Valle de Vinales, in the west of Cuba, Pinar del Rio, a depression of 132 square kilometers, with red, green soils, caves, magma towers of up to 300 meters, where tobacco is grown by traditional old methods for centuries. The Valley is a magnet for climbers, tourists of all ages and nationalities, attracted by the wonderful views, the wooden carriages drawn by the white oxen, the Vinales cocktails, the nearby beaches, a real Cuba, the true Cuba, in the UNESCO heritage.
To Valle de Vinales and Hotel Los Jazmines
So on the fourth day in Cuba, after the morning salsa lessons, comes the token car the day before: metallic green and old foooooarte, with seats in front, middle and back, there are still 4 traveler already: 2 in front and 2 at middle, where it looks like I will. I’m SIDE !!!!! I did not think that’s what the interior looks like, and I do not know where I thought I was going to be alone in the car !!!! my optimism, now, I find it impossible. The car was not upholstered inside, it was a crumbly metal sheet, it had nothing to wear the steering wheel or the gearshift: only ironwork and cables, but everyone was calm, so I said I also had patience. And I could go with a coach with all the amenities … .. We take some tourists and armor well we go on the road. Start the rain, our 100-hour driver, I could not believe !!!!! Finally, we get to La Pinar del Rio, where I take another car and take me to my hotel, Los Jasmines, famed that next to another hotel, La Ermita, offers the best views of the Vinals valley. And so it is, plus that the price paid on the single room double was 32 Euro with breakfast !!!! As I said in the first post about Cuba, I paid and paid the country still for the view !!! Once installed in the room, I simply could not go to the balcony, although it was raining, but the more it was beautiful! I was quite tired, so after lunch I stayed here in the hotel: I took a swim in the pool, once again with a dream, staying at the terrace, reading, conversing with other tourists but more hunted and enjoyed, I felt pampered, and I needed some peace after the hustle and bustle of Havana and the long road..
Maria la Gorda, Pinar del Rio
The next morning I set off on the excursion to Maria at Gorda, an eco-touristic resort adored by divers in the westernmost point of Cuba, the Peninsula National Park of Guanahacabibes, in the Gulf of Mexico (the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico here is the Bay of Guanahacabibes / Bahia de Corrientes) and declared a biosphere reserve by UNESCO. You can get here and spend a few days exploring coral reefs or enjoy the biodiversity here, or take a day trip that costs around 25 CUC (lunch on the US dollar) with lunch included . The name of the area comes from a hangout, here in the past a place where pirates are gathering, and Maria Grasa an outstanding figure. In front of the hotel at the time I took a small car, along with me on the trip came two Belgians, a little hit after the party the previous evening – they were sitting in Vinales and had a disco. They told me that they had made a trip, riding in the valley, I understood that super, I did not have time / it was not grouped in the two full days I had there and alone if I went too expensive, so that I jumped over.
A crab full of crabs and lunch with cats
On the way (about 3 hours / 3 returns !!!!!!) the driver told me a lot about Cuba, about people and did not miss the opportunity to complain that he had no money, to make different advances, although he was pretty old and not too good !!!!! I later talked to my Belgian buddies, they told me that Havana was the same for her, and everyone was throwing in them with girls on all sides, marshmallows, etc. And in Vinales, but more bearable. The road was memorable, we noticed that Pinar del Rio is quite demolished, the beautiful colonial buildings not being restored, at least on the streets we have passed, tobacco fields, crops, the scenery resembles the rural one from Romania, plus palmieri :). Once you enter the Guanahacabibes Reserve, we are driving at a low speed, as the street is full of crabs that run as soon as a vehicle appears, but sometimes not fast enough, you have to protect them. Just like other animals, beside which you get to 1 meter.
It was a wonderful day! Drink at the birch in the resort, wood and reed, like everything here – ecotourism !!! A bath in the water of a perfect turquoise, beach in the shade of the palm trees, I found in the water a shell that accompanied me home, where she has a place on the kitchen counter, to remind me of the beauties here.
Lunch was very good, specific Cuban, rice, meat, pre-cooked potatoes, beans, etc. There were a couple of beautiful kittens I had to share with, but I had somewhere :). I was very sorry that this day is over.
