The Enigma of the Rocks


W21Mar2017

On my last day visiting the Zapata Peninsula I went with a wildlife guide to explore a trail known as Sendero Enigma de las Rocas. This part of Cuba has many rocks, forming caves both above and underground, and reaching into the sea. We started the expedition in a horse drawn cart but what began as a comfortable and charming ride became extremely bumpy as we turned off the pavement onto a rutted dirt road to reach the trailhead. For me the enigma quickly became how there could be so many rocks in a single road.

We began the hike with a fascinating cave exploration. Blind fish swam in a small pool illuminated by a beam of sunlight shining through the cave entrance, and huge tarantulas were poised for who knows what on the cave floor. As the bats fluttered to life I studied the leaves littering the cave floor, leftovers from their vegetarian diet, a contrast to the insects eaten by most bats. As we left the cave, an enormous Cuban boa lay resting by the entrance. The guide told me this snake would have a feast at sunset when the bats left the caves.

We followed the trail winding through the forest and by water filled sinkholes known locally as cenotes. We eventually wound down to an extensive swamp with a boardwalk. I paused to photograph some plants and their watery reflections but my guide said I should keep moving because there were crocodiles. I wrongly assumed he just wanted to encourage me to go faster, which by now he had every right to do as I had shot easily a thousand pictures on our expedition. But just as he said this, a crocodile ran out from behind the tree I was photographing and straight toward me. I stepped onto a high rock out of his reach. My guide said this one was fairly small but they are known to grow to almost 13 feet, which would have been unlucky for me to meet regardless of superstition. These endangered Cuban crocodiles are also known for their ability to leap, which luckily I didn’t personally observe. I abbreviated my exploration under the crocodile’s watchful gaze. I had no desire to get a macro shot of his toothy grin, or for my disappearance to be added to the endless mysteries of these rocks.