Santiago to Santo Domingo along the coast then inland
Replies: 27 - Last Post: Jul 6, 2013 12:07 AM Last Post By: pgsPEACE
Jul 2, 2013 12:28 AM
Santiago to Santo Domingo along the coast then inlandI am planning 4 weeks of solo independent travel in Cuba at the end of the year. On January 2nd, I hope to transfer from Santiago de Cuba along the coast then inland to Santo Domingo in Granma, as follows. Inland from Marea del Portillo is not a route covered by guidebooks or in a forum that I've found so far.
If anyone can help as to whether this is feasible (and the approx timings realistic), particularly in view of the state of the coast road, I would appreciate it; also how to find a driver/car or taxi willing to do this, and the likely cost. I prefer not to rent a car and drive myself. Thanks for any advice.
http://12.30pm From Santiago west along the coast c. 50 kilometres to Playa Bueycabón for some beach exploration.
http://4.30pm From Chivírico along the coast 80 kilometres to Marea del Portillo in Granma,
6pm continuing northeast inland 50 kilometres to Bartolomé Masó, plus a final 25 kilometres to finish in Santo Domingo at about 7.30pm (in the dark).
A Santiago-based driver would presumably then return by him/herself, possibly via Bayamo. Or it could be a Bayamo-based one.
Jul 2, 2013 12:50 AM
Jul 2, 2013 12:55 AM
Jul 2, 2013 4:57 PM
Jul 2, 2013 5:46 PM
4From the Marea del Portillo/Pilon region in April, we had "jeep taxi" quote us that it would be a 4 hour ride but they did not provide a price. That's with a jeep by the way.
From the Santiago region in june, I only got one quote of 90 CUC from a CubaTaxi driver but he could not guess at the time it would take. You'll have to search around for a willing driver I am presuming.
By Santo Domingo, you are referring to ...Villa Islazul Santo Domingo, near Bartolome Maso, Cuba? The only Santo Domingo town that I can find in Cuba is near Santa Clara!
Jul 2, 2013 6:02 PM
Jul 2, 2013 6:39 PM
Jul 3, 2013 12:26 AM
7Thanks for the comments. I confirm what johnabbotsford says: I will be staying that eve at Villa Santo Domingo in the tiny Santo Domingo hamlet, setting up the trek the next morning to La Comandancia de la Plata Castro’s former HQ.
Most travellers approach this south from Bayamo, and I’m beginning to see why, having viewed the 3-part online video rec by CW thanks for the March report BTW of the coast road, the state of which I was kinda aware!
But it’s the drive from Marea del Portillo NE up into the Sierra Maestra that has received scant reporting - I have 5 Cuba guide books in front of me, and none say anything about this route.
So CW’s March report is invaluable, partic that it’s so steep it needs 4 x4, preferably 8x8 wheels! And that the scenery is superb. Sounds fun & worth the effort to organise for the adventurous with time.
Jul 3, 2013 12:47 AM
Jul 3, 2013 10:47 AM
9The problem with the coastal highway leading from Santiago to Chivirico, Las Cuevas (the trailhead that lead over the Sierra Maestra to the village of Santo Domingo), and on to Marea del Portillo is that it is in terrible shape and intermittently impassable due to landslides or chunks of pavement being eaten by heavy wave action. I have cycled it once and driven it several times and can say with absolute certainty that you can't know what the conditions will be until you get there and discuss it with someone who has traveled that route within the past few days.
This is why most people choose to do the hike to the Comandancia de la Plata or Pico Turquino from the Santo Domingo end of the trail--Santo Domingo being reached by a good (but steep) highway from Bayamo. There is no regular bus service to Santo Domingo either, but taxis are easy enough to find for the two-hr trip from Bayamo.
As for getting up into the Sierra Maestra from Marea del Portillo, that's a totally random thing which would require engaging a 4x4 taxi, probably from Hotel Marea del Portillo, which is about 10 km outside the town of Pilon. You may also be able to rent a car at the hotel--not sure about that; check their website. There are two casas in the town of Pilon that are licensed to host foreigners, and they could very likely arrange a car-driver to take you exploring in the Sierra Maestra.
But if you look carefully at the maps you have, you will see that there are no roads heading NE up into the Sierra Maestra--which may explain why none of your guide books have any ino on the region. You will not find anything resembling a direct route from Pilon/Marea del Portillo to Santo Domingo. And equally unlikely to find anyone who knows that area well enough to drive you through it. At best, a few of the hotel's regular drivers will know some routes that they use for day trips for hotel guests who want to spend a day roughing it on dirt roads, stopping for a swim, and dining at some small farm or another.
Apart from the already-discussed terrible road leading east from Pilon along the coast, and the much better road leading NW to the coast between Niquero and Media Luna, other roads in that region, even the unpaved ones (and almost all are unpaved) peter out within a few km of Pilon.
Jul 3, 2013 10:59 AM
10PS: If you are looking to hike a rarely-used route, you might consider getting yourself by irregular truck transport from Niquero to the campismo at PLAYA LAS COLORADAS. Someone around there can probably help you arrange for a guide to take you on the trail follwed by those on the Granma, from Las Coloradas, via Alegria de Pio to Pilon. The mountains are not as high here as around Pico Turquino, but the terrain is VERY rough. Like the area you propose to visit NW of Pilon, there are few settlements and zero services. However, this is a known route, as a group of Cuban school children annually are brought by boat on the route the Granma took from Mexico to Las Coloradas, and from there hike into the mountains on a path ttaken by the rebels (until most of them were killed at Alegria del Pio.) This I think takes place on Dec 2, so presumably there are locals who act as guides to the kids and could do so for you as well, if it was something you wanted to undertake. The place to go for info would be the office of Campismo Las Coloradas (which is on a nice beach and a good place to stay.)
