9th day in Cuba – Viñales

Our plan today was to go to Vinales – land of tabacco and cigars.

7:15am everyone got up. No breakfast and around 8:30am we hit the road or rather a traffic jam. There was an accident on the road. Once we managed to escape that we were going 80km/h via nice alley of palms. It looked so pretty and almost reminded Los Angeles.

The drive was smooth once we jumped on the Cuban highway. Midway we stopped at gas station to get some snacks and fill the tank. The guy filled for 14CUC though we asked him full. So we were a bit surprised. He was like “oh you wanted more? “. He took the pistol and started filling again and immediately started being friendly asking where are we from and where are we going. He even drew a map on our dusty rear window. All of that was to scam us. I saw it was 27CUC on the screen. We went to pay, the guy wrote on paper 12+27. We gave 40 and we got change just one. I asked what is happening? They explained it was two fillings one was for 12 another for 27, which is impossible as we had half tank and maximum he could have filled was 20-25 liters. They took me to machine and showed me how it resets when you put and take out pistol. Anyway we’ve paid. Once we started the car we could see he just filled 20l, not 30 as he claimed. Basically when someone else filling your tank film it so you have proof and take a receipt as we didn’t get ours.

We quickly ate some sandwiches for 2CUC and were on the road again. Just few minutes when we left the gas station there was some signs to slow down 80, 60 and then right under the bridge a guy dressed a policeman jumped on a road from a left side of the road! On the highway! Policeman would never do either of those. We slowed down. He looked similar to policeman, but belt and dodgy badge as well as no car or motor bike near by gave him out. It was a fake one! I shouted “Go go go” and we just went on.

People in the road selling cheese or cake were almost jumping on a road. Sometimes they pretend to run and jump! Idiots! We tried to go further from either side when we saw people standing by the road.

After turning from the highway to Vinales the road was twisted and full of curves “Curvas peligrosas” – our favorite phrase in this trip.

We stopped when we saw Vinales visitor center. It had amazing view from the terrace! However it was a bit crap in providing information of where and how to go, just prices 10 and 15CUC for hiking on your own. It was 11:30am. We decided to continue further. We were looking for El Emerito hotel where the path should start. Honestly we didn’t see any entrances or people being checked when entering those fields. Maybe we went to the wrong ones.

In the end we went to Infotour agency and booked 4 tickets 10CUC each for guided tour. It was starting only 14:30pm. We still had 1.5h and also if we want to come back to Havana in daylight which is highly preferable, we were never gonna be able to make it. Then I got an idea to sleep over in here and go to Cayo Jutias in the morning. I’ve checked the prices and it was 17-23 CUC for a night for 4 people.

We stopped for lunch at Parilla restaurant. I got some ribs and beer. Ribs were delicious though the portion was a bit small. Anyway it was only 6.5CUC. Then we started talking to one of the waiters and he was asking what do we do and he said he was a programmer just like me. We exchanged contacts and promised him to help to arrange interview. He was so happy!

Tour started in time. Just 4 of us and Austrian couple that I saw were eating at the same restaurant as us. We walked through the farm. The guide explained how tabacco is harvested, dried and later on fermented. We had a taste of coffee that they grow, roast and grind. Surprisingly it was free of charge. Then we walked through some bushes where you could see guavas, pineapples growing on the ground, coffee trees and etc. So much variety! Later on, we went to another building, similar to one they showed us where they dry tabacco. A guy showed us how they select different leaves from the plant and what goes where and how they roll it. Honey is used as a glue to finish up the end. Once demonstration was over the guy offered us a cigar to try to smoke. I was coughing in the beginning just because of the fume coming through my nose. This one was free of charge too.

Then a bit of walk on the fields, claimed over a small hill and went to the natural cave. Just before we entered we saw a tiny bird on the ground and a pig with many baby pigs. The guide lifted the bird and put him on the rocks so that pigs wouldn’t eat him. In the cave we could hear squeeking sound. When I pointed the light I saw it was baby bat’s!

The view from the other side of the cave was beautiful, but since it was cloudy it wasn’t as great as it could be. We took loads of pictures there anyway!

On our way to the car we stopped at another building for a cocktail. They made it from frozen pineapple, coconut milk and home made rum we had to add our selves – as much as we want. Four of us used up falf of the bottle. 🤣

We easily found a house. It was a first one we went in and it had availability. The woman said 25CUC, we asked to show them. Then we said we take it for 20CUC and we eat breakfast for another 20CUC. She agreed after some complaining that she will need to clean it as she has clients tomorrow and another house to look after. Once we said we need only room she started saying normally it is 30 CUC blah blah blah and then she said, but OK. We were ready to walk off as there were plenty on Airbnb for lower price.

For dinner we went to “100% Cuba” restaurant. I’ve ordered skewers which I was disappointed with since the pork was super dry and chewy (7.5CUC). Others took Tuna for 8CUC and apparently it was delicious. I also took Pina Colada 100% Cuba style which was 5CUC. It came in a pineapple and bottle of Rum, so I had to add as much as I want, which I did 🤣. It was delicious Pina Colada!

After we finished our dinner we went to Mojito Bar for a drink. They were a bit more expensive 4.5-5.5CUC, but also quite big – 400ml. The bar itself is very impressive. There are some tobacco hanging and drying inside and the wooden walls with hokes look very nice too.