Times are changing in Cuba. This week President Miguel Diaz-Canal announced that he was in favour of same-sex marriages, and only last July the country’s updated Constitution approval set the wheels in motion for a new way forward for ‘the now and the future of the nation’.
One aspect of such developments is that many areas in the country, once off-limits to tourists because of revolutionary activity, are now opening up. Travelling in Cuba has always been to the ever-present backdrop of scenes reminding one of the Revolution, but now, previously restricted insurgency strongholds are becoming more and more accessible, allowing for further opportunities to experience the island’s unique modern history.
Until recently, revolutionaries’ hideouts and trekking areas in remote jungle and mountain regions were strictly off limits. Today one can combine some fabulously dramatic hiking with visits to the Castro-led anti-Batista military hideouts.
One of my favourites, and easily accessible, is the Gran Parque Natural Topes Collantes, a relative stone’s throw from the ever-impressive towns of Trinidad or Cienfuegos. Trekking through lush jungle scenery in the national park, and coming upon the small museum jungle-huts with Castro-esque paraphernalia, one gets a sense of how the revolution was run. They offer an insight into how the guerrillas lived in the jungle, eking out a meagre existence from the local environment.
You can see the traditional jungle uniforms and military insignia, with everyday farming tools laid down as if they had departed only a few hours earlier.
Another trekking area containing fascinating former hideouts is the Comandancia de la Plata stronghold in Granma Province’s Gran Parque Nacional Sierra Maestra. Although only a short 4km trek up from Alto del Naranjo it is an impenetrable region that was never discovered by Batista’s soldiers.
So, when planning a trip into the remoter parts of Cuba’s revolutionary hinterland, remember to take more food and water than usual. With so many former guerrilla jungle hideouts to see, you could be drawn into discovering more and staying longer than you anticipated.