Trip Start Mar 01, 2006
551Trip End Dec 01, 2007
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I walked around town, visiting the lovely little church, and putting my nose everywhere I could, as usual. I did not see the people I had met teh night before, as they were all lazily sleeping, so I rented a bike and headed out. Houses and fields along the road, animals, old cars and trucks, little shacks selling fresh fruits at local prices, a funerary procession...
The landscape was made of karstic formations, similar to what I had seen in northen Vietnam and Laos, with a ot of vegetation and holes and caves and galleries everywhere on the cliff faces. I reached the cave in which we had been partying the night before, still smelly and sticky from the beer an rhum that had been spiled on the ground. I was dessicated and thirsty, and had the worst lemonade of my trip: zillions of mosquioes where lurking in the cave shade, and I was their only fresh, foreign, juicy tasty food...
The road just after the cave was completely flooded, a guy was waiting there with his bike and his monkey. Obviously his chained monkey was there as a paying attraction for tourists; so I did ostensibly took out my camera but never once pointed it to the monkey. Well actually I did, but not while the guy could see it. That showing him that I was not a potential client for taking pics of his animal earned me a nice discussion, tranquilo, without pressure.
Later a bus crossed the flooded portion. A big, brand new BMW arrived from Vinales, with young rich Cubans aboard. Time to go back to business for the monkeyman.
Back in Vinales, I found some of the crew from the night before, they rented bikes and we headed off to see Los Aquaticos, supposedly a group of people living out there and practising some kind of water rituals as only medicine. Or so the guidebook said.
I took the lead of teh expedition, which ended up being much longer and hazardous than expected, only the five bravest made it to Los Aquaticos. En route, we met people who wanted to cook for us (for a price), little info as how to get to our destination. Eventually making our way thanks to people who had nothing to sell to us.
A group was playing a very serious game of dominoes under the shade of a tree. They offered to keep our bikes, as the trail was really wet and muddy. We came acrossa familly who was quite isolated. But they had solar panels, transformer, and batteries, complete with TV and stereo... the power supply came from the government, using foreign aid (in that case French material) to provide electricity to the farmers. I don't know if they realized the price of that equipment, I did not tell them anyway. Nice example of how things are wanted to be in a socialist country, even though most of the things here did not work that way.
Finally we reached Los Aquaticos, with a beauty of a view over the valley. Getting there was quite a trip in itself, considering that we had thought it was a mere half hour away. We were welcomed with mango juice, and offered a meal. Not bad. But bloody expensive. We had not asked the price beforehand, which is a clearcut case of: you pay the max! All of a sudden the gentle hospitality of the Aquaticos people was not so aggreable.
Still, we got to talk with them about their relatively remote existence, how they managed the education of kids (good govt infrastructure for that), but when we saw how much they carged the tourists we measured better how they could cumulate advantages and advantages...
Asking about the water cure, they proposed us a dip in a cold bathtub for something like 25 dollars! No way!
Westarted the expedition back, retrieved our bikes and left some money to the folks for keeping them... hey, they had not asked for anything, which was a good reason to give them something, all the while letting them think that they SHOULD ask for something... travellers ethics, no rules about that!
Oh did I mention that hideous fresco, painted over a huge cliff, depicting the hostory f life, including huge ugly dinosaurs? Well, not that it's worth mentioning anyway, but apparently it IS a tourist attraction.
We met up with other travellers who had been exercising... by the camping swimming pool, and somehow took them back on our bikes. In Vinales met up with those who had gone back earlier for salsa lessons, and we all gathered in the evening for a nice concert and some more chatting and tentative dancing.