The Sierra Maestra was the base of Fidel Castro's rebel army, and a tour through its dramatic terrain makes it clear why the revolutionaries chose it as a place to hide from—and launch clandestine strikes against—Batista's forces. Its massive spine, averaging 1,372 meters (4,500 feet) in height, cuts 130 km (81 miles) across El Oriente, throwing a shadow over the southern coast from southwest Granma Province to
Santiago de Cuba. The range is covered by moist, tropical forests with huge ferns and towering bamboo. It's cut by steep ravines, rocky valleys, and rushing rivers, and its peaks are often covered with clouds.