Vinales is the famous countryside on the western side of Cuba, known for it’s tobacco plantations, scenery and now thriving tourist scene. It was the place we were all looking forward to most in Cuba and it didn’t disappoint.
THE JOURNEY TO VINALES
To get to Vinales from Havanna, we took a shared taxi or collectivo as it’s known. It’s about a 3 hour drive from Havana. The colletivo was a 1957 ford wagon, an epic mode of transport fit for Cuba, where else can you get that kind of ride.
After about one hour in the car, the novelty had worn off and you start becoming aware of other things, like the fumes your breathing in, the lack of air con, the lack of seat belts if you crash and the fact that you can feel every bump in the road. And it was those bumps in the road that started to make me feel really sick. Stuffing myself for breakfast didn’t help but i feel it was the ham in the chicken cordon bleu the night before that was causing havoc.
When we arrived in Vinales the inevitable happened and I ended up throwing up twice. I couldn’t really do anything so Aimee and Shaun went out, booked bus tickets for in three days time and explored. They managed to find a strange park full of dolls.
VALLE DE SILENCIO BY HORSEBACK
This is without doubt the most popular thing to do in Vinales and although we didn’t enjoy the last time we rode horses in New Zealand though we’d give it a second try.
We spent fours exploring the valley by horseback, which inldued a visit to a tobacco plantation and a coffee plantation. Both plantations seemed only for tourists but that didn’t stop us enjoying an organic Cuban cigar each at the tobacco plantation. We enhanced our cigars by having the end dipped in local honey. The worker said Che Guevara used to do this as the doctor said it would help with his asthma, surely not smoking cigars would have been better, but who am I to argue the doctors. We dipped them in honey lit up and followed the doctors advice.
We passed though some great scenery but we spent a lot of time controlling the horses rather than taking in the views, even so smoking a cigar on a horse with a sombrero on going through through tobacco plantations made it worthwhile.
Aimee had researched a sunset walking tour she wanted to do but i was sceptical as it was in the same place we had been to in the valley. As Shaun wanted to do it also I agreed to go. This was also when I realised that if you mention a tour to Shaun, no matter what tour it is, the price, or any other details, he wants to do it.
Anyways, the sunset tour ended up being much better than the horseback tour, in fact it was phenomenal, mainly down to the guide and the information he shared with us. We learnt not just abut Cuba but about the lands aswell and saw so many fruit trees and more tobacco plantations. Although we were in the same area but on different trails, it felt much different, quieter and more tranquil. The sunset was incredible.
THE TOUR BUS
The only other thing we did in Vinales was take the tourist bus around town for 5 CUC pr person. We went to the murcial and to the caves although we didn’t actually go in the caves and it was total carnage at the ticket buying desk where we saw some fellow Brits very frustrated.
The main success of the day was the invention of the water bottle throwing game by Shaun and I, it’s surprising how much fun you can have launching a water bottle 20 meters and trying to catch it in one hand. We evolved the game over the day to include catching two water bottles at the same time, one in each hand. We will continue to train for the next annual water bottle throwing championships to be held in Pyongyang, North Korea.