The way to get around the valley was to go by horseback. Which was going to be interesting as I haven’t been on a horse since I was about 12 and Tim never had been. Needless to say we were both a little nervous. Our guide William came and met us at our hostel. A big shy man he walked us through town to his little homestead and there we met our horses. Mine was a grey called Poddy and Tim’s was called Carmelo which is funny because it’s my Dad’s name. The horses were so well behaved and we managed to get on without falling off and soon found ourselves on our way to a tobacco finca (farm). The amigo who met us to take us through the farm was one of the brothers who owned the farm and you could tell straight away he was a character. He took us through the process which we have seen a few times but still interesting. We then sat down and smoked a few of their cigars and drank mojitos while he went through the process of rolling one.
We were soon back on our horses and heading off to another finca that grew coffee, sugar and fruit. We again sat down and had a cocktail made with cane juice, pineapple and orange juice, lemon and of course rum! We also sampled a liquor that they made in the region out of guava. I wasn’t a big fan but still didn’t taste too bad.
Once more on our trusty steeds we headed off to a cave. The area around Vinales has amazing hilly limestone formations called mogotes. All irregular shapes they are really quite beautiful to see. They were created by erosion which also create amazing cave systems. By this stage there were tourists on horses everywhere and we were not too keen on walking through the caves with about 20 others. So our guide William who by this stage had taken a liking to Piata guided us through a section of the caves by ourselves. Luckily Tim bought the phone so we had a light. The cave was really narrow at parts but nice and cool. We came out a different entrance and walked through a finca that had yucca and malanga. Definitely two plants we will have in our garden.
The next stop was a restaurant that served mediocre overpriced food but the beer was cold and the view was lovely over the valley looking at all the limestone formations. Just across the road we then went for a dip in a watering hole. Nothing special but it was nice to cool off.
We then headed home and William got the horses into a canter which was scary but so fun and exhilarating. We had gotten up to a trot on several occasions previously but that was not as fun as cantering. Back home a little stiff and sore from our ride we sat back and enjoyed the sound of rain on the roof while drinking a few beers.
Almilka came out and joined us in the rocking chairs and we got to talking about Cuba. I was catching some of it but Tim and Piata were getting more. She was actually an accountant (or the literal translation from the Spanish word for that job is counter) who worked for a hotel. But she left to run the casa so she could earn more money. Same with her husband Ariel who was a teacher but now a guide. She also talked farming and how Cuba couldn’t manufacture their own sugar. Previously they got it to a certain stage and then sold and sent it to America for the final manufacturing process. When the trade embargo was enacted they lost one of their main sources of income. But then The USSR stepped in and all was okay. When the USSR disbanded that no longer happened. So Cuba no longer exported sugar. But what I didn’t understand was that she said that the sugar we were using in the morning was from Cuba and that was definitely processed. So maybe something was lost in translation. She also said all sugar was still cut by hand here. Crazy!
By the time we made it out for dinner we were all pretty knackered but determined to listen to some music so headed to a live music venue and were again blown away by the quality of musicians. The males voices are just so distinctive. You can’t learn that. Also the way that everyone in the band sings at certain points makes for some amazing tunes. We had heard of a salsa club just across the road so headed there and were met by a floor full of couples dancing away. There were varying standards but that was all part of the charm. The couples who could really dance were mesmerizing. It was great watching them in their really casual dress like denim shorts and a tank top and trainers twirl around the floor. We called it a day pretty early on for Cuban standards but vowed to come back tomorrow night for some more. S
Me and Poddy.
Just like in the movies.
Tim and our guide for the Tobacco Finca enjoying a cigar.
View from the farm. They also grow corn and alternated the crops.
What a cowboy.
The machine the farm used to extract the sugar juice for their cocktails.
As you can see the area is a hotspot for tourists.
The boys. They were well cared for by William.
Going a lift up.
The views from the restaurant.
Head ba into town. Notice the sign.Movmento 26 de Julio was name of Fidels revolutionary group trying to overthrow Batiste before the 1959 revolution.