly ac­cessed. While in Viñales, we stayed at Os­car Jaime’s Casa Par­tic­u­lar, a bed and break­fast. Os­car’s Casa has been vis­ited by climbers from all over the world and is known as the climber’s “base­camp” for the area. I felt like part of his fam­ily.

Ap­prox­i­mately 10,000 peo­ple live in Viñales val­ley. The town has a lot of small lo­cal shops and restau­rants along the main strip. The most com­mon modes of trans­porta­tion are horse, ox and goat-drawn bug­gies. The lo­cal Gua­jiros (farm­ers) are rarely seen with­out rub­ber boots and a ma­chete at­tached to their hip. There is lo­cal pro­duce ev­ery­where, stray dogs in the al­leys and plenty of Cuban rum.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.