Beautiful Scenery, Horse Riding, Cigar Smoking, Mojitos and Broken Toes (nearly).

Vinales Travel Blog

 › entry 16 of 21 › view all entries
The lake on route to Vinales.

Thankfully Maree and Alan were feeling a bit better the following day when we headed off to Vinales.  We were up early and at the bus terminal early.  The bus when it arrived was not as luxurious as other buses I've been on, but comfy enough, and packed with both travellers and locals.  We made one stop on route at this picturesque lake - really lovely with a cafe overlooking the lake and a Cuban mariachi band.  We arrived in Vinales to 20-30 touts trying to get you to stay at their casas - reminding me of getting off the ferry in the Greek Islands, in amongst the throng was Gladys with a sign with my name on it.  When I got off the bus and made my way to her she gave me kiss on both cheeks to say hello.

My room at Casa Maceo y Gladys.
 

Gladys had organised a cab to the casa - Maceo y Gladys, despite it not being a far walk - her argument was that when arriving with our luggage and all the people it was just easier.  I must say we were well pleased to get "door-to-door" service.  On arrival we were shown the rooms and given a juice and a coffee - both grown and produced on their property.  Overall a lovely and warm welcome.

Once settled we walked back to the main square for a snack and stopped off at this little cafe that had loads of people - figured it was a good sign.  Let's just say that signs are sometimes wrong!  We ordered these simple toasties - just bread and melted cheese, which were nice enough, and then we got these potato croquettes, which when served were still partially frozen and gooey.

A better photo of the salsa band.
.. yuck yuck yuck.  We palmed these yucky croquettes off to the local dog population.  We then walked around the town (which isn't very big) eventually making our way back to the casa to read in the rocking chairs on the porch.  There are rocking chairs everywhere in Cuba!

We ate dinner at the casa, there was so much food and really tasty, they even catered for me being a veggie!  At Casa Maceo y Gladys rumours of only being able to find bad food in Cuba were thrown right out the door!  Yummm yummm :).  After dinner we headed back up to the main square to go to the one and only Salsa club, where we listened to salsa music, had a mojito and watched people salsa dance.

The Cuban people are friendly and very helpful, if there is something you need or want they are likely to have a brother, a cousin or a friend who can help you out.

One of the guides at the farm.
  This is how we booked our horse riding tour for the following day - highly recommended.  We organised it through Casa Maceo y Gladys.

We walked to the meeting point about 15-minutes away, where we got set up with our horses.  Our guide asked me if I wanted a "lazy" horse and I said yes, thinking to myself - never really been horse riding before probably best not to get on some kind of wild n crazy animal.  At the farm an Austrian guy - Chris joined our group, he'd actually been horse riding the day before but wanted to go again.  I must say that I really enjoyed the horse riding tour, once more confident I even managed to get my little lazy horse - Chocolate to canter for a bit.  Poor Maree's horse would only walk and eat.

The Vinales Valley Scenery.
.. walk and eat... that horse was lucky it was still alive by the end of it.

We went across some amazing landscape with mogotes (sheer-sided limestone masses covered in thick vegetation) popping up everywhere.  Interestingly these "mogotes" are what is left of a 150 million year old underwater cavern system that collapsed during the Jurassic period.  Our first stop was at a look out, overlooking the valley, which was lovely. 

Our second stop was at a local tobacco farmer.  We spent some time here as the farmer ran through the process of growing tobacco and rolling it in to cigars.  Something like 90% of their produce is sold to government factories, with the remaining 10% turned in to local cigars.  We started off with amazing mojitos - the best I've ever had!  Plus he cut up a pineapple for us to eat as he talked about the tobacco plant and cigars.

Rolling the cigar.
  The farmer explained how all parts of the tobacco plant are used, each leaf has a purpose - the only part that they disregard are the veins as that is where 90% of the nicotine is located.  Once he'd rolled a cigar for us and explained that it would be left out in the sun to dry, he brought out one for us to try - you know... "here's one I made earlier".  While we took turns in smoking the cigar he told us he had some cigars for sale, and that the ones produced by farmers are 100% natural.  Anyway, Al and me bought 5 each.