Jul 3, 2013 3:35 PM
11Thanks ttjpdo for the muchos tips and advice, partic the rental car possibilities around Marea del Portillo (MdP), and for the multitude of info about the hike from Las Coloradas.
The Granma maps in three of the guidebooks do indeed show the road going NE from MdP, including the latest Moon Handbook on page 414, and the Lonely Planet (mine is not the latest edition) that very clearly shows the road going NE in white. They also show this road bisecting the Sierra Maestra. (The latest Rough Guide doesn’t have a map of Granma.). But none talks about it in the text.
The road, however, does not go direct to Santo Domingo. If you look at my original post, it says it goes “northeast inland 50 kilometres to Bartolomé Masó”. From there, a road switches SSE to Santo Domingo, which is the road people take when coming from Bayamo.
Surely CubanWaters describes this NE road in his April 29th post, www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/thread.jspa?threadID=2316530&start=15, when he wrote “we left Marea del Portillo and jeeped it back through the mountains (big thumbs up!) towards Bayamo”. MdP - Bartolomé Masó - Bayamo is in a general NE line. In a later post (May 23), CW says “This was probably the highlight of the trip.”
Concerning maps, the Rough Guide (p. 76) claims that even on the best Cuban road atlas - the Guía de Carreteras - “some minor roads are not marked on this or any other map”. However, if you search online for “Cuba Guía de Carreteras”, sections 37 & 38 of the atlas clearly shows the road from MdP NE to Bartolomé Masó. Is this all make-believe?!
To broaden this out, there’s an intriguing ‘road’ from the coast into the eastern end of the Sierra, which I considered originally. It begins just west of Chivírico, & goes N to inconspicuous La Alcarraza then NNW towards Guisa (from whence to Bayamo). But some source (can’t remember where) implied this really is impossible, except for horses & goats!
Jul 3, 2013 4:59 PM
12Sorry, Pgs, you're right and I'm wrong about there being a road heading NE from Marea del Portillo to Bartolome Maso. I did bike up that way for about 3 km some many years ago and had forgot (or maybe never registered it as a road at all.) And you're also right in saying that that road--or at least a green line--shows on the map. Now you have got me so curious that I think I will have to travel it next time I'm in Cuba--that is, assuming I can rent a jeep that doesn't cost a small fortune. I don't know how you will approach this problem (and would LOVE to hear from you if you do it). If I ever attempt it, I would be inclined to rent a vehicle in Bayamo, drive from there to Santo Domingo (2 hrs) for a morning hike to the Comandancia, then jeep back to Bartolome Maso and from there over the mountains to Marea del Portillo. Of course the jeep will have to be returned to the starting point, but from Marea del Portillo you could take the good road from Pilon to Manzanillo and back to Bayamo--a drive of about 5 hrs.
The advantage of starting in Bayamo (or Santiago if there are no 4x4s available in Bayamo) is that you'd have a better chance of finding a 4x4 to rent there. The disadvantage would be that the worst part of the road would be as you were on the down slope of the sierra, nearing Marea del Portillo, and it might be so bad as to force you to turn back. Whereas if you started in Marea del Portillo (which isn't a town, by the way--it's merely a resort hotel) or in Pilon, the worst part of the route would be at the beginning, so you if you had to turn back, it wouldn't be so far back to a passable road. The down side to starting at the coast would be your limited options in terms of finding a vehicle in the first place.
I don't know the road that goes North from Chivirico to La Alcarraza at all, but given that the main coastal road is often fit only for horses and goats, your your unnamed source is probably correct in describing this one that way, too.
Jul 3, 2013 8:28 PM
13I should clarify my reply #4, I meant to say; From the Marea del Portillo/Pilon region........it would be a 4 hour ride (to Santiago city)
From the Santiago region in June, I only got one quote of 90 CUC from a CubaTaxi driver........... (to Pilon)
#7 - I believe that it was my April trip report written in May, not the month of March. Those videos are not mine btw. Here is the link again though...... http://www.youtube.com/user/Renaat70?feature=watch
The trip we did by jeep from MdP resort near Pilon to Bayamo ended up costing around 77CUC which I found quite ideal indeed, considering that we were on the road for about 3 hours. I wish to heck that I gathered information on road names and towns that we past through but unfortunately I did not. The first town of any real size that we came upon was Bartolome Maso, I believe. If that was the town with the big sugar cane factory.
I had been meaning to do some more outdoorsy things instead of the usual resto/bar routine that I usually end up doing (even all of last trip to Santiago in June) and this jeep trip in April through the Sierra Maestra really fit the bill. I loved it.
If you go on google maps and in the top right corner click the satellite map icon, you can see some unmarked mountain roads from the Marea del Portillo area (east of Pilon) when searching that particular spot. Jeep taxis in that area can be found at the resort hotel or I believe there is a CubaTaxi office in Pilon.
Jul 3, 2013 8:42 PM
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