Unfortunately Wendy and I had to part ways in Baracoa – she was headed to the beach and I was headed back the way I came and through to Bayamo, the jumping off point to visit La Commandancia de la Plata where Fidel Castro, Che Guevara Pico Turquino from La Commandancia de la Plata – Cuba et al holed up in 1958 to launch the revolution that forever altered Cuba.
The first stage of this trip is to take an hour long taxi ride to Santo Domingo in the Sierra Maestra mountains. Unfortunately, there does not seem to be an easy way to coordinate taxis between different travelers to save on the cost, so this is really what makes the excursion an expensive one. Oh well – some times you just have to cough it up.
From Santo Domingo you register and pay for the excursion and are then bundled into another transport that takes you into the Parque Nacional Turquino and up the incredibly steep (750m height gain in 5km!) to Alto del Naranjo and the starting point for the hike. Amazing views of the Sierra Maestras along the way!
The hike is about 6km round trip with some relatively steep and rocky sections but nothing too difficult. Plenty of flora and fauna to check out along the way (including the Tocororo) and it’s always just nice to be out and about in the fresh air.
On arrival at La Commandancia de la Plata, the first hut you see is that used by Che Guevara as his hospital. He also practiced dentistry here even though he was not trained as a dentist.
Further along, we visited the house the Fidel occupied for the 6 months they occupied this site. The story goes that Fidel was the only one with a bed, and the fridge has bullet holes in it, suffered while it was being transported to the site. The house was also interesting in that the doors/windows opened “up” rather than sideways — made it quite difficult to figure out how to get in.
There are several other buildings at the site as well – the kitchen, which is set apart from all other buildings, the building where the writers for Radio Rebelde and the guerilla magazine the worked on their material, and the electrical station.
Finally, after quite a steep uphill, you arrive at Radio Rebelde itself where you can still see some of the radio equipment used by the guerrillas to broadcast as far as Venezuela.
And another very short steep hike to see where they used to erect the transmission antenna, as well as a great view across to Pico Turquino – the highest mountain in Cuba.
It was an interesting excursion and quite amazing to see a guerrilla encampment, almost unchanged since it was built over 50 years ago. Although the buildings themselves are relatively unremarkable, it is interesting to see how well they are hidden in the jungle and hear about this place that played such a central role in Cuban history. Definitely worth a visit.
Cost: Taxi from Bayamo to Santo Domingo = 50 CUC, Tour = 27 CUC + 5 CUC if you want to take photos. Includes a ham and cheese sandwich and softdrink (very Cuban).
Time: ~9 hours including driving time
Recommended Casa Particular in Bayamo: Casa Bretones. Jose Luis is a really interesting person to talk to, and the dinners are enormous and delicious!