The farmer took a bit of a shine to me, asking me if I had a boyfriend, wanting to be in my photo and even inviting himself along to our next stop!  As flattering as it all was I politely declined..

Me being silly in the lake.
. especially as we were going to the lake and I'd be running around in my bikini!

The lake was our third stop, and it was absolutely stunning and amazingly tranquil - not a sole in sight.  It was a lovely warm day so we all went for a swim, including our guide.  The lake was refreshing i.e. cool, but not freezing.  You had to wear you shoes to get to the lake as there were prickles and spiky plants all over the place.  So I had "squelchy" shoes for the rest of the horse ride.

Now what I am about to write is a bit of an unfortunate incident and I certainly don't blame the guide, my horse just decided to throw a "horsey fit" - with me on it.  So out the lake we get after a lovely swim, back in to our cloths and on to our horses - which had been tied up to some trees near the lake.

Trying to get Chocolate to stop.
  Now I was one of the first back on my horse and asked Al if he'd take a photo of me on my horse, and while this was going on - Chocolate - the horse decided she'd had enough and started to walk.  She'd been pretty well behaved to this point, so I just pulled on the reins and said "woah",  however Chocolate decided to keep going.  Here I was thinking that me and Chocolate were friends... I said "woah" again and pulled on the reins, at which point Chocolate decided to "stop"... she proceeded to sit down on her haunches and roll over on to her left side... all with me still sitting on top of her!  Needless to say she caught my left foot in the stirrup under her full weight and how the hell I did not break my foot, ankle  or leg is just damn amazing.
Me with the injured foot up out of harms way.

Once they'd pulled me from under Chocolate - camera intact and still in hand (photo had been taken and camera returned before Chocolate's horsey fit) - the pain and swelling really started to kick in.  At this point I honestly believed it was broken.  I couldn't put any weight on it and it bloody hurt like hell.  However... I could wriggle my toes, which we all figured was a good sign.  They hoisted me on to Maree's horse which was even lazier than mine, I took some pain killers and we went on our way.  We were pretty much in the middle of no where, so there wasn't much more that we could do about it except keep going.  The guide did say it was up to me as to whether or not we went to the last stop.  I figured we'd come this far that we might as well.

Me with my injured foot in the cold cave water.
  I sat on the horse with my injured foot crossed over the top, i.e. not hanging down or in the stirrup.

Our forth and final stop was at some caves, which you had to actually climb down to.  Now kindly or crazily - Chris decided he'd take me down... he carried me down the slippery path, there were a couple of moments when I thought oh g-d we're both going to end up in hospital!  Anyway, he got us both down in one piece and he sat me on a rock so I could stick my injured foot in the ice cold water running through the cave, which was a relief - and the cave was pretty awesome too.  On the way back up Chris threw me over his shoulders - army style - it's just a shame there are no photos because I'm sure it looked hilarious... but at least he got me back up in one piece.

In the bag of the "local taxi" i.e. horse drawn cart.

Once back at the farm our guide called a friend for a taxi back to casa - Maceo y Gladys, as I couldn't manage the 15-minute walk.  Within 10-minutes the taxi arrived... but not your conventional taxi, nope it was very much local... in fact it was a man with a cart and horse!  Bet that wouldn't have happened if I hadn't been injured.  Anyway, once deposited in the cart, Maree and Al jumped in for the ride... and we bounced slowly and somewhat painfully back to the casa.

Back at the casa - Maceo and Gladys had already heard about my accident (everyone seems to know everyone), and started fussing over me the second I was seated in one of their rocking chairs.  It was all a little overwhelming - especially as I'm not good when people make a fuss over me.

