We had originally planned to visit the famous and beautiful colonial town of Trinidad after Vinales but everyone we spoke to said there was nothing there for the boys and that Playa Larga might be a very good alternative. Playa Larga is mainly famous for the second landing in the Bay of Pigs battle of which the Cubans remind all and sundry of their glorious defeat of the US (CIA) backed coup attempt in 1961. More recently however, word has got out about the wildlife, in particular birds and crocodiles that live in the Caribbeans largest swamp. We thought this would suit the boys down to the ground so we hopped on board our 7am bus for the 5-hour trip from Vinales.
The Autopista (state highway) is a fairly modern 3-lane carriageway. The irony is that there are hardly any cars on it. There were plenty of people on the side of it either waiting for a bus or hitching and the frequent horse and carriage. Roadside maintenance consisted of gangs of men with machetes hacking away at the long grass – no line-trimmers or mowers here.
Our Vinales casa host had pre-booked our accommodation for the next two nights (everyone seems to know someone in whatever town you’re headed to) so we arrived safe and sound and in good spirits until we stepped off the air-conditioned bus – you can tell it’s hot when even the locals are sweating – the wave of heat that greeted you is hard to describe and its not even summer!
Upon arrival to our casa/hostel we quickly headed for the beach. The guidebooks omit the fact that the water is brown due to the meeting of the sea and the swamp. Despite the colour it was still very clear and extremely warm. Oddly, a Danish family we met had a water thermometer and they were quick to confirm the temperature at 36 degrees Celsius. Good to know. Dominic made friends immediately with a local kid who unusually ran home from the beach and returned with a crab in a plastic bag and two pens before catching up with us in the brown water. Even after advising him that our Spanish was “poco” he continued to waffle on about heavens knows what, so we can only imagine what the pens and crab were to be used for.
With the seawater so warm we found the only way to cool down was to pile into the outdoor bath at the casa with a cold beer – luxury!
We quickly came to the conclusion that the hype wasn’t going to meet reality. As it turned out the only crocodiles that were around were actually at a crocodile farm and peak bird season is November and December. Admittedly the sight of 10,000 Flamingos would have been fantastic but our timing was out by a mere month or two.
A major hurdle we had to cross was the lack of absolutely any English so our rudimentary Spanish was put to the test (we just passed). We managed to arrange a tour into the wetlands with a guide (who was one of the few locals who did speak the Mother tongue) to spot some local wildlife. Immediately we knew how this adventure was going to pan out. The trick with bird watching is the ability to not talk for a few hours. Two boys aged 4 and 7 can not physically do this so any birds that may have been in the area quickly scarpered upon hearing the inane chat of our two. Dominic and I did salvage something out of the excursion with a swim in a crystal clear swimming hole, which was full of turtles, fish and massive crabs.
We decided that two nights here was plenty. The town consisted of a few dusty streets and without a car to explore the surrounding areas and nearby beaches (which apparently were a lot nicer) there wasn’t much to do. It was also a classic case of wrong time and bringing kids. Time to head for Cuba’s best beach we think.