December 19, 2022


Woke up Monday morning to the sound of waves gently lapping at the shore outside my room at the casa. We started out early and headed up the coast to a small village called Guasasa a town located on the southern coast of the easternmost portion of the Cienega de Zapata, ( Zapata Swamp) in Cuba..  It is believed that the name of the town could be derived from the large number of guasasa (a species of tiny flies) that were in the area when the first settlers began to settle there, in the second half of the 16th century. (source Wikipedia and Cuba Travel). The Zapata Peninsula, one of the most important ecosystems in Cuba and the largest swamp reserve in the Caribbean, is situated in southern Matanzas. (See the map posted in the previous journal entry)

On the way we took a hike through the jungle to see a cenote – a beautiful internal pool. (A cenote is a natural pit, or sinkhole, resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater.) Some in our group chose to swim in the cenote, and Carlos dived into it from the limestone edge.  There were amazing plants along the rocky trail leading to the cenote and the play of light in the jungle was beautiful.  It took us another 40 minutes driving down a limestone road feeling every pothole and bump along the way to reach Guasasa. This was another place where you will not find tourists and we were careful not to appear as a swarm of people holding cameras.  We were treated to a seafood feast by one of the families that own what can loosely be called a restaurant. Lobster, shrimp, octopus, crab, grilled fish and clams were served up in abundance along with cabbage, tomatoes and cucumbers.

Every minute it seemed something interesting passed us by – a sow with about 5 piglets following her down the road, goats wandering around, a man spear fishing, and just the everyday manifestations of life in a small Cuban seaside town. It was magical and we topped off the afternoon sitting by the water and drinking Cuban coffee provided by our host doctored with Gran Marnier provided by Sako, one of our photographers. It was just the perfect ending to another entrancing day in rural Cuba.

Finding gas for the vehicles was an experience all unto itself. Carlos and Jorjito had gone to a gas station and were told there was no gas. Gas is very scarce in the country, partly due to a fire in the main refinery in Matanzas as well as other economic issues.  On the way back into town Carlos asked a local woman where to get gas and she replied that the station DID have gas but you had to be pushy and demand the person running it to let you have some.  We stopped at the station and after Carlos talked to the woman in charge he was put on the phone with a government official to plead his case for gas.  In the end, we were allowed to purchase only 20 liters for each vehicle. Occurrences such as this give you a fresh perspective on what the day to day existence of others is like compared to us.