Beautiful Scenery, Horse Riding, Cigar Smoking, Mojitos and Broken Toes (nearly).
Vinales Travel Blog› entry 16 of 21 › view all entries
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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..
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.