Chapter 4 of the Cuba Libre story covers our time in the Viñales Valley, Pinar del Rio province.
Viñales Valley Panorama
Whilst in the Viñales Valley, we stayed at the Los Jasmines Hotel. It was a smaller hotel than the one we stayed at in Havana and we were told not to expect too much of the menu, as being smaller, the hotel would have less government budget for food. In fact, although there was a bit less choice, we thought that the preparation and service was probably better. Most importantly though, the views from the rooms were great. The last picture in the previous post and the panorama above show the view from our room.
As we were assembling after breakfast, for the start of our day touring the Viñales Valley, we spotted a local man lovingly washing his old Chevrolet. It was a bit battered, but he was looking after it as if it was new, fresh from the showroom.
Today’s schedule took us first to the town of Viñales. We spent a while here, just watching local life go by.
Freemasonry and communism seem to thrive together in Cuba.
We were told that the Lada is Cuba’s favourite car because it is still possible to get spares for them. Apparently they sell for quite high prices.
After our wander around Viñales, we went out into the local countryside to visit the Cuava del Indio. We were serenaded by the gentleman in the photo as we entered the cave and then enjoyed a short walk and a boat trip through the cavern.
Guardian of the Cuava del Indio
Next stop was at the Mural de la Prehistoria, which is not quite what most people might expect. There is nothing prehistoric about the actual mural. It was painted in 1961, possibly with a little help, by Leovigildo Gonzalez Morillo. It appears to be his view of evolution during prehistoric times.
Mural de la Prehistoria
Maintenance of this mural seems to be a bit like ‘Painting the Forth Bridge’. It is apparent that weather erodes the paintwork and when we visited, there was a team of ‘artists’ working on restoration of the picture. Fine horizontal guide lines help them paint the image correctly on the irregular rocky face.
We did enjoy a rather excellent piña colada while we were there. Add as much rum as you like yourself, limited only by the size of the glass. Wonderful!
Lunch was at a very pleasant restaurant near the caves and after lunch we returned to Viñales to spend the afternoon taking a walking tour in the local rural vicinity. We walked out of town on dirt tracks, meeting some of the local transport as we went.
We were able to visit a small farm, primarily involved in growing tobacco.
Tobacco Drying Shed
After taking a look at the tobacco fields and inside the tobacco drying shed we were all offered coffee, made with their freshly roasted coffee beans. There followed a demonstration by the farmer of how to roll a cigar, before he enjoyed the fruits of his work by smoking one.
From the tobacco farm, we continued our walk along the local dirt tracks, calling at a little shack on a pineapple farm, where it was possible to buy from a very limited selection of fruit and drinks. We rested here briefly, in the company of some military service conscripts or reservists, who were also resting out of the afternoon sun.
They rode off on their motorcycle and sidecar combination as we resumed or walk. We passed a variety of fields, agricultural buildings and a riding stable before returning to the outskirts of Viñales.
Back to the hotel for dinner.
After dinner we had the opportunity to visit the local night club in Viñales. Although there was a cold wind that evening, we settled for watching the locals dance Salsa because they were so fluid that we would have felt very awkward in comparison if we had tried to join in. We were also treated to some ‘Tropicana style’ performances by some local girls. Although they were good, it wasn’t quite as spectacular. Home to bed long before the locals!
On our last day in the Viñales Valley, we took an excursion to the provincial capital, Pinar del Rio.
At Pinar del Rio we visited a cigar factory which was very interesting but unfortunately photography was not possible.
After that we visited a rum distiliary where they produce a liqueur rum called Guayabita del Pinar. The photo is in the bottling area where the staff are manually attaching labels. We were able to have a tasting in their shop. Very good.
Guayabita del Pinar
After that we had a stroll around part of the city, watching life unfold. Although Pinal del Rio had the tourist attractions of cigar factories and rum distilieries, there were very few tourists around. A very Cuban city.
Watch your Speed
These tricycle taxis must be very hard to pedal when they are loaded.
In the afternoon we had a final walk around our Hotel area. We saw this trusty beast waiting for his rider on the way to the Tourist Information Centre, where the display boards gave a comprehensive description of the Viñales Valley.
Tomorrow we set off back to Havana for an overnight stay on the way to Cienfuegos. This will be the next Chapter, but it may be delayed due to other travel plans in the coming weeks.