The Pico Turquino, the highest point of Cuba’s geography
By Daniel Benitez (Cafe Fuerte)
HAVANA TIMES — A new tour package being offered by Cuba’s tourism agency Cubamar will allow Cubans to hike up the island’s Turquino mountain as of this coming September, but the excursion will likely prove as out of reach as the high peak: 1,376 Cuban pesos (CUP) for four people.
Reservations began to be sold this week. The package is designed for groups of four people, who will be guaranteed bus transportation from Havana to Granma as well as meals and lodging at the La Sierrita campsite, located at the foot of the mountain. The four-person limit per group is determined on the basis of the capacity of the cabins where the tour-goers are lodged.
The cost of the package, equivalent to 55 Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC) at the current, official exchange rate, represents well over two months of an average wage on the island, making any hike up the highest peak in Cuba something of a privilege. The average salary of Cubans is 584 regular pesos, around US $ 24 a month.
To withstand the 23-kilometer hike, tour-goers can purchase a series of snacks, supposedly designed to afford the energy needed to reach the 1,974-meter-high peak.
Cubamar director Irasema Arredondo told the press that those who make reservations will leave the Cuban capital at six in the morning on a Thursday and return from Granma the following Monday.
The hikes to the peak are organized on Saturdays and Sundays for groups of 20 people. The excursion will initially be held once a month, for a maximum total of 40 people.
Reservations can be made by people over 18 and under 55 with no medical or chronic conditions.
To avoid any potential complaints, the director of School Bus Transportation, Yasmany Hidalgo, has already announced that the buses to and from Granma will not be equipped with air conditioning or declinable seats. In addition, passengers will not be permitted to carry luggage heavier than 20 kilograms or transport meat, coffee or pets.
Cubamar, the agency that has been offering this hiking package since June 8, is the exclusive manager of rooms and other tourist products comprising the Empresa Campismo Popular (“Popular Camping Company”).
According to official figures, the country’s campsites took in the equivalent of slightly over US $4.4 million over the past year. The revenue figure represents a slight drop with respect to 2013, at a time when all other national and international tourism sectors are reporting increasing profits.
Significantly, Cubans residing on the island spent more than 147 million CUC (around 160 million USD) at tourist facilities during 2014, chiefly at hotels, restaurants and for transportation.