Sunday, March 5, 2017

Day 4 - On to Vinales National Park

Like clockwork our lady of the house once again served us an amazing breakfast with individual egg orders.  Our driver called at exactly the hour planned and we were taken to a large VW Taxi van, clean, modern, and air-conditioned.  Our drive was west into the interior of the country to the village of Vinales and the national park that surrounds us.  The countryside was lovely with fields of sugar cane and tobacco.  We climbed into the mountains after stopping for a break.  The four hour drive was smooth, albeit some pretty rough roads once we were off the main six lane highway.  There were plenty of political billboards.  The cars on the highway were as in the city, only these were mostly being driven by locals and some were in excellent shape.

We stopped for gas and a toliet break.  Local coffee and a beer, some pastry from a street vendor.

"A better world is possible."  Ain't that the truth!

Tobacco fields.

Local farm houses.

The  village of Vinales is a storybook town.  Brightly colored houses, all immaculated maintained and almost all of them are guest houses.  Literally! Think of a town where all of the houses...ALL OF THE HOUSES...are B&Bs. Ours was delightful, brightly colored satins in the bedrooms, deep foam mattresses, and a lovely hostess who served us coffee on arrival.  Bobbie immediately grabbed a beer from the fridge.  Leo and Becky took some racy photos in there red bedroom.  The owner came up to me and inquired if we were married couples because she did not allow "chicas" in her home.  In Cuba, "chica" is another word for prostitute.  So Bobbie and Becky were sorta flattered...I hope.

Yes, this is the roof of the house complete with hot tub.

After we got settled in we headed out for lunch and then a trip to the park.  We were referred to a local restaurant with views of the park.  El Composino!  A roaring BBQ met us at the door with lots of grilled meats.  We sat at a table overlooking the park.  Oxen grazed in the distance and turkey vultures circled overhead.

Braised lamb shank...

All of that food - delicious and too much, plenty of side dishes, a couple of beers each...$12 per person.

Past dozens more of those lovely homes and we reached the park entrance.  The first stop was an organic tobacco farm where we were treated to a cigar presentation and purchased some Cuban Montecristos.  Twelve handrolled cigars, made in front of us for $40 CUC.

Tobacco drying barn.

The kid was 25, the youngest son of the owner of the farm, and quite cocky.  he scolded me for taking a video, all the while the others at the table had their camera's rolling.  I had said I did not want to smoke a cigar, nor did Leo, Bobbie or Becky and he was offended.  I let him go on and when he was done, I told our group, watch this.  I introduced myself as the former regional manager of Alfred Dunhill of London, USA.  With that he dropped his jaw, appologized and asked if I would like to roll a cigar.  I could have done it well and would have, but it was hot and he had been put properly in his place.  Leo and the rest just laughed and laughed afterward.  By the way, that is true, I did really did run the US operation after I left nursing and before I went into real estate.  LOL.

Next we saw horses and inquired about a short ride.  $40 CUC for four people for a "couple of hours" and a few stops along the way.

We stopped at a coffee plantation and sampled some homemade rum, coffee, and had a Pina Colata.  Our host William was gracious.  We bought some organic honey and some coffee and left a nice tip.

Next we rode another hour or so deeper into the park until we came to a limestone cavern.  We toured the cavern. Very cool.

Before we were issued our flashlight and such, our guide asked if anyone had an issue with small spaces.  I said not really, thinking it couldn't be that bad.  I also asked him if there were any snakes and he said no.  Then he stopped and held up this.

We all freaked out until we learned it was a honeycomb from the local bees.  Not what we thought.  We began out trek in the dark.  Needless to say it was tight. The old Tom would not have gotten through and I must admit Becky and I (huge claustrophobics) survived the adventure.

Musical crystal formations.

We got off the horses four hours later...LOL...and walked back into town where the lady of the house prepared us a pork chop dinner.  Yikes, enough food for twenty people.  $10 each.  We slept like babies!

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