It’s been nearly 160 km and 24 hours since I left Vinales, and, still, I didn’t reach Maria la Gorda. The hitchhike experience on the southwest coast of Cuba was tough but unique and it took me to the small fishermen village of La Bajada.

As there was no legal casa particular to stay in, I ended up spending the night at the house of young men that I randomly met on the way to La Bajada. The house’s walls were still under construction, its rooms were separated by a un existing door, and there was no window glass, but a first class ocean view.

Photo by Ovidiu Balaj
Photo by Ovidiu Balaj
The window of my room facing the ocean. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj
The window of my room facing the ocean. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj

My host, Pablo, lives with his mother and his younger brother. He is working in Sabrino, a small town situated 45 km away from La Bajada. He travels this route daily, leaving his home at 7 am and returning just before or after dawn, depending on the bus schedule. His father has passed away and now he is the head of his family.

When he understood I needed a place to sleep, he realized that that was a business opportunity for him. And when he offered the combo room with ocean view and two meals per day for 3 nights, only 40 dollars, I understood I have a business opportunity on my hands as well. My other option was to stay somewhere 10 km away in a resort for 30 dollars a day surrounded by tourists and far away from the locals.

In front of their house. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj
In front of their house. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj

– Say, amigo, how far away is Maria la Gorda (The Fat Mary)?

– Around 10km.

– And are there any cars going that way?

– If you’re lucky, maybe a car with tourists or soldiers might pass by. As I told you, just 50 metres away there’s a military camp. This is a strategic area of the coast, so there are soldiers around.

– Really?

– Claro amigo, this region used to be a point of call for pirates awaiting Spanish Fleets that were coming from the Caribbean and South America.

– Interesting. But don’t you have a friend with a motorcycle around here? I can pay for the gasoline and the lunch when we get there.

-No, but I have a friend that has a bicycle. He can rent it to you.

Pablo’s mother interrupted our conversation when she called us for breakfast. Mario, the 10 years old boy, was just about to finish his homework before going to school. 

Mario. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj
Mario. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj

The food was beyond my expectations, considering the poor conditions of their kitchen. Pablo’s mom gave us some goat milk and prepared a pan con lechón. This is a traditional pressed sandwich created simply with Cuban bread, roasted pork, onions, and mojito. However, my sandwich didn’t contain the last ingredient. The pork meat was probably delivered by neighbors in exchange for their goat milk. As these animals were walking around freely and relaxing nearby the Caribbean shore, it’s no wonder their milk was tasteful.

Just outside the village of La Bajada. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj
Just outside the village of La Bajada. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj

With a full stomach and my 2 dollars rented bicycle, it was time for me to hit the road and visit Maria.

I had a stunning ride with some 10 km of white sand beach just nearby the empty road. There were almost no cars, no blown horns, just the peaceful Maria la Gorda, simultaneously wild and virgin. Watching this place I felt that all the hassle to get there was worth it. I was gratified to be there. Just me, Maria and our just begun love story…

A pit stop on the way for a short bath. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj
A pit stop on the way for a short bath. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj

Every a few kilometres I took a break from riding and I embraced her every time I felt she calls me. I soaked up her sun, laid in her smooth white sand and bathed in her vivid jade water.

At the end of the road, I arrived at the only resort in the area. There were only a few foreigners around and most of them came there for scuba diving. Well, this is the Caribbean, so a diving session is kind of mandatory. It was easy enough to organise once I met these two guys who were preparing for a dive, regardless of this situation’s spontaneity.

In front of the resort. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj
In front of the resort. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj

The diving equipment wasn’t in the best conditions, but the Cuban instructor put a lot of passion in his services. This guy has good bits of knowledge about the Caribbean’s underwater life and it was no surprise to see plenty of lobsters, turtles, stingrays, lionfish and even a manta ray through those colorful and lively corals.

On the diving boat with the instructor. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj
On the diving boat with the instructor. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj

Later I returned to my adopted Cuban family in La Bajada. There, Pedro was driving his goats home while his little brother Mario was chuckling with his friends on the sea shore. He wasn’t wearing the school’s white uniform anymore and they all looked like the school is out for the entire season, so joyous they were. Then it hit me: these kids don’t  really have much, but somehow they manage to make the best out of their moments, away from the classic temptations of every day city’s life.

Mario and his friends. Photo by Ovidiu balaj
Mario and his friends. Photo by Ovidiu balaj

When I heard Pedro’s mom shouting something from inside again, I knew she is calling her boys for dinner. Strangely enough, out here, in the middle of nowhere, her voice begun to sound more and more familiar to me. For 3 days I was one of the boys she was calling for supper. Maybe I was just missing my mom, or I felt that Cuba could be my second home…

 

In case you missed the whole story about getting to Maria la Gorda, you have it here http://garlictrail.com/hitchhiking-and-searching-for-maria-part-2/

http://garlictrail.com/hitchhiking-and-searching-for-maria/

Leave a Comment