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Sunday, May 20, 2012

Day #6: May 19th, 2012 - Parque El Nicho

Day #6: May 19th, 2012

Location: Parque El Nicho, Cienfuegos

Click here to jump to a web album containing 71 high-resolution photos from today.

We arose early today (7:30AM) and big goodbye to Playa Larga, our home for the past 3 days. We drove for four-hours to another region of Cuba, toward the east (but still on the southern coast). Along the way, we saw many interesting sights and small towns:

As we climbed into the mountains, we could see the habitat change from dry forest to rainforest. We arrived at our destination: Parque El Nicho (“The Niche”) near the town of Cienfuegos. We were met by a guide and led on a walk through the rainforest. Our guide pointed out the native flora and fauna along the way, including ginger plants and various tree frogs. The trail was narrow, a bit slippery, and steep at times, but everyone was happy to be hiking through such lush, tropical vegetation:

Along the way, we saw several swimming holes and an amazing waterfall:

After completing an hour-long loop, we enjoyed lunch in the park. The fare was better than most we’ve had so far. The students particularly enjoyed the rice & beans and the fried chicken:

As we ate, a storm rolled in. It started to pour furiously. We thought we’d wait out the rain in the open air restaurant, but after an hour, we realized it wasn’t going to let up. There was no way we were going to be kept from visiting the swimming hole and waterfall, so everyone dashed for the bus, changed into swim gear, and headed back out. It was raining torrentially, but that was perfect. Everyone was so happy to be dancing around the Cuban rainforest, diving into the pools, and most especially climbing up the waterfall:

There is no question about the highlight of the day (and, for many, the trip and, for some, their lives): climbing up into and behind the waterfall was an amazing experience that thrilled every one of us. We made the best of the rain and had a magical day.

By the end of our stay at the park, we were all drenched. We did our best to dry off before climbing on to the bus for the (now somewhat treacherous) drive down the steep mountain roads to the town of Cienfuegos. We checked into the Jagua hotel, which was in some ways the nicest hotel we’ve been in so far, but in other ways was a bit too touristic for our tastes:

Although we didn’t participate in as many different activities as some other days, we were all pretty beat from all the activity. We all enjoyed the buffet dinner at the hotel, and then most of us turned in early so that we could be fresh to explore the town tomorrow.

Thanks for reading!

All our best from Cuba,

Ejs

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