Cortez Slept Here

Trinidad de Cuba, an exotic, tropical name.  When said by a Cuban, it flows off the tongue. We’re headed there, winding along a coastal road separating the low, drought-brown mountains of the Escambay range from the shimmering, blue Caribbean. Native guide Chino’s diesel driven 52 Chevy seems to favor this rolling seaside road, past small playas—coral colored sand spits spotted with palm weaved palapa shelters. Between these secluded beaches, an unforgiving sharp-rock coastline reflects the soft swell of the calm sea.

Vendors selling lobster or small fish emerge from the bush, holding products strung on fresh cut sticks, a testament to the bounty of the shallow coastal waters. These illegal purveyors of seafood appear on the roadside magically, drawn to the sound of an approaching auto or the clip-clop of hooves, and the chance for a sale or trade.

We cross river after river flowing down from the mountains, each the creator of a snow white sand delta. From past visits I know these dark brown streams, emptying into the clear ocean waters are perfect fly venues for a multitude of species, snapper and jacks, tarpon and snook. But, we have no time to stop and fish—it’s time to get wet.

Trinidad de Cuba by all descriptions is unique, designated by UNESCO, a wonder. One of Cuba’s oldest and best preserved cities, its’ cobblestone streets were laid before pirates roamed the Caribbean, a time when Aztec Indians still ruled Mexico. On a moonlit night, this town is an ancient beauty.

But, outside the glitz of tour buses and hawking street salesmen, across crystal waters, lay isolated cays named for Iguanas and white beaches—a diver’s dream.

Peninsular de Ancon lies at the foot of the old city; Cayo Blanco is an hour away by boat. Between them, a myriad of underwater reefs and walls. Boasting an average visibility referred to as infinity, the diving year round is excellent. But, hurricane season is a rainy gamble. November is whale shark time.

A fleet of charter boats at the Ancon marina offers trips tailored to fit any seafaring vision. Day snorkel and dive excursions reach over thirty high quality sites.

For those with a Robinson Crusoe fetish, comfortable, crewed sailing cats are available for charter in multiples of days or weeks, the cruising grounds, among the most beautiful in the world.

The off-the-beach snorkeling and free diving is also outstanding. The locals are willing guides.

For those not fishing or diving the waterfalls close to town are a cool shaded summer escape from the tropic sun, and the night club in the cave is a must see.

A vast labyrinth of mangrove flats and small tidal creeks line the low road between the city and the beach, prime bonefish territory one would think. Chino posed the question to a local fisherman, mending his net in the shade of a beachside sea grape tree.

“He says there are a few left here.” Chino translates. “But most have been made into ceveche.”

Next month: Lake Zaza bass.

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