Farmyard Stay in Vinales

Trip Start Sep 08, 2008
Trip End Nov 02, 2008

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Flag of Cuba  , Pinar del Rio,
Saturday, October 11, 2008

10 October 209 - Friday

We finally arrived  in Vinales at about 10pm. Just to mention again this was supposed to be a 3 hour trip, not 7!!! Cheating, lying gits. At least we had arrived the same day we left. It was on our first day in Vinales that we found ourselves riddled with fleas... These were from the the cab ride down...

Once we found our casa, we were very grateful to be shown our room and just finally to be there. In retrospect the whole taxi drive from Varadero to Vinales really wasn't what we had in mind but at least it gave us an extra day.

Papo and Magalys welcomes us into their home, though it didn't take Papo long to start selling us guided trips in and around Vinales. We agreed to a horse ride with one of his friends around the Magoes for te next day and thought we'd do a guided tour with Papo the day after.

Magalys served us a really nice chicken soupe for dinner and then we were finally left in peace (or at least that's what we thought). Absolutely exhuased and crazy itchy from our bites we were looking forward to a good nights' rest.

This however, was to be the least peaceful night in Cuba. The neighbour's dog barked incessantly at nothing throughout the night. (I know this because I checked. The poor creature
was tied in a corner yapping away at the two blank walls). The chickens, ducks, pigs and dogs continued on with their noise contest most of the night. At 4am they picked up steam and raised the rooves. Enough to drive anyone insane.

I was grumpy, very grumpy! We'd given up our freedom and paradise at Varadero to be mauled by mozzies, kept up by the surrounding farmyard and live in a house with people that spoke virtually no English.

11 October 2008 - Saturday

Early morning wake up to be ready for our 9am horseride. When breakfast was served we noticed that for the first time this didn't come with any fruits. This was as a result of Hurricane Ike. It had swept through the center of Vinales destroying much of their fruit and crops. Everyone was getting by as best they could.

At 9am, Papo's friend, Carlos stopped by to collect us for our horse ride. Though his English was very limited it wasn't too bad. The agreement was that we'd speak Spanish so that he'd help us out and that he'd speak English so that we could do the same.

Nix was off on Chicha, a horse who insisted on being the leader of the pack, and I on Fletcha! We were to do a C-shaped ride around Magote del Valle to some limestone caves carved out by years of water erosion form the underground rivers. The scenery was quite beautiful. Everything was so green. Palm trees all around despite them missing loads of their fronds from the hurricane. There were Turkey Vultures flying up ahead, farmlands being plowed out by a man towed behind two oxen. Another man walking behind them sowing and planting seeds. Most of the agriculture in this area is of a few variations of potatoes, beans, maize, pineapple and obviously tobacco. Vinales apparently cultivates the best tobacco in Cuba as a result of the nutrient rich soil.

An hour into the ride we stopped off at a small hut in the valley where granpappie grind some sugar cane juice, added some lemon juice and loads of rum to the lot. Really nice!! Though as our glasses emptied, granpappie topped them up with alcohol only. 11 in the morning and we were well on our way...

Carlos said to 'vamos' once again. Once Nix was on Chicha he passed around a few unnecessary compliments attempting to hand out even more unwelcome kisses. Nothing like being hit on by your tour guide when you're only two people with him. And only minutes earlier we were saying to him how we liked Cuba but were not impressed by the men's manarisms. 'Tipica Cubana' were his response. In that case, tired of Tipica Cubanos!!! Tired, tired, TIRED!!

A while later we arrived at a river flowing into a Magote. At this point we were dying of the humidity, and heat and were smelling like a horses ass. A cave guide arrived with a couple of lanterns and we headed back with him into the cave. We saw a fair few stalactites and stalagmites. At the end of the cave we were invited to swim. I put on my costume and got into the very refreshing water making sure to keep well away from our 'friend' Carlos. On our way out, Nix was 'helped' along by a loving hand on her ass! Can you f**king believe it!! Enough is never enough!!

On our way back we had another quick stop at granpappie's place for another round of sugar cane rum, and then back to town with another group of riders. Us being the only two people with Carlos, this was a welcome addition as Carlos was now enthralled in conversation with their guide.

On reaching Vinales, Carlos informed us of the price, $5 per hour PER PERSON. Papo had not told is it was $5 per person, but just that it would be that price for the hour. We felt a little ripped off... yet again. Everything is so easy in retrospect and I guess we should've known to check.

Extremely dehydrated we reluctantly strolled back to our casa to freshen up. We sat under some dysfunctional umbrellas sipping on a tuKola as a shower came through cooling the air down.

While walking back, a Viazul bus drove past. This got us thinking that the bus would probably be departing from this town the same time tomorrow. If we decided to catch it , we would still have enough time the next day to do another excursion, and this would then give us another day in Havana. Yes, Havana's accommodation is a bit more expensive but at least we wouldn't have to endure the farmyard stay and raging mosquitos for three full nights. This was definitely a plan.

After a few stops to ask for directions we found the Viazul office and hastily booked ourselves two tickets out of there. For the remainder of the day we just strolled through town and out on some dirt roads. Again we saw loads of old cars, really love that about Cuba. Though I think that cars are somewhat of a luxury around these here countries.

Everywhere we went we saw pictures of 'The Cuban Five'. We weren't aware of who they were but saw them absolutely everywhere. I made a note to find out, and though still not 100% sure of their story I get the impression that they are five men 'falsely' imprisoned in the USA for some or other felons. Would still like to know a little more on this when I get the chance.

Magalys had prepared us a really good dinner of chicken, rice, beans and fried sweet potato. Was really good especially since we hadn't had much for lunch. During dinner we again noticed the neighbour's dogs incessant barking. The dog has definitely gone insane. Just cannot understand how they don't bother anyone else - it was enough to drive me mental and put me in a seriously grumpy mood. I turned up my ipod and a few while later I could feel my soul return to my body at which point I fell into a deep undisturbed sleep.

12 October 2008 - Sunday

We told Magalys that we'd be leaving that day. Although I'm sure she wasn't too happy, they accepted this and said they'd call Mercedes to let her know we were on our way.

After breakfast, Nix and I headed off with Papo for our 'guided' hike. Not sure what 'guided' means when there's a serious language barrier between you and your guide. It was more of a guessing game than anything else. It was very draining continuously trying to understand what he was saying, and when you didn't, then have him say again like the second time round it would make sense.

Anyways, the hike was up the Mogote we rode around the previous day. Along the way we saw a guy plucking the bottom half of a cockerel. The poor thing absolutely shivvering from the pain and shock of having its feathers pulled out. Papo explained this was done for cock fighting.

I have come to realise that in Cuba animals are just that - animals. They are not treated with any affection or respect. Their only purpose is to either be dished up as a meal at some point, for entertainment purposes, to work for them or in the case  of our neighbour to provide background noise. Quite a tragedy really, especially when you see a gorgeous dog tied to a pole at the bottom of someones' yard, dying for some affection and attention when the owners are sitting a few meters away at the house completely ignoring it.

So the hike up the Mogote wasn't all just hiking as much as it was hiking AND rock climbing and scrambling. Though it was worth it at the end, it was quite hair at some moments. Health and safety in the UK would be having fits. Actually all of Cuba is a health and safety hazard, but it wouldn't be Cuba as we know it...

At midday we were back in Vinales from our hike, having passed a fair few rock climbers in search of a good rock face to climb. Once home I was pretty much exhausted, dehydrated and tired of pretending to understand the words that came out of Papo's mouth. This was me ready to head back to Havana!!

A shower later, we where packed up and off on the Viazul...
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