05.03.2015 - 07.03.2015 26 °C
After queueing 2 hours the previous day to get our bus ticket (only one ticket desk open at a time and many tourists), we arrive in Vinales, about 3 hrs west of Habana and home to much of the tobacco plantations. There are no hostels outside Havana so we are now staying in 'Casa Particulares', Cuban's version of Bed and Breakfasts with optional dinner. These have opened thanks since the 2011 licence law and now much benefit from the growing tourism.
In the afternoon, we go for a 3 hr horse ride in the countryside amongst fields with pinapples, avocados, mangos, sugar cane, beans and tobacco. We visit a tobacco plantation where Omar explains the process of growing, harvesting, drying and making cigars. Each plantation owner has to sell 90% of their crop to the states who buy the dried leaves for their factories where chemicals are added and the cigars are rolled and branded. The farmer is allowed to keep 10% for himself and for selling privately. These are not branded and do not have chemicals. They often make an infusion with honey, and a mixture of fruit leaves which give their cigars some flavour.
On the 2nd day, we hire a couple of bikes and go off looking for a waterfall some 17 kms away. On the way we stop to eat some deliciously fresh pinapples from a man who has just harvested some. I love fresh pineapple! The secondary roads are in a terrible condition and we have to be quite careful as there are holes and broken tarmac everywhere. The man selling the pineapples tells us that the road was built by the French in 1967 and it doesn't look like it's been touched since! Perhaps they are waiting for the French to come back and repair it.
After meeting mainly very old tractors, horses and oxes, we eventually find our waterfall (no sign post anywhere so we had to ask several times) and jump into for a refreshing swim.