“Parece lluvia” the driver says. “Might just” our guide says back to him. A wall of grey blends with the horizon ahead. All around us the city of Havana fell away suddenly into open fields and the rise of mountains just beyond that. Steep mountains, island mountains – ones that rise suddenly and from nowhere. The kind of mountain that gathers every drop of ocean moisture and packs it into a hillside lush and green.
Sure enough at our first stop there is juuuuust enough rain to keep the camera away. The paths are slick, steep, and not well maintained as we wander through nature preserves on our way deeper into the jungle. At our next stop the driver drops us off and disappears. We wander down a dirt road a ways and our guide points out old stone foundations in the jungle floor. Sometime in the 18th century these mountainsides were well cultivated with the crop. The floors of the jungle were cleared out in spots for beans to be dried.
Today, though, nothing would be drying. As we stood among the huge jungle leaves of rogue coffee plants the raindrops became heavy, more frequent, and it wasn’t long before we were dashing to find shelter in a half-collapsed structure. The thatch roof didn’t so much stop the rain as delay it for a little longer. It poured the kind of jungle rain that you only see in movies. In every direction was just a wall of green. Hundreds of years ago this was an active plantation. Today the jungle had taken back over with the help of the government sponsored wildlife preservations.
It is all rather beautiful, serene even. Compared to the streets of garbage and plumes of exhaust that wraps the downtown area of Havana it is easy to forget that this is Cuba. But the moment passes when eventually we have to make a choice – not of whether or not we dash into the rain, but what direction and how fast. Lunch is waiting for us up the hill, our tour of the Cuban countryside needs to continue. We dash off over the slick jungle floor, up ancient staircases, and to a small hut with an expansive covered patio with white tablecloths. We’re drenched, the water flows off the ends of the roof, and in 20 minutes the sun would be back out shining down on everything.
Such it is.