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From Havana to the countryside in search of Seboruco

From Havana to the countryside in search of Seboruco

by WNC

 Seboruco (literally “big rock” in Cuban slang) is a hill 678 meters high, located in the Sierra del Rosario. This land belongs to the biggest mountain range in the west of Cuba: Guaniguanico. Although I have never been to the hill, I have visited the village of Seboruco. The truth is that the peak is difficult to reach, because there are no good paths leading to it, as far as I know. Whether reaching the hill or not, such a hiking experience is worth being told.

Difficulty Medium
DurationTwo days
Distance on Foot 32km
Sightsbridge of Paso Real de San Diego, crossroad of San Diego, La Vigía farm, Los Palacios river, Seboruco village
What to wearComfortable clothes (shorts, t-shirt), walking boots, sunglasses, cap
What to packinsect repellent, raincoat, sunblock, water (2 liters), a snack, energy-giving meal (candy, peanuts, energy bar), tent, photographic camera, torch

What to pack: insect repellent, raincoat, sunblock, water (2 liters), a snack, energy-giving meal (candy, peanuts, energy bar), tent, photographic camera, torch.

Traveling in a camión from Havana to San Diego

The first step to get to Seboruco is easy. The most affordable way (and the favorite way for my hiker friends and me) is to take a camión from the interception of street 100 and the Pinar del Río motorway in Havana. Being there at dawn is the best option to seize the day and trek the more you can (the journey is long). The first destination is the bridge of Paso Real de San Diego, 112 km from the capital. The camión drivers charged us 50 Peso Cubano (2 CUC). This is the same price for a trip to Pinar del Río, which is a little bit further. The camiones leave every forty minutes more or less, but we managed to convince one of them to leave earlier with us only, and then he would pick up other people. The price was reasonable, and we didn’t mind to travel along with a few extra passengers. We were a group of twenty people.

A lucky strike upon our arrival in the countryside

La Vigia Farm

Once in Paso Real de San Diego, we got off the camión and started to walk towards the farm of La Vigía. That was the place recommended by an experienced hiker friend of us, to begin going up into the countryside. We thought to hitchhike if some means of transport came by. Just a few meters from our start, a bus picked us up for 5 Peso Cubano each.

We went right past the town of Paso Quemado (Burnt Pass) and the reservoirs San Diego and La Juventud (The Youth). After 5 km, we got off the bus in the outskirts of another settlement called Crossroad of San Diego. In front of us, there was the Carretera Central (Main Road), which is a road smaller than the motorway, but bigger than the one of San Diego. We began walking by the road towards La Vigía (5 km) and presumed to arrive before noon. Lucky us! Another camión collected us, this time for free. It was an empty lorry for carrying sugar cane.

Overall, it was a real help because the lorry carried us not only to the farm La Vigía but further on. Past travelers told us that they slept in an accommodation for visitors inside the Circulo Social (Social Club) of La Vigía, but we always aimed to spend the night in Seboruco.

We made progress to a place that is a quarry. The landscape here is quite sandy and muddy when it rains. Some puddles in the ground stopped some of our less trained trippers. The track here is narrow, and the vegetation is dominated by the marabú, a thorny plant that is a real plague when it takes up the land of the plantations. The advice here is to avoid the thorns from the branches in both sides of the track and some that fall to the ground, so watch your steps as well.

A mellow path and a hectic search

When we got out of the lorry, and we started to walk by the narrow path, we couldn’t imagine how long would be the journey since then. When finished the marabú zone, we went into a wooded area, full of green and silence. Among the vegetation here the almácigo (mastic tree) and the zarza (bramble) are very common. The trail was sometimes upwards and sometimes downwards. We immediately noticed that we were at the bottom of a mountain.

After walking some kilometers from the quarry, we were at a crossroad. The path was divided into two, and we decided to take the right path. We had an improvised map and some GPS “experts” in the group. The map turned out to be a piece of paper with some pencil strokes marking the deviations in the way. We perceived the presence of people. We crossed a barbed-wire fence and saw a horse foraging. A hundred of meters ahead, the path became a road, partially asphalted and visibly unused by the cars that used to drive here. We were surprised when we saw the ruins of a big construction. We rapidly remembered when somebody told us about a former military camp, now abandoned.

The real facts are these: we were lost all the time and just found the right way because a farmer helped us. However, our time wasn’t utterly wasted. The house of the farmer was at the riverside, with beautiful green waters and birds fluttering around. After a break and a photo shoot with domestic animals (many people from the city had never seen the piglets suckling from their mum), the farmer guided the expedition until arriving a safe place for us to continue alone.

