El Legendario, emblematic accommodation in true Cuban style, with viability to eco tourism.
Arnoldo, with his eternal”snuff cellar” betweeen fingers and talking constantly while driving a little white ” peugot”, will take us to the village saying hello to everbody and at the same time discribing all sites.
Later on, we will see the coast- a long and nice strip with that beautiful colour of Cayo Largo or Cayo Santa Maria beaches , totally unexpected here in “La Cienaga “.
W’ll snorkel among trusting fishes in ” Punta Perdiz”, w’ ll also walk along the hill and see, like a miracle, trees that ” go walking” searching their sun quote, the quite sinkholes, the deformed trunks by termites or drawn by epifitas, paths that will allow me take a picture from the ” cartacuba “-hundreds or thousandsof people have done it before here or there, but this one is of my own and describes my experience.
Our first time:
We arrived to “playa Larga” with sleepless curiosity for that of being the greatest wetland in the insular Caribe,Ramsar site, Biosphre Reserve,National Park,endemic species habitat or fauna refuge; for the trace and memory of 1961 invasion, the cool ovens, the,crocodiles and the breeding, the nature… for the quitenesss, the pure air, and another adventure surely in a different place.
We arrived at night and could see,in the edge of the road to Palpite, tens of lightings dancing around. “Lamps, lanterns,crab hunters”,explained Arnoldo
We assisted to the crab running that takes place between may and august to complete the reproductive cycle, the annual peregrination from inside “La Cienaga” to the coast.
We’ve already known about Arnoldo’s good mood and ideas , the constant curiosity he puts in being creative all time,or giving solutions to unexpected problems or finding alternatives; we also knew about the communitary and sustainable sense of his wife Ivette, but not about her cooking ability.
We were told- and very soon we’d confirm it- that the keys in “El Legendario” were those : Arnoldo’s drawing power and Ivette’ s cuisine plus social and ecologic sense of both.
The rest is landscape and how much we love or not to be lost in the height of nature.
At the biginning of the long and lonely beach in Caleton Blanco, after crossing Playa Larga, it is found the hostal, preceded by a ranch where with fortune a traditional local music group can be listened or, as well, we can talk to Arnold, the history teller or even we can listen to the stories of Eduard Abreu, a biologist, archeologist, diver and local speleologic explorer.
There is a nice bar, a permanent photografic exhibition of J. Larramendi, books, old radios, an old lamp, a rusty sewing machine, armchairs, a hammmock, tables ,benches,healthy plants like the “frutabomba”, a little orchard…. Breeze is passing by and the conversation is streaming easily.Other touris ,lodged nearby,are coming to the ranch. The trash collector, Lobato,( he never takes his mule by the bridle because it obeys words) appears at the time. He is also chickadee and ambulance driver.
“El Legendario” opended its doors in november 2012, Ivette remembers that initially tourists were more interested in ecology and bird observation but now that interest has decreased. Playa Larga is not very well known and the travel agencies in the country don’t make a fine work. “tourism has decreased, there have been dificulties with transportation, Viazul used to take three trips and now only one ” says Ivette.
In her opinion, alliances between agencies y cuentapropistas have not been yet consolidated,it doesn’ t exist a local understanding between private and state sectors like in Viñales for instance.
Hotel industry expanded and prospered during the last years in Playa Larga and Caleton Blanco, if you just take a look inTripAdvisor or read some outlines about the site and its hotels you can confirm it ” it has increased a lot, many houses extend its rooms to rent some of them, people try to make progresss, money is moving around, the community has been adorned ” says Ivette but at the same time regrets not to be reflected in the village ( the state of streets, the unsufficient number of litters or illumination…)
“El Legendario” offers in addition to ordinary facilities(bar ,meals,hot water, private toilettes etc…)information about natural and cultural heritage in” La Cienaga”as well as visits to historical sites,dancing classes,or guided walkings…Many local especies are planted, an exhibition room has been dedicated to nature topics and a cultural proyect with community and environmental orientation has been developed.
” we make workshops, develop capacities and knowledges for trades, crafts, kid painting; we reproduce traditions and take part in them inhabitants so as tourists”explains Ivette. “we’ve got one of the best preserved and protected sites in the country”, with rural communities where many traditions remain intact” but shestill insists on the need of an access to the wholesale market.
Her target is that ” people who’s looking for rest,or knowing truly our countryand our people come here,increasingly.
It is good they get a picture of us closer to the reality we live,it is good they share our lifestyle, and that they enjoy the stay and at the same time learn about nature and respect .Our view is to achieve excellence without luxury, to get a smart service without servility”.
When coming back, landscape is passing by before us to 70 kilometres per hour and the eyesight starts to make longer in the plain and the set of trees less tight,some stinging mosquito bite or some skin burning from that coastal and snorkel day stay back. We are then aware of the tiredness and want to arrive home and at the same time we feel a huge desire to return, to be again in the place we’ve just stayed.Not pleased to rewind but to come back fisically to live more, to walk longer from the Cuba-Checoslovaquia sinkhole, to enter further the caves,or the sea( snorkelling), to come back Los Horcones and to listen to fine conversations at Arnold &Ivette’s caney.
Again let time run while we follow the termite labour,or the effective and gentle work of the water on the rock, the patient voracity of epifitas around an unlucky trunk, that old and constant performance that is nature in “La Cienaga de Zapata”
Cubacontemporanea.com. (By Hernán Martín – Photographs Claudia Camps)