I arrived in Vinales at 11:30 and for the French girls- Casa particular was already reserved online , that i m guessing was already done before holiday was started.
Arrival and finding place to stay
I left my Taxi Collective that I used from Havana to Vinales and wondered around tiny town of Vinales. So glad I took only tiny backpack with me on this trip. I wondered around Rafael Trejo street , as it seemed like a good street to get something to stay at. Most of the places I asked were 25 CUC a night. So the same as in Havana. But after a while of asking I realized that most of them are full and it will be bit more difficult to find a place. I still kept calm and relaxed as its only midday and there are always places that are free to stay at If not in Vinales, the in next town.
I walked in one of the houses and met Ricardo. About 60 years old local who seemed really excited that I could speak few words of Spanish. He made it his mission to find me a place. We did a long walk around the town trying to find a place while chatting away and after no luck we got back at his house and I watched him trying get me a place though his old, cheap ,cream colored wall phone. He gave up trying and I wondered around town. I chose little one story house wit a tall older man standing outside. He surprised me with fluent English.
He was kind enough to help me again. And walked with across the street to green house with wooden doors. It had yellow swing chairs outside and entrance was on side. We walked by little while gate and around the corner was sort of outside area that looked like a normal living room at the same time. With a big, solid wooden table and family photos on near by wall tables on it. Real family home. Lady in her 30 ties walked out of bedroom and showed me a room for 25 CUC a night with my own shower, 2 huge beds. After a while of talking she agreed to give it to me 20 CUC. As it was for 1 night only. Its called Casa Particular de SISI .
First things in order- Cuba Coffee.
Sisi brought a 2 thermoses with coffee and milk in other one. Sisi sat down as explained a bit about the town to me. I was hoping to use rest of the day for some activities and mentioned this to Sisi. She offered a Guide that she knows for a national park tour that sounded amazing. Of course I said yes. She said that it would be 5 CUC for the tour and Gide would pick me up I 40 minutes (At 1:30)
Horse riding guided “one to one” tour
At 1:30 guide arrived. He was wearing old boots, jeans, grey t-shirt and reddish shirt on top and of course straw hat. And turns out that its only in the tour.
We walked down from the house to get horses and on the street horse was tied up and gide climbed on it and I looked confused ,as why im walking and his horse riding. I mean I pay for the tour. I said I want to use horse and have to walk. And he did change.
We arrived at the start of national park and he laid down some points to remember and the fact that tour is 5 CUC an HOUR.Not 5 CUC for all tour !
First stop Tobacco fields.
First was a walk around fields to explore what they grow. Coffee trees, banana trees and avocado trees (That I never seen before). And to the main tobacco building, where unfortunately was no tobacco as it was off season. Guide could speak clear English and was kind enough to walk me through tobacco process.
First is to plant tobacco and it keeps growing for about 3 months. When it’s grown, they collect leaves and quality is decided by location of leaves. The best leaves are the ones growing closer to sun and on the bottom of plan are the least goods leaves. After they collect leaves and dry them. After leaves, have been packed together and stored for certain time.
During the tour I met few other locals that talked me through government and tobacco work. Government gives land to locals ,but minimum 8 acres have be planted with tobacco. If they don’t grow tobacco then government will take land away and give it to someone else.
From this land when tobacco is dried and ready – government takes 90 % and 10 % is what’s left for yourself. Government makes expensive cigars and sells them, but locals are not allowed to put any marking on cigars. So mostly tourist don’t want to buy anything branded, because at airport there is only certain amount you can carry through with no brand papers. If I remember correct its 10 cigars with no branding on them.
After all this talk with a group of people, main guide who showed me around made one cigar, dipped end in honey and lighted it for me to smoke.
In the meantime my original horse riding guide was long a sleep in the hammock on the back
Next stop cave in National park .