You know when life just tries to stamp all over you so you have no time for anything. Well that happened to me this month so the last destination I have for Cuba is only being posted today. I did not think it would take me this long to write about these five different parts and the two weeks of travelling around in a dream like state on our Caribbean adventure, but life and work came into equation (don’t they always).
What to say about Viñales Valley? My main reason for wanting to see it was Mural de la Prehistoria. However, upon seeing the valley across our horizon, there was so, so much more to see. Even if you have not planned to visit Viñales Valley, try to squeeze it in your itinerary somehow. It can be done in one day and it is definitely worth it.
Our original plan was to spend 2 days there and go horseback riding but time was of the essence. We could only set aside one day and that only because you can book a day tour from a fancy hotel in Havana situated by Parque Central for about 60-70 CUC for both of us. This made everything so much easier. Our original plan was to spend 2 days there and go horseback riding but time was of the essence. We could only set aside one day and that only because you can book a day tour from a fancy hotel in Havana situated by Parque Central for about 60-70 CUC for both of us. This made everything so much easier.
We left Havana early in the morning and the first stop was Pinar del Rio where we visited the rum “factory”. Honestly, I would hardly call it a factory, it is one room where the berries? (I have no idea what it was anymore) are processed. There are several massive barrels in the back and bottles being prepared for the rum. Apart from that, there is a small gift shop where you can, of course, buy rum.
We bought a bottle of rum produced right there, in the factory. We actually haven’t seen that one sold in any other stores we went to across Cuba. It is very sweet and drinkable, doesn’t burn and makes you lick anything that might be left on your lips when you drink it. Unfortunately, that was the only thing we saw in Pinar del Rio, the schedule was so tight there was no time to actually see the small little streets lined with colourful houses apart from the moving bus.
From the rum factory, the bus took us straight to Mural de la Prehistoria where I had the best Pina Colada ever. And yes, the bartender left the bottle right in front of me so I could make it as strong as I liked.
I don’t actually know if the mural genuinely is from BC, but it does look spectacular and the view from there is amazing. You can see all the hills and the specific mogote. There is no lack of photo opportunities either.
After some photo shoots and a nice relaxing cocktail (or three, four, who counted) we were herded back onto the bus and taken to a tobacco plantation. There we went in to a tobacco drying hut to see a local roll cigars surrounded with many, many tobacco leaves drying. Of course, he gave away a couple of cigars freshly rolled and you could buy some of them packed in a dry palm leaf.
During his rolling presentation, our guide gave us a brief but very informative history and current situation within tobacco growing industry in Cuba. One thing that pissed me off immensely where the other tourists that were on the same tour with us who had no regard whatsoever of other people who wanted to see the rolling process. They were standing right in front of the man and filming him rolling the cigars while the rest of us saw their pink phones and the bright light they used to film as, you know, this was done in a damn mine so you had to have the bloody torch on -.- I put politeness aside and went in front of the sea of cameras for a quick photo before going back so other, more considerate people, could see better. The selfishness of some people still amazes me.
Getting cigar rolling out of the way, we were taken to a restaurant close to one of the caves for lunch. If you’re lucky, you’ll see baby chick running around like we did 😀 The lunch was good but nothing overly special. It was typical Cuban food and really good coffee in the end.
Our last stop, right after the restaurant and right next to it, was one of the caves. Mogotes are honeycombed with cavities and this cave was one of them. Having been to several caves in Croatia and the close by countries, I was not overly impressed with this one. It was, however, nice to cool down after the outside heat. It was not a really deep cave nor was it very long, but it ended right by the river where we got on the boat that took us a bit further in and then took us out through a “crack” in the stone. Thinking on it now, there was something Indiana Jones about it, going down a muddy brown coloured river through a dark cave, heading towards the light coming from high crack in the rock face. There was also that feeling that you might, at any time, fall into the dark water of unknown depth where god knows what might live, and that makes it a tad thrilling.
At the exit of the cave, there was a small market with many souvenirs. There was nothing really specific about these souvenirs and they could be found anywhere else in Cuba, but it was nice just walking around all the colourful things waiting to get going.
Our last stop was a short one. We stopped at a view point from where you could see a panorama of the Viñales Valley. Also, you could buy some more generic souvenirs. There was a band playing for a couple of tourists staying close by. We even saw one of the tourists dancing to the music in his Speedo’s and a Hawaiian style shirt. Was not really a pleasant view, but the valley in front of us made us soon forget the white frog legs jigging in the rhythm of salsa 😀 I joke, it is always nice to see people relaxing and having a good time.
After getting home we got ready for another night walking around Havana. Only the next day did I start to feel the consequences of the combination of air con in the bus and the heat outside. It started slowly with feeling a bit off and then the temperature rising slightly. This did not stop us enjoying our last full day on Cuba; we went to the beach (the storm mentioned in one of the posts earlier), walked around town, drank, smoked and soaked in the world around us. We also got pissed which made me feel even worse the next morning. When in Cuba…