Dec 19, 2015
Departure at 7.30 am in order to get the bus for Viñales in time I get a bicitaxi in the street for just a couple of blocks: the bus will leave the hotel almost 1 hour late.
The bus makes one stop on the highway. It gives a chance to see how all kinds of means of transport are sharing the road: auto stoppers, bicycle, horse carriages and all kinds of cars.
When arriving on Viñales, the bus first stops at an hotel that has a very nice view on the valley. Then, going down to the city, the valley reveals itself. From the bus stop, I take a bicitaxi to the accommodation.
The accommodation is outside the main road. Almost no traffic. From the patio, there is a nice view on the mountains.
Quick lunch before going horseback riding (25 CUC). The tour goes through the national park and stops at a cigar factory, a grotto and a coffee/plant garden. The cigar factory was interesting as I had someone just for me to explain how cigars are being made. Leaves, scissors, leaves, scissors, etc. There are also some nice viewpoints on the way. The tobacco fields are all empty as they are only being planted right now. They show their red color, which is even better at sunset! The horse that wasn't doing much at first can actually move! The tour is too much organized to go anywhere else. It is nice though.
There is a long discussion with Mayito, the son of the casa owner. He knows some things about the Internet, but not everything. Looks like Cuba is 15 years behind. Yet, they have the latest music, video games and movies.
Mayito has a business of bike repair. Bike is the cheapest way for people in Cuba to travel short to medium distances. It is also cheaper than a horse. He says there are three people working in the same business in town but claims he's the best at it. Changing parts, with the new parts coming from China, to straightening wheels, he's busy every day of the week.
There is absolutely no noise outside. No cars, no busses, no machines, before daylight, only animals, wind and rain.
At 7, the mogotes (isolated steep-sided residual hills) start to turn orange. At 9, a taxi comes to pick me up to go to Cayo Jutías. It is a shared cab and there are already 4 tourists (plus the driver).
It takes about 1h30 to go to the Cayo. Driving in Cuba is special. Each side of the road is preferred to the road itself. There can be a strip for one car and each side would be soil. Being on the left with a car going the other way around on the right looks fine. On each bump, the car shakes and makes a metallic noise. Sometimes you’ve got the feeling the car is going to break apart. Yet, you feel safe. Only tourists who rented a car stay on the road.
Arriving at the beach, it looks nice but touristic. Most of the people here came with a cab. The beach itself is nice but you need to walk a little bit South to find some room. It is also where the drivers spend the day.
When arriving on the Cayo, there is a lighthouse made of metal. if it is short way to go there by car, it took me about 2 hours back and forth to go there from the beach. That said, it is much better than the beach! On the way, a truck of dustmen proposed to pick me up. I refused thinking it would be much closer.
The first part of the beach looks like Bahia Honda State Park in the Florida keys. The second half is more like Mauritius.
One mojito and one daiquiri before going back to Viñales and a 15 CUC ride
I'm waken up by the machine used to crush the coffee, a Manual machine.
With the15 CUC for the day bike I go to the bus office in the centre to get the ticket for the transfer to Cienfuegos for the next day. Then, I exit Viñales through the main road and go up North. Crossing the Republica de Chile, an agricultural area, before arriving at the crossing going back to Viñales.
The road goes up and down, the streets are sometimes almost inexistent. Very few tourists. I get to talk with a couple of Cubans living in the area. Lawn mowers are made from salvaged parts. One I saw was made from the motor of a washing machine, the blade of a knife and a telephonic line, all being supported by a plate and wheels made of wood.
Rice is being cultivated here. All the field labour is done by hand. Tractors are seen on the roads but never in the fields. Bulls are everywhere!
Back to Viñales after 20 km and a break at the house for lunch.
In the afternoon, going West of Viñales, passing in front of the "prehistoric wall". It looks ugly as shit from far away. A bit further, there is a viewpoint (mirador), which gives a view on two valleys. There is the valle del silencio there. Very quiet and lovely.
Carlos, who leaves nearby, is getting his rice covered for the night. Apparently the sunset is very nice from the mirador but I go back home. On the way, I meet Felid (?) who's bringing back a bottle of vodka to mix it with Coca-Cola. Says rum is good, but Vodka works too.