We have agreed with the Belgians to go to the coconut battles that take place weekly in Vinales the next day and we have good-bye. In the evening I stayed again at the hotel, it’s too beautiful here !!!! swim in the pool and dinner at the restaurant, where I enjoy the company of a loud Italian and Italian band of the third age, lively and animated, a real pleasure to interact with them. In the morning I wake up, a leisurely breakfast, dress the favorite dress of the Berska excursion, a cotton double muslin, on which I made a fixation very easy and pleasant and walk to Vinales: 5 km …. in the valley … it did not seem much, and I felt the need to walk, even if some of the hotel grinned that I should have taken the cab. As soon as I leave I stop a little to admire a valley and a shed with tobacco I think. A lady who wants me to see the warehouse, she tells me about the tobacco, that life is hard (but a big field was hers, plus the chickens, etc., 5 sons who worked not jokingly!) Invites me to the house, coffee, cigarettes, I bought something overpriced that I felt bound and I was leaving with the promise of thinking if I wanted to eat at them … I escaped anyway from here !!!!! * Many peasants own the land they cultivate, but they have to sell to the state all the harvest at a fixed price.
On the way I see a bar with laborers, like ours in the country, the road descends nicely, sinuously, quietly, a lot of greenery and a bright sun, I was well rested at the end, everyone was mine! Beautiful horses on the road, taking pictures, I noticed a bull, whistle to warn her that she was pretending to have a good shot with the sun in the back, looked so surprised at me, took the picture and took it further. I get to Vinales National Park, I drink coffee at a palace (small restaurant, family business, I’m going to detail in a future article about food / drink in Cuba) with an incredible view of the valley and on the road !!!!! … very few cars, some people with bicycles, but remarkably, I was left alone, somebody curious about me, but without telling me anything, anyway in the whole walk I had a full sense of security, freedom and happiness.
And I get to Vinales, I see that each house had a small porch where someone stood in a rocking chair, very popular in Cuba, with cigar and glass of rum, contemplating the street, old cars in sheds, with white oxen on the streets workers coming from field affairs after appearances.
I enjoy the village, I admire the big square, I starve to stop at the Polo Montanes Cultural Center (named after the famous Polo Montanes singer, native of the area), which in the evening is a disco and I see in the WAW great salad menu in Cuba salad ai 4 thin tomatoes and four cucumbers, or 5, other rice, fries and bread next to meat or fish. 400 grams, wonder if it’s good, I’m told yes, double sky and I do not exaggerate: I come with a plate with 9 tomatoes, 8 cucumbers !!! I ask: is that double salad? Yes!!! and a confident look, not a snake, so I resemble and ask for a hamburger and omelette besides being hungry, after I take it from the place.
I stopped to get some money and started the rain …. strong, torrential, the pouring of the end of the world, but warm. I took refuge on a terrace to coalesce something and met two Luxembourg sisters who were traveling together before one married, a last trip between sisters. Being two single girls, they had a lot of experiences with various hangers in all Cuba, like me, they were happy to have a conversation with someone in Europe – here they will really make friends with people on your continent that you feel at home with they relax. We are united with the table and a couple from Hungary, whom I had met at CADECA (the exchange office) that they did not have passports and I changed money and told us that they had no such problems, so the couple is quieter … They break me apart, we meet in Trinidad and we change the terrace when the surprise is over :::: My Belgians, back from the fight with cocks I could not get to the rain – no I had planned to get there, sometimes I like not to hurry nowhere on vacation, to take the things to sit. I enjoy meeting, I stood with stories with the bartender, a few mojitos and colada – in Cuba because of the heat and the moisture I do not know but you do not get dizzy! We also have dinner, talk and we head to Disco Polo Montanes, very nice !!!!!!! A lot of people, good music, fun as it encompasses. Different prices for tourists and locals, who pay in National Currency, MN, local currency, and tourists in CUC (convertible pesos, parity per dollar 1 CUC = 24MN). I danced like there is no tomorrow 🙂 it was my evening, the locals all kind, the atmosphere was millions, we integrated perfectly :). At some point in the morning, music stopped, and everyone vanished in a few minutes. I have been goodbye to the Begiens, and we have settled with them to see us in Trinidad.
I take a taxi to the hotel, on my way I see that my driver had a large glass of rum from which he tried to serve me, explaining that he was enjoying it !!!!! And that’s a good rum, dear to him, but not for me as a tourist! I was glad I quickly got to the hotel and dipped myself into my clean room and only mine !!!!! The truth is that I feel better at the hotel than at the private home !!!! But if you are in Cuba, you are lucky to learn about people and how else than sitting in their midst! But she oats it from time to time, it’s ok, I say. I once again admired the view from the balcony, I felt sorry to split up, I would stay here, feel so good, and I had so much to do, but … somn, sleep, the next day I had to I climbed the night in my head, catch the coach and the boat to Cayo Levisa.