Al, Maree and me (with injured foot) drinking rum and coke.
  Regardless they were rubbing in ointments, putting my foot up and sticking an ice cold cool drink against the swelling.  The next thing I know their son's wife turns up - as she was a nurse (I think) and starts checking out my foot, saying to me that if it's no better the next day I should go to the hospital (something I was hoping to avoid).  Bless Maceo he even dug out an old crutch for me to use - cleaning it and adjusting it to my height.

After another amazing dinner  we went (I hobbled) back to the salsa club for a drink with Chris.  We didn't stay that long though as the music and crowd weren't as good as the night before.  I slept dead to the world, falling asleep with my head torch on and book in hand.

On our last day we decided to go to the beach, and our lovely casa organised a local taxi for us - this time no horse and cart, but a fabulous old chevrolet!  What an amazing car, my dad would be jealous for sure.

The beach.
  After an hours journey we arrived at the lovely tranquil beach with beautiful blue calm water - Caya Jutia possibly?  What can i say really, another amazing Caribbean beach where we lay in the sun, read our books, swam, collected shells and just enjoyed the sunshine.  It wasn't a cheap day, but the taxi driver waited for us until we were ready to leave - so no stress about how to get back from there.  On the return journey we got to witness an amazing sunset over the valley.  A spectacular last day ended with some more fabulous food at the casa.

