By Erasmo Calzadilla
There always comes a moment in spring when I reach a peak of exasperation that city life induces. It’s then that I cannot withstand yet another day of non-stop TV, with its sports series, nighttime soap operas and political propaganda. I immediately realize that I have to take a trip to the countryside.
Traveling in the back country alone, in addition to being less safe is not so enjoyable. So around the beginning of May, I began inviting friends to go to Viñales.
This valley in the north of Pinar del Rio, Cuba’s western-most province, is characterized by striking landscapes of mountain ranges and sheer limestone outcrops.
To top it off, most of the rural folks have a character that makes it a pleasure to meet them, plus they love visitors. It’s no wonder that Viñales is one of the places most visited by foreign tourists; in 1999 it was even declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
My friends from here loved the panorama I painted of hikes through the mountains up to sheer peaks where nobody ascends, virgin grasslands with crystalline rivers far from all civilization, and the possibility of meeting and making new friends. I portrayed it, in short, as an adventure away from urban contamination.
These friends in turn invited their friends, and suddenly there were so many people lined up for the trip that I began worrying about its prospects. Perhaps my promotion of it had been a bit over-hyped, and now I was paying the consequences.
The thing is that I don’t go to the country just to stretch my legs, but to also escape the commotion so characteristic of human relationships. I go to revel in moments of divine silence, which is difficult to obtain if you’re not accompanied by people of the same passion.
I therefore decided to warn the host of guest travelers about my concern, but this turned out to be unnecessary. Several days before leaving, everyone – without exception – had changed their minds, something that I’ve also got used to.
To travel alone and not be able to share what you experience is almost worse than going with someone you don’t like. So, to the very last minute, I remained undecided and introspective as to whether or not to stay home.
Added to this I got physically upset, which always hits me before leaving for some distant place, as if my body is putting up resistance to my breaking the routine. Nonetheless, I finally stopped deliberating and – still without having arrived at any rational decision – I allowed myself to be dragged along by impulse, and I started heading toward the bus terminal.
It was in route that I lost all sense of unease.