Loma El Taburete (Hill of the Stool) is a hill 460 meters above sea level. It is located on the mountain range Sierra del Rosario, more precisely in the municipality of Candelaria, within the province of Artemisa, Cuba. This location is very close to the community of Las Terrazas, a very famous one amongst the Cuban touristic villages. The campground with the same name (Campismo “El Taburete”) is also accessible from the village or by climbing/rounding the hill.
If you have never seen the beautiful landscapes of the Sierra or Las Terrazas, it is a good opportunity to catch a glimpse of both. For hard-core hikers, this is a must to visit the place, in spite of the lower difficulty. Many determined, bicycle addict habaneros like to visit the hill on specific historical dates, sometimes in a two-wheeled convoy.
How to get to El Taburete from Havana
Getting to El Taburete is easy. A common way for foreigners is to hire a taxi to Las Terrazas (65 CUC) and book a guided tour. You can also travel by the Viazul bus that goes to Viñales twice a day, and get off at the stop of Las Terrazas, which will cost 6 CUC. I advise, however, to take a camión from the interception of Street 100 and Autopista de Pinar del Río (Pinar del Río Motorway). Those who want to travel on the cheap and get used to the local life, will enjoy this option.
As it was explained in the guide to traveling to Viñales and my article of Seboruco, the camión rate to Pinar del Río (last destination) is 50 Peso Cubano or 2 CUC. Nevertheless, the desired point to begin the trek is the crossroad of Las Terrazas, 60 km from Havana. It means that the price can be as little as 30 Peso Cubano (1.20 CUC). Is better to travel with a Cuban friend that would collect the money from everyone, because the drivers like to charge the foreigners a greater rate. Maybe they will just charge you the full rate (2 CUC). In that case, the fare is still cheap.
A day trip or camping at night?
If you reach the crossroad of Las Terrazas early (before noon), it is a good option to climb El Taburete in one day. Being there late would mean that you will need to be prepared to camp in the countryside, and then climb the hill the other day. Any variant you choose, the on foot-distance is the same. The thing is that to arrive in Las Terrazas from the crossroad through the woodland, you will have to pass Loma El Taburete.
Duration: One day.
On foot-distance: 7 km.
Sights: Loma El Taburete, Campismo El Taburete, San Juan river, Las Terrazas.
Wear: Comfortable clothes (shorts or trousers, t-shirt), walking boots, sunglasses, cap.
Pack: insect repellent, raincoat, sun cream, water (2 litres), a snack, energy-giving meal (candy, peanuts, energy bar), photographic camera.
Fruit trees, animals and a friendly farmer
Once on the crossroad of Las Terrazas, you should walk 2 km by the road until you reach the entrance to a farm on the left. A piece of advice from an experienced trekker: always move along the left kerb of the road, so that you make sure you can see any vehicle coming – remember that Cuban cars drive by the right side of the road.
In the farm you will find a humble house and its owner. He cultivates some plants and breeds animals like hens, turkeys and pigs. Some curious but intense show is a turkey fight. They really peck each other hard. I confess that I recorded the fight once, but I felt sorry for those poor turkeys. If the farmer realizes it is getting dangerous, he will end the fight. He doesn’t want one of his animals dead.
In the plantations you can find a clump of mango trees, mamey, coconuts, oranges and the sour, big French lemon. The national tree (royal palm) is present here too. In front of the farmer’s house, there is a flat spot where you can pitch a tent. Pack insect repellent: the small mosquitos are a real nuisance at night. Also carry a coat, it gets cold in the small hours.
“El Contento” and the path to the hill’s top
About fifteen minutes away from the house, there is a place where rise the ruins of former coffee plantations. The path to get there has a funny name: “El Contento” (The Happy One). It is a way that blends in with the green vegetation, the bird’s singing and the crickets. Halfway there you find a stream just after the path that goes up and climbs a moderate slope. On the left hillside, you can see the old walls of the plantations, all made of stones from this very place. Amidst the bushes and trees, some amusing little palms can be easily noticed.
If you want, you can skip all these attractions and jump directly to the climb. The path to the hill is near the house. The trek to the top and then to the campismo is 5 km overall. Midways the way forks into the campismo on the right, and to the hill on the left. The best choice is to travel with somebody who knows the zone, in order to avoid getting lost. A final path like a spiral staircase will guide you to the cumber.
What to expect on the top?
The top of El Taburete is quite wide. The flat place stands out for the amazing sculpture that rises there since 2007. The monument pays tribute to Che Guevara, the guerrilla leader in the Cuban warfare in the 1950. It was sculpted in honor of the 40th anniversary of his death. In this very place, Che and his comrades prepared for the liberation struggles in Bolivia. 38 rocks surround the place, each one symbolizing a combatant. Olive trees are planted along the path to the cumber. They grow on the soil from Cuba, Rosario (the region in Argentina where Che was born) and La Higuera (the place where he died in Bolivia). It is a place of undoubted historic value.
The landscape from above is amazing. You will see the main narrowness of the country. Here, you can glimpse both coasts of the island, the north-facing ending in the zone of Mariel, and the south-facing ending in Majana. Is incredible how you can make out the two opposite Caribbean shores! If you watch better, you will distinguish some of the buildings and recent facilities under construction in the Seaport of Mariel. It is not my fault if some slow-moving, infuriating cloud places itself between you and the scenery.
Campismo “El Taburete” at a glance
The north side of the plain in the cumber faces the path down the hill. From here, it is not such a gentle stroll as the one upwards. There are stony zones and slippery surfaces, but it is not a big deal. The way could be a little difficult for the inexperienced, though. The last kilometer is a comfortable, peaceful part. Different birds sing around you. The arriero (Great Lizard Cuckoo) and the sinsonte (Mockingbird) are usually alight in the lower branches of the trees, as if greeting the visitor.
When every sign of dense vegetation disappears, you will notice that you’re entering the campismo area. This kind of camping is intended for nationals, not for foreigners. Nevertheless, Cuba would not be Cuba without breaking almost every rule. The place offers concrete-made cottages to book, rather than letting the users pitch any tent there. In the proximities, there is a middle category restaurant, some parks and offices. What you will enjoy for sure is the river San Juan. After the journey over the hill, a narrow track to the right will lead you to the waters. The river is contained by walls, simulating a swimming pool.
If you follow the same path that leads to the river, further on, you could make your own way to Las Terrazas, approximately 1 km away. There, you may accommodate in a comfortable casa particular or the Hotel Moka. Visiting the house of Polo is a must. I always take some time to remember the life of this beloved, talented musician.
Me and my group of friends, enthusiastic about excursions and outdoor activities, had a stupendous time in Loma El Taburete. Undertaking it is definitely worth a try. The effort of ascending, the historical monument, the view from the top, the shallow river and the natural paradise in Las Terrazas are a whole package. Did it convince you?