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The lake on route to Vinales.
The lake on route to Vinales.
My room at Casa Maceo y Gladys.
My room at Casa Maceo y Gladys.
A better photo of the salsa band.
A better photo of the salsa band.
One of the guides at the farm.
One of the guides at the farm.
The Vinales Valley Scenery.
The Vinales Valley Scenery.
Rolling the cigar.
Rolling the cigar.
Me being silly in the lake.
Me being silly in the lake.
Trying to get Chocolate to stop.
Trying to get Chocolate to stop.
Me with the injured foot up out of…
Me with the injured foot up out o…
Me with my injured foot in the col…
Me with my injured foot in the co…
In the bag of the local taxi i.e…
In the bag of the "local taxi" i.…
Al, Maree and me (with injured foo…
Al, Maree and me (with injured fo…
The beach.
The beach.
A statue in town.
A statue in town.
Walking around town - the main squ…
Walking around town - the main sq…
Walking around town - the main squ…
Walking around town - the main sq…
Walking around town - rocking chai…
Walking around town - rocking cha…
Walking around town - more old col…
Walking around town - more old co…
Walking around town - look out for…
Walking around town - look out fo…
A fabulous lime green chevrolet.
A fabulous lime green chevrolet.
Walking around town.
Walking around town.
Walking around town we found some …
Walking around town we found some…
Maree trying to take a close-up of…
Maree trying to take a close-up o…
Next up a little calf - kind of lo…
Next up a little calf - kind of l…
In the distance was a farmer ploug…
In the distance was a farmer plou…
Vinales... breath takingly beautif…
Vinales... breath takingly beauti…
Maree and me sitting on the patio …
Maree and me sitting on the patio…
Dusk at the casa.
Dusk at the casa.
Heading out to the salsa club.
Heading out to the salsa club.
Inside the sala club - someone wai…
Inside the sala club - someone wa…
The bar at the salsa club.
The bar at the salsa club.
My mojito... very strong.
My mojito... very strong.
The salsa band.
The salsa band.
The singer going solo - amazing pr…
The singer going solo - amazing p…
Walking to the farm for our horse …
Walking to the farm for our horse…
Setting off - Al in front.
Setting off - Al in front.
My first proper horse riding exper…
My first proper horse riding expe…
Me on my horse called Chocolate.
Me on my horse called Chocolate.
Chris and Al - Chris was a demon o…
Chris and Al - Chris was a demon …
Me and Maree chilling out on our h…
Me and Maree chilling out on our …
The Vinales Valley Scenery.
The Vinales Valley Scenery.
The Vinales Valley Scenery.
The Vinales Valley Scenery.
Me, Al and Maree on our horses.
Me, Al and Maree on our horses.
Me on Chocolate.
Me on Chocolate.
Chocolate at our first stop.
Chocolate at our first stop.
The views of the Vinales valleys f…
The views of the Vinales valleys …
The views of the Vinales valleys f…
The views of the Vinales valleys …
The views of the Vinales valleys f…
The views of the Vinales valleys …
Me and the views...
Me and the views...
Me looking especially short for so…
Me looking especially short for s…
At the tobacco farmer watching him…
At the tobacco farmer watching hi…
Making mojitos.
Making mojitos.
Me with the best mojito I had all …
Me with the best mojito I had all…
My mojito.
My mojito.
The farmer perparing the tobacco l…
The farmer perparing the tobacco …
Getting ready to tighten the rolle…
Getting ready to tighten the roll…
Tightening the rolled cigar, which…
Tightening the rolled cigar, whic…
Some cigars the farmer had made pr…
Some cigars the farmer had made p…
Dipping the end of the cigar in ho…
Dipping the end of the cigar in h…
Al having the first puff.
Al having the first puff.
Maree having a go at the cigar.
Maree having a go at the cigar.
Somehow I dont think smoking a ci…
Somehow I don't think smoking a c…
Me with my erm wona be boyfriend.
Me with my erm wona be boyfriend.
The views of the Vinales valleys.
The views of the Vinales valleys.
The views of the Vinales valleys.
The views of the Vinales valleys.
Me on Chocolate again, heading to …
Me on Chocolate again, heading to…
Chocolate and one of the other hor…
Chocolate and one of the other ho…
The lake - so stunning.
The lake - so stunning.
Maree and Al in the lake.
Maree and Al in the lake.
Maree and me in the lake.
Maree and me in the lake.
Me in the lake.
Me in the lake.
Taking a photo while standing in t…
Taking a photo while standing in …
Looking back at the horses from th…
Looking back at the horses from t…
Some random little plant surviving…
Some random little plant survivin…
The photo before the horsey fit.
The photo before the horsey fit.
A random little cow on the path.
A random little cow on the path.
Maree ahead of me.
Maree ahead of me.
At the cave, everyone feeling a bi…
At the cave, everyone feeling a b…
The cave.
The cave.
The cave.
The cave.
The cave.
The cave.
Back on the horse heading to the f…
Back on the horse heading to the …
The views of the Vinales valleys.
The views of the Vinales valleys.
Foot up and being iced.  (I have…
Foot up and being "iced". (I hav…
A close up the swelling, erm not t…
A close up the swelling, erm not …
Some of our food at Casa Maceo y G…
Some of our food at Casa Maceo y …
Back at the salsa club.
Back at the salsa club.
Chris and Al drinking rum and coke…
Chris and Al drinking rum and cok…
Maree and me with our rum and coke…
Maree and me with our rum and cok…
Our chevrolet taxi to the beach.
Our chevrolet taxi to the beach.
Looking at the dash board.
Looking at the dash board.
Our taxi driver.
Our taxi driver.
Me in the back seat.
Me in the back seat.
Me, Maree and Al - hot and sweaty …
Me, Maree and Al - hot and sweaty…
Looking out of the back window - c…
Looking out of the back window - …
Walking down to the beach.
Walking down to the beach.
Some deck chairs and umbrellas on …
Some deck chairs and umbrellas on…
walking (limping) along the beach.
walking (limping) along the beach.
The beach, the Caribbean sea...
The beach, the Caribbean sea...
Me and Maree reading our books - I…
Me and Maree reading our books - …
Me reading my book.
Me reading my book.
The sun starting to set over the s…
The sun starting to set over the …
The sunset on the way back to the …
The sunset on the way back to the…
The sunset on the way back to the …
The sunset on the way back to the…
Our last dinner at Casa Maceo y Gl…
Our last dinner at Casa Maceo y G…
Vinales
photo by: lizzy1987