Stephen and I agreed that the next time we go on holidays we WON’T book all of our excursions back to back!
The next morning we did the by-now-familiar routine of finding our bus for the short trip to the jeep safari headquarters. The tour organizer sorted us all into groups of four, with at least one driver in each group and stuffed us into little jeeps – henceforth referred to as “yeeps”, because that’s how it was pronounced. The yeeps were small Suzuki SUVs, and were quite comfortable. Our group was nine red yeeps and one silver one. The silver one was put at the back of the line, and was the only one allowed to have its headlights on. We were each told our sequence, and to make sure we stayed in order. That way the leader could look back along the line and so long as he could see the silver yeep with its lights on, he knew all his little yeeps were accounted for.
Our first stop was the Saturno cave, a pleasant little cave with a few rock formations – and an underground lake! This lake is 22 m deep and visitors to the cave are permitted to swim – which of course, I chose not to do. It was a nice walk down into the cave, and fun to watch our yeep-mates leaping in. We shared our yeep with two young French teachers from Ottawa, whom we had met earlier on the catamaran cruise.
Back into the yeeps we piled to head to our next destination, which was a boat ride on a river. We were supposed to have gone snorkeling, but the weather wasn’t co-operating, so I think the boat ride was a last minute substitution. It was nice, if a bit chilly. Stephen and I spent most of the ride standing right up at the front of the boat, watching the scenery. Back at the boat dock we were treated to a “native” dance by performers who appeared Polynesian in ethnicity. I say “native” because there actually are no remaining native Cuban aboriginals. They were all massacred, courtesy of the Spaniards. The dance was apparently some sort of healing ritual, and several of our tour group were drawn in to participate.
Next stop, lunch. Another open air restaurant, this one on a working farm, which meant lunch was accompanied by an assortment of visiting wildlife, primarily dogs and chickens. It was most amusing to watch a chicken pecking around your feet while you were having lunch. After lunch we went on what was essentially a garden tour. We got to see how pineapples (pronounced ‘peen-apples’) grow. I had never seen a pineapple plant before, so was quite fascinated. They also had sugar cane and banana trees. They had a ‘typical’ farmhouse set up for us to wander through, inside which we could taste fresh cut sugar cane, and try some freshly brewed coffee. There was a small lake, and our tour guide suggested those of us who were so inclined could participate in a “romantic moment” out on the lake. Um – no thanks. But it was most amusing watching one couple lose their boat as they tried to return to shore…
After lunch we went on a rather convoluted drive through the countryside; I assume to show us how the average person lives. I guess the yeep safari tours are the highlight of the day there, because there were people standing at the end of nearly every driveway waving at the nice tourists – presumably in hopes that the nice tourists would toss some pesos their way. Back at the yeep garage we parked our yeeps and herded onto the bus for the ride back to the resort. Once there – yeah, you guessed it, change for dinner and head for the show after, and then back to our room and crash.
Something interesting about this day that has stayed with me – during the early morning milling around in the lobby waiting for buses, a lady came up to me and asked if I was going on the jeep safari. I had never seen her before, and she would have had no way of knowing that’s what I was doing, so why she did this, I don’t know. I said yes, and we began chatting. In the course of conversation she mentioned that her shoulder hurt because she had slipped on the wet pavement and fallen, landing on her shoulder. She could barely move her arm. Stephen had gone to get some change, and when he came back I introduced him to this lady and her partner, and told him about her fall. He was concerned, and suggested perhaps she should forgo the excursion, but she refused. He kept an eye on her on the bus, and then when we got to the caves he asked her about her shoulder. He’s had some medical training in the military, and his assessment was that she had broken her clavicle. He didn’t mention this to her, though he did tell her partner. He gave her some Tylenol, and from the fully stocked first aid kit he always carries, he produced a triangle bandage which he made into a sling for her. This seemed to help quite a bit, and she said she was much more comfortable with it on.
What I found interesting – given that it was unusual for someone to just randomly approach someone else in the lobby, what were the chances that she would approach the one couple who were in a position to be able to help her with the problem with her shoulder? Intriguing, no?
The next few days were more relaxing. We stayed at the resort, walked on the beach, napped lots, sat out on our patio reading (or in Stephen’s case, doing Sudoku). I enjoyed the rest after the three busy days, but I think it would rapidly become very boring if that’s all there was to the vacation. I’m glad we did the excursions; they were well worth the extra cost. I learned a lot about Cuba, experienced some new things, and had a great deal of fun. We packed on Sat, and early Sunday morning we joined the throngs in the lobby once more, only this time, we were the ones with the luggage waiting for the airport bus.