The day dawned clear and blue. Yesterday evening we had arranged for the local guide, Oscar, to come to Willo’s house this morning and we would then decide which excursion to do, depending on the weather so, after breakfast, I packed up my belongings so that I could move into a room in Willo’s house, and walked around to join the others.
The excursion turned out to be a ride in a 1954 Plymouth along the coast to the river Yamuri, visiting a cocoa farm and farmers’ weigh station and having lunch at a beach side cafe. It was a magnificent day.
The scenery is typically tropical with coconut and palm trees, cocoa and coffee plantations and everywhere very lush. We stopped early on to admire the view from someone’s garden (I assumed this was pre-arranged!) from where we could see across the valley to El Yunque and Sleeping Beauty mountains, the Rio Miel or Honey river, and the road into Baracoa, which combined are referred to as the Four Lights of Baracoa.
There were a great many small farms, or fincas, here with a lot of pigs, chickens and turkeys running free range.
Our next stop was at a cocoa farmer’s house, which was extremely basic, but the lady was doing a roaring trade with tour groups. We had to wait in the attractive garden whilst one group finished and another had to wait for us. l wondered if this was her entire trade for the day as, to my knowledge, there were actually only 3 tour groups in town at the moment.
Oscar explained the process of chocolate making and there were balls of chocolate, chocolate bars and cocoa butter for us to purchase.
The chocolate balls are solid blocks of unsweetened chocolate, which is grated into cakes or used to make hot chocolate drinks, which we sampled and which bore no resemblance whatsoever to Cadbury’s Hot Chocolate! It was like thick soup, not sweet and infinitely preferable. Apparently the farm workers take flasks of it to work to keep them going during the day.
The coffee, which we also tried, was typically Cuban – very, very strong and quite bitter.
Afterwards we went for a short walk through a village where we stopped at the local weighing station. Farms are inspected each year to assess the amount of fruit or vegetables they are likely to produce. At harvest time, the produce is brought to the weigh station and 70% goes to the government, whilst the farmers are permitted to keep the remaining 30% to either sell or barter for other produce. Whilst we were there, coconuts, bananas and oranges arrived by ox cart or laden on horses. We sampled a variety of delicious tropical fruits and then re-joined Octavio, our driver, and the Plymouth.
Driving on a bit further, through the German Pass, (so called because German landowners used to charge the locals for travelling through the rock archway that leads to the end of the peninsula), and on to the beach where we ordered lunch at a cafe, to be eaten later.
We continued on to the Yamuri River, admired the gorge from above and took a row boat up to an island from which we could swim. And very refreshing it was too!
Back at the beach cafe, we had time for a quick swim before a delicious fish lunch and then plenty of time afterwards for swimming or relaxing in a chair in the sun, before heading back to Baracoa.
The day was rounded off with another excellent dinner cooked by Willo at the Casa, although none of us was particularly hungry after the late lunch.