El Otro Varadero …. The Other Varadero – Varahicacos Ecological Reserve
We had traveled into the town of Varadero and done the tourist shopping thing already so today the plan was to visit the Varahicacos Ecological Reserve on Varadero Peninsula. In stark contrast to the manicured lawns of the surrounding resort complexes, this bit of preserved natural habitat in the middle of the Varadero Peninsula offered us a look at “El Otro Varadero … the Other Varadero”.
We had a number of choices as to how to get to the Varahicacos Ecological Reserve (location). We were staying at Barcelo Cayo Libertad so we had about a 4.5 km walk to get there by foot.
We could take one of the many vintage taxis that were always around the entrance to the resort complex or we could hop a ride on the Varadero Beach Tour bus for which there was a stop right near to the entrance to the preserve, or we could walk. Since I had a few things that I thought that I might like to photograph along the way, and it was a nice day, and we were in no hurry, we decided to walk the distance. These construction workers only glanced at us briefly as we walked by their work site.
There is a sidewalk along both sides of Autopista Sur but for a straighter route we headed across a grassed hill stopping along the way to photograph some interesting seed pods and a couple of large cactus plants, a few birds and each other.
A flock of mourning doves wouldn’t let me get close enough for a decent photo but this Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) was more accommodating. I thought that it might be a different species or subspecies because of the extra rufous coloration of its covert features but when I checked a bird guide later I found that this extra coloration is normal for southern birds.
As we were doing our photographing, a group of tourists on horseback came galloping ( a slow gallop) across the flatter part of the hillside and provided an interesting diversion. The first group were far more comfortable aboard their steeds and definitely were not galloping :-).
After a short rest, we continued on our walk and it wasn’t too long before we arrived at the entrance to the Preserve. We were charged $5CUC each for access to the Preserve by the individual who was also selling the beer and soft drinks at the kiosk and providing the map for the Preserve’s trails. There were no prices posted so I have no idea if this was the normal rate or inflated to match the size of my camera. I had encountered a bit of price inflation the day before in Varadero but this fellow was friendly and appeared honest and I had no way of knowing anything different :-). For those who wanted to sit for a while and enjoy the clean air, there were a few picnic tables in the shade of the red-barked Gumbo-Limbo trees (Bursera simaruba) (alternate names: Almacigo and Copperwood). I had first seen this tree while cycling in Florida in 2011 at the Gumbo-Limbo Trail in Everglades National Park but couldn’t remember its name. The fellow in the kiosk told me the Spanish name first and that didn’t help me at all but we eventually got around to a name that I recognized.
The trail through the Preserve is about 1 km long and well marked with signs. The self-guided tour sheet indicates what is at each of the numbered locations. The English translations do provide a few smiles from time to time and I’m assuming that the French and German translations were also suspect from time to time. Nonetheless, the information that was provided was quite helpful and the map was good enough that it would be tough to get lost unless purposefully leaving the trail.
The trail is not designed for wheelchair access and high heels would not be recommended. The surface of the trail is quite rough and full of holes.
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