Viñales was the highlight of our trip to Cuba. The hustle and bustle of La Habana is fascinating and exciting but the peace & quiet and natural beauty of Viñales' "Valley of Silence" really appealed to the "cruiser" side of Rufus & I. We joined Charlette and Ben (the Kiwis from our casa) on the 3hr bus ride south west from Havana city to the Pinar del Rio province to experience something a little different.
We arrived in the afternoon and decided to take it easy for the rest of the day. I somehow managed to overdose on some really rich hot chocolate at the Chocolate Museum, in Habana Vieja, the day before (Ben MADE me drink 2 cups) so I had to sleep off the cream & cocoa hangover while the rest walked into town and had a delicious dinner without me...
The next day our casa host organised a guided horseback tour to a local organic tobacco farm. This, my friends, was so much flippen fun! Hannah and Louis (the other Kiwis from the casa in Havana) had done this a week before and recommended the tour to us. The last time I got on a horse was in Primary school (I think) and it didn't end well so if I could manage to stay upright and have an awesome time, without doing myself or the horse grievous bodily harm, ANYONE can!
We were collected from our casa in a non-vintage-rattled-like-it-might-fall-apart-didnt-have-any-interior-panneling-sagging-ceiling kind of car and got deposited on the roadside about 10min drive outside of town. Our guide met us at the car and ushered us across the street to a dirt side road where our trusty steeds, Piña Colada, Cuba Libre, Mojito and Canchánchara (do you notice the subtle cocktail theme?) were ready and waiting for us.
Our horses were well trained and our guide was friendly and informative - he insisted on helping Charlette and I on and off our horses at every stop we made... very hands on. He pointed out all the interesting plant life, sang a few songs and invited us to join his dancing classes in the town square - cowboy by day, dance teacher by night. We wondered through the farmlands, visited a coffee plantation where we had a mini demo and tasting (ironically this was the only bad coffee we had in Cuba), explored a interesting cave system and had a lot of fun learning what our horses could do.
The last stop was the tobacco farm where we learned about the traditional organic farming methods. The farmer told us that 90% of his harvest goes directly to the government for the production of the famous "Cuban" cigars. He is paid a set rate for that 90%, not much apparently, and the remaining 10% he is free to do with as he pleases. He obviously uses his share to sell to us friendly tourists and he doesn't seem to be doing too badly from it because he was wearing a new outfit, nice leather shoes, an expensive looking hat and some valuable gold accessories.
The tobacco/cigar tour was interesting but the horse riding was the best part and we would do it again just for that. Rufus now wants to get his own horse and ride everywhere he can... a little difficult when you live and work on a yacht. Who knows though, maybe thats part of the next adventure in our future - horses and farmland somewhere in Central America!