Viñales

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! 

fist time back on a horse in more than 20 years... 

fist time back on a horse in more than 20 years… 

Ben getting comfy on his trusty steed

Ben getting comfy on his trusty steed

Our guide pointing out the tobacco plantations

Our guide pointing out the tobacco plantations

like ducks in a row

like ducks in a row

Charlette's horse did not like mine and kept me at the back of the line for most of the trip... Equine politics!

Charlette’s horse did not like mine and kept me at the back of the line for most of the trip… Equine politics!

Valle del Silencio

Valle del Silencio

The farmer explaining his process

The farmer explaining his process

the finished product - we each took a pack home

the finished product – we each took a pack home

rolling our cigars

rolling our cigars

the organic tobacco leaves ready to be turned into

the organic tobacco leaves ready to be turned into “Cubans”

Charlette was a natural

Charlette was a natural

my (not so) sexy smoking face...

my (not so) sexy smoking face…

traditional farming methods are still widely practiced

traditional farming methods are still widely practiced

the boys - so chuffed with their horses and their cigars

the boys – so chuffed with their horses and their cigars

cigar selfie with Mojito and Canchánchara

cigar selfie with Mojito and Canchánchara

Ben & Charlette (with our guide in the back) on the ride home with Pina Colada and Cuba Libre

Ben & Charlette (with our guide in the back) on the ride home with Pina Colada and Cuba Libre

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3 Comments

  1. Mischa
    July 11, 2015 / 5:25 am

    RAD. Looks so fun! I’m going to Cuba next week and cannot wait to explore Vinales — especially on horseback! Which casa did you guys stay at, if you don’t mind me asking? I’m traveling from L.A., so attempting to book a reservation online is still somewhat of a struggle despite the better relations. Thanks in advance —

    Cheers,
    Mischa

    • kate brand
      July 12, 2015 / 10:57 pm

      Hi Mischa! You are going to LOVE it! We stayed at Casa Daniela. It’s walking distance from the town centre and she organized all our excursions for us (the tobacco farm on horseback, cycling etc). Have you tried booking via Trip Advisor or Cuba Junky? We used Cuba Junky – you can download the app and it lists all the Casals in every part of Cuba, all the contact details and addresses etc. It works offline which is ideal as there is virtually no wifi on the island. Also try Maps.Me for a good offline map app to get around. I have listed a few other great travel apps that helped us there, in another post a bit later on. Do you have a blog? I would love to see your photos and read about your experience! Enjooooy and please don’t hesitate to contact me again if you have any other questions 🙂

      • Mischa Armada
        August 13, 2015 / 12:03 am

        Hola Kate! I absolutely, 100% completely LOVED LOVED LOVED Vinales!! I originally wanted to go to Cuba for Vinales, so being there in the middle of it all, literally was a dream come true. My aventura in Cuba was nothing less than spectacular. I’m so grateful to have experienced it before the floodgates open up. What an awesome country.

        Thanks so much for the travel tips! I’ll be sure to take those up for my next excursion over there 🙂 I got back last week and am currently working on my blog. (https://medium.com/@mischaarmada) I’ll definitely give you the heads up once I post, but admittedly, it’s a bit difficult to condense my experiences into something that doesn’t closely resemble a novel HA. Not sure how you do it.

        Love your blog and look forward to reading more adventures on your fantastic journey!

        Besos,

        Mischa

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