The Cuban Countryside

February 14
Dateline: Las Terrazas 

Today, we would be leaving Havana to travel to Las Terrazas, a sustainable bio-reserve community touted as Cuba’s prime ecotourism site.

Arriving at the site, our local guide told us during a brief orientation that the pioneering community had begun in 1994. Currently, there were about 1,000 residents living in the village, which had been the site of a once-prosperous coffee plantation.

“The old families here call it The Plan,” our local guide Danny, a member of the Communist party, said during a brief orientation session. “We try to perpetuate it through our schools.”

He then led our group on a walking tour. Danny explained that the area had been perfect for growing coffee beans. “”You needed altitude, humidity, and some shade,” he said as we toured the old coffee plantation grounds. “But Cuba lost the coffee market to New Orleans and the plantations were abandoned.

The views of the nearby mountains and the lush foliage were magnificent. But as we walked, we noticed large rodents scampering through the trees. “They are our tree rats. We may have some of them on the menu today. We’ll see how you like them,” Danny said with a laugh. He explained that many years ago Cuba had introduced mongoose into the island to control the rats. But the mongoose also developed a strong taste for sugar. “That is the problem when you introduce a species. Now we are more careful,” he said..

After lunch, we visited the village. Many of our group perused the art work that village artists create and sell to help finance their community. Some of us watched as young boys bathed their horses in a pond.  High above us, a few local workers used a zip line to speed from the village to the lower lands. Finally, it was time to head back to Havana.

To follow our Cuban trip in chronological order