Contact with the unique nature of the Sierra Maestra and the possibility of ascending to the highest peak of the island are deals from the Popular Camping Company in Santiago de Cuba with departure from La Mula, the oldest of its facilities
By Odalis Riquenes Cutiño
LA MULA, Guama, Santiago de Cuba (Jan. 3) – After traveling 126 kilometres of a winding road where the sea tries to seduce the mountain and history intoxicates your senses with the vivid parade of legends, events, people and places one comes to La Mula, the oldest Popular Camping Company installation in the province.
Comfortable accommodation, varied cuisine in CUP and CUC, bathing in the clear waters of the Turquino river -which runs through its areas-, and various sports activities, live entertainment, music and dance, including a traditional campfire, embody the offer of that base, inaugurated on August 2, 1982.
But are hiking, excursions to historic sites and of high natural values, and contact with its magical surroundings, are the most attractive offers of this facility, located at the foot of the Sierra Maestra, which is renewed despite the weather and obstacles, with the same stubbornness as the animal that shares its name: a mule who tried to cross the swollen river was dragged to the sea and after three hours of tenacious battle survived unscathed.
With singularities like being probably the only centre of its kind in the country which houses a cemetery within its perimeter: a hurtful testimony of past neglect suffered by the peasantry of the area before 1959, La Mula is also the Santiago camping installation from which one can spot and access the three most important peaks in our country: Cuba, Suecia and Turquino.
But above all this facility provides the ability to change the bustle of the city for the best history lesson and enjoy its knowledge imaginably.
Country life adventures
The caravan moves on upstream, six or seven times over the same waters, between stones of all sizes, with the cleanest breeze caressing your face and the chirping of birds oxygenating the ears.
The lucky ones who managed to mount one of the few donkeys or horses available, are torn between balancing inexperience and fear of the rugged and irregular track.
The majority on foot, the journey between jokes, laughs, assistance for those who fell sitting on the river, explanations about the environment and the eager and recurring question: How long to get there…? It makes the passing villager shake his head and replicate from the obviousness of everyday life: “When you mess about by a pond …”.
So, after more than four and a half kilometres of adventures you come to the Los Morones pool, a paradise of crystal clear waters, waterfalls and giant stones amidst the greenery of the mountains, perfect for swimming, romance, songs from the shore …
Socialize with farmers in the area and enjoy a coffee from pila’o hill, and Cola’o in empina’o, and a picnic lunch is also among the attractions of the expedition to Los Morones, so demanded today as the offers of the camping installation, like the trail to the peak Turquino, although the latter is limited by the lack of a proper transportation that allows them to offer the full service.
And the full potential of its surroundings and the history that surrounds it are used by the animation team for the design of the trips, explained Emerido Hechavarría Sosa, one of its recreation technicians, hyperactive, talkative and knowledgeable of local history, making him the soul of recreation in La Mula.
In addition to the trip to the pool Los Morones they have designed expeditions to sites like the cave La Uvita, kingdom of stalactites and stalagmites, and even the Bela Pluma beach, six kilometres from the centre.
Tours of the Museum of the La Plata Battle, in the area of 1st Front; the community of Mar Verde del Turquino, where Ciro Redondo fell, and up near the wreck of the Columbus ship in the fleet of Admiral Cervera, sunk 20 kilometers deep in the so-called Spanish-Cuban-American War in 1898, complete offers of excursions.
With 21 years of commitment to the entertainment of La Mula, Emerido is convinced that when the program is assembled well, there is no time for boredom on a camping facility. The passion and commitment of the workforce of La Mula is so endorsed.
So it is unfortunate that the lack of proper transport to ensure excursions like going to the base of Turquino, and the small number of animals for riding (only five donkeys and five horses) limit the installation from exploiting all their potential and prevent the access of more customers, especially from the Santiago province, who have to reach the centre by their own means.
Despite the pitfalls in La Mula there is union in what they want to do. Damaris Méndez, the director for about four months, said: “We work very hard to provide a quality product, where visitors feel at home.
“We are engaged in various constructions to provide greater comfort to the 26 cabins that we offer to domestic and foreign tourists: raising the perimeter wall, finishing the grill, renovating the cottages, some of which have fans and drinking water, among other actions.
“Food supplies are stable and varied so as to allow a different cuisine every day.”
With 32 years of struggling with its surroundings, La Mula is the facility of this area most visited by customers around the country, mainly in Havana, Las Tunas and Camagüey. Access is possible from any Camping Reservation Office in the provinces and municipalities.
There is the possibility of a healthy and enriching enjoyment, in close contact with the reality of Cuba from the inside.
Translated by ESTI