From there on, our way was more fluent and spirited. We found a tombstone with an inscription on the path side. According to the stone, there are buried the bodies of a doctor and his assistant, both combatants in the revolutionary warfare in 1958. Then, we faced a beautiful pool with a big rock in form of a platform, ideal for diving into the deep water. Two gentle women riding a nag in the opposite direction warned us about the danger of swimming there. Anyway, we needed to save time, and they informed us about the proximity of the village of Seboruco, where they came from. The women turned out to be relatives with the inhabitants of the village. One of them even recommended us to go to the house of her son, to ask for help for the cooking etc. According to my experience, I can say that the people from Pinar del Río, especially those who live in the countryside, are very kind and supportive.

The breathtaking Seboruco

A few kilometers away, we finally saw what seemed to be a small village. We crossed a long trunk like a bridge and then we asked in the first shack we saw about our location. The answer: we were finally getting close to Seboruco. Nobody there knew about any Hill of Seboruco, only the hamlet with the name. They told us about an elevation called Escalona, with long history related to the presence of Aborigines and cimarrones centuries ago. We also learned about the headquarters of the guerrilla groups that struggled against the army of Batista in the 1950s. A local boy told us about a European couple that he found in the hills, carrying their mountain bikes on their shoulders. Overall, he said it was a really crazy, for those tourists to get lost whilst doing cyclocross.

Anyway, we were more than 500 meters above sea level, and the cold was evident. Rapidly, we pitched our tents and took a bath in the river, which was really necessary then. Several shallow pools made up the river, located amidst a funnel of crags and hillsides with great vegetation and fluttering birds. This area is rich in timber-yielding trees, like caoba (mahogany), cedro (cedar), roble (oak), pines and others. The most impressive thing we saw from the river was our national bird, the tocororo perched in a branch. Some tried to take a photo, but it was very hard. One of us mentioned seeing a jutía (an edible rodent), but we didn’t believe him. Nevertheless, it could be perfectly possible at this site, as well as seeing reptiles and little snakes. It is more difficult to see the Aparecido de San Diego (Wraith of San Diego), a little colored bird, or the majá de Santa María (Cuba’s biggest snake).

Deeper into the small village, we found another tributary of the river, with malor and minor cascades, nice to do hydrotherapy. Needless to say, I took another bath here. At night, we managed to make a bonfire. The local peasants lent us an ax to cut the logs for the fire, and a big pot to cook the dinner. After eating, we sat in the grass to play some group games and look at the night sky. In this zone, far from the city lights, the constellations and satellites can be seen quite clearly. We even saw a shooting star!

The long return trek

As early as 7 o’clock, we began our return trip. As our map was useless, we thought of making a new one for future voyages, this time showing every crossroad and detour. The journey was about 15 km, now walking the entire marabú zone, as we found no lorries to help us. After finishing the high vegetation area, we marveled at the beauty of the pine forests and the caña brava (Cuban kind of bamboo). In the farm La Vigía we replenished our water supplies to finally arrive the Carretera Central.

At the bus stop, we had nothing to do. The people warned us that if we stayed there, the small bus would never stop, afraid of twenty desperate people, plus rucksacks and tents. We decided to continue on foot looking for the motorway, hoping for some means of transport to carry us to Havana. In the midway, we find a salespoint in an old man’s garden. He was offering cheap banana, sour orange (we use it a lot to marinade meats) and other fruits. A couple hundred of meters ahead, an empty air-conditioned bus picked us up for only 30 Peso Cubano, straight to Havana. We arrived before 5 pm.

For those who love hiking, this is an unbelievable experience. Near Havana, Las Terrazas and Soroa, it is worth going to pop out to Seboruco for a day and a half. The astounding landscape full of native flora, the rivers and the inherent warmth and hospitality of the inhabitants, makes a journey to Pinar del Río a real adventure.

About the author

My name is Marlon, I’m an engineer living in Havana with a particular attraction for sports and outdoor activities. Before being dazzled by the capital city I lived half of my life in Remedios, in the province of Villa Clara but, wait… I thought I was born in the neighbouring town of Zulueta. Well, both are truth, cause I spend first years of my childhood coming and going from one place to another. In fact, that gave me a special fondness for traditions, like the Parrandas of Remedios and Zulueta and of course: football, the favourite sport of Cubans. Or it was baseball? Anyway, what matters is that we zulueteños have a close relation with the beginnings of football in Cuba.

I am enthusiastic about hiking in the beautiful landscapes of our green caiman. I have backpacked to some of the greatest places in Cuba’s geography, including the amazing Turquino Peak. To me, travelling is a like, mainly if I do it along with my friends. I’m also keen on the urban, fashionable ambience of Havana.

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