Day 16: Fat Mary–Diving Not Singing

Wed. 29th August 2012

Olly and Fat MaryIt was an early start for our transfer to Maria La Gorda (MLG) – our choice was leaving at 7am, or not at all. Cuba is a bit like that.  Fortunately, Maria seemed happy enough to make us breakfast for 6:30, so we were able to eat breakfast at our little table outside our front door as dawn broke over Viñales. The other bit of good news was that the sky was looking a lot clearer – perhaps we are now clear of the tail of Hurricane Isaac.

Contact details for Casa MariaAfter saying goodbye and thank you to Maria – she and her casa  were both excellent and are thoroughly recommended if you ever come to Viñales (see photo for contact details) – we joined a half a dozen other backpackers waiting by the Havanatur offices. We were a little disheartened to hear that not only were they going somewhere else, but that they had been explicitly told that it wasn’t worth going to MLG as Isaac had churned up the waters and reduced visibility to almost nothing. Hey ho, we are booked and hence committed and so nothing to do but to make the best of it.

It turned out that we were the only people going to MLG that day from either Viñales or Pinar Del Rio – what do they know that we don’t? We had a taxi to ourselves for the c. 200km drive that took nearly 4hrs.  This included stops that the taxi driver made whenever he felt the need for a cigarette or a bite to eat (it was just like going on a drive with Platty!)

We must have passed the sign that said ‘middle of nowhere’ because Maria La Gorda is right at the western end of Cuba (see map below). Whilst it is famous for diving, it surely isn’t famous for anything else!

The trail to our cabañaHaving got to MLG, the next priority was on how to get out again in a couple of days time. Our taxi driver was full of gloom as to how there weren’t any taxis in MLG and he generously offered to drive us to Havana on Friday for 165CUCs (about £110). We were somewhat heartened to see a sign in reception advertising transfers to Havana, but when we asked we were told that Friday was a busy day and there may not be any space. Not all of the locals look very friendly!Later, after confirming with the minibus driver we were given the green light and so that is another portion of our trip sorted. There is definitely a lesson around tackling your problems one at a time and just having a little patience. (Those of you who know me, know that my patience is legendary!!!)

It would be rude not have a dive in MLG, so the next priority was to check in at the Dive Shop and see what was what. As it has been about 18 months since my last dive, I thought it best to sign up for a refresh / check dive this afternoon before going out on the boat tomorrow morning.

It's Jacques Cousteau!The Dive Shop seemed to know what they were doing and whilst the kit was well used it all seemed in pretty good condition. My check dive started out from the beach – even here in a couple of metres of water, there were plenty of fish gathered under the jetty. A quick check that I could remember some of the key hand signs and could equalise my ears and set neutral buoyancy and we swam further out. Once we were away from the beach, visibility improved dramatically (20m or so). Because it was relatively shallow (8m max), the plants and corals had some great colours – from bright yellow tubular sponges to translucent fans. There was also a great variety of fish – sorry not to be able to name names – in all shapes, sizes and colours. No Stingrays or turtles, but hopefully tomorrow when I go out on the boat.

This entry was posted in Cuba, RTW Trip and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *