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Wednesday 16 Apr 2008
Vinales, Cuba

Biking 'n' Hiking

Rented a dodgy bike this morning (the one the casa owner had provided was even worse with a seat that wouldn't stay straight), and squeaked my way around some of Vinales' sites for about 3 hours.

First I checked out the infamous mural which is painted on one side of a small mountain. It's supposed to tell the story of life from the dinosaurs to the present and apparently took 15 years to complete. It did look interesting - if not out of place, but was not really worth the 1 CUC entrance fee (which I waived, and took a photo using the zoom on my camera).

Next I cycled the long 18km route back through the town to the cave district admiring the views (and vultures/eagles munching on dead dogs/soaring through the air respectively), and finally stopped off at the Cueva de los Indos. It was an impressive cave, with a small river running through the end of it that you could take a boat through (5 CUC entrance). Very touristy, and the lights were just white, which made it ok. A few coloured lights here and there might have improved the ambiance.

So endeth my bike tour... I went back to the casa, had a bowl of my Cup-A-Soup (which the lady in the casa insisted on watering down so that I got about 3 bowls of soup out of it!).

Next was a 3 hour hike through the farmland and hills, plus a cave tour. For this it is COMPULSORY to have a guide, so I got a local guy nick-named "Bolo" to lead the way. The hike was very pleasant and took in the large farmland used for cultivating tobacco plants for Cuba (which unfortunately weren't in season when I was trekking, so all I got to see was red mud), as well as a closer look at some of the valleys and mountains. The original plan was to take in a cave with a large pool in it, but Bolo advised against that saying it was too touristy. Instead we went with his recommendation to check out the Cueva de la Vacha. To be honest I kind of regretted not going to the pool cave since the Vacha cave (despite being more raw and unlit) was very short and quick to pass through.


Finally came the highlight of the hike: meeting a tobacco farmer. Arriving to a small hut in the middle of a clearing I saw 2 bewildered Frenchies sitting there sipping rum out of a coconut surrounded by several burly looking types smoking handmade cigars. Not one to refrain from a photo opp, I immediately grabbed a cigar off one of the lads, stuck a straw in the other side of my mouth and began puffing away, while getting mightily inebriated (dehydration from the hike beforehand must have helped!).

I'm not a regular cigar smoker, but I could tell these cigars were smooth as anything I'd ever tried before. Then after the other tourists had gone, I asked the farmer if he had any cigars to sell.. at first he said "no"... but then, once sure I wasn't a government informer (!) he produced a pack of 10 wrapped in a palm leaf.

"20 CUC" he said... "hmm" I said.
He grabbed another 7 cigars, and tossed them into the bag,
"20 CUC including tip for the coconut and rum" ... "OK DEAL!" Cheesy

And yes that WAS a good deal for these cigars are genuine Romeo y Jullietta which would normally retail for 8 CUC in Habana. 1 CUC for the farmer, and then 7 CUC for the government tax.

(later on while in Paris waiting for my flight home, I went into the Duty Free and checked the price of Romeo y Julliettas. 200 euro for 20. I paid 14 euro for 17!)

What made these cigars even cooler was that I got them direct from the source. His father had rolled them from tobacco on his own farm. Wikid!

Later that night I went back to the Casa de la Musica for a DIFFERENT band, and met up with Ines again for some more salsa. Get doooooown.

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Perdido en Cuba de Fidel

Travel blog by peterforan

Swish antique

Swish antique

2 weeks in which I crap-dance salsa-stylee in my own inimitable way; terrorise the Cuban people after one-too-many mojitos and visit bars where they actually ENCOURAGE people to smoke cigars as big as your leg. If I get time I'll take in some culture..

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