Vinales

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Turkey Vulture

Today Anna and I went separate ways. She took the hop on hop off bus in Havana and I went to fulfill another bucket list item – watching cigars being made. I headed off in the coach with the group in inclement weather and traveled up an expressway for a couple of hours. As we closed on our destination, tobacco farms were more in evidence. Prior to that it had mainly been fruit trees.

The bus parked in a narrow street and we were given some instructions. Without Anna I had to be self-reliant. I picked up that cameras were not allowed so I left it behind but we had only been off the coach for a few minutes when my friend Kascia told me bags were not allowed either. I quickly jumped back on the bus and threw it onto my seat… I thought. The coach moved off and another replaced it. I suddenly became unsure whether I had put my bag, with money, cards, passport, my life, in the right coach. Nothing I could do now though.

After a short wait in a queue we were ushered inside the factory where we were shown the modern cigar making process. The smell was delightful. There was a series of rows with each row performing a specific role. At the beginning of the process, leaves are formed into a tubular shape and placed in a mould. They stay in this for two hours. The moulds then move to the next station where they are trimmed and squeezed. The next station fits the outer cover. They start with a new leaf. The first job is to remove the large central vein. This is saved for insecticide. Then the leaf is halved and wrapped around the cigar. It is then placed in another mould and stored in a humidor for two years. It is then released for sale.

While I found this fascinating it was not what I had in my mind’s eye. Cigars were on sale outside. To my mind they were very expensive and t

Mural De La Prehistoria

here were no tastings.

 

We were taken to the bus and on reboarding I found my bag. I had put it on the right bus.

The driver took us out of town and onto narrow winding county roads. Drivers are very reserved in Cuba. It is a good communist country and they do not have accidents. We were often traveling at horse and cart speed as the driver would not take any risks at all to overtake. Still the views from these mountains were lovely.

Eventually we arrived at Vinales. I could not believe my eyes. A huge wall of pre-historic art. Obviously lovingly maintained as the colours were very vibrant. We were given the opportunity to walk around and have a Pina Colada, sans rum (mourning continues), if we desired. I was amazed at the geology. Aside from the wall of murals the valley was unlike anything I had seen before. It was like a rift valley with a very flat floor and vertical walls. All limestone so I assume there are many cave systems to explore.

After a while I saw a sign explaining the site in English. Imagine my

Vinales

disappointment when I read that these pre-historic murals were in fact created in the 1960’s by farmers. Our local guide, Janko, was quite amused when I told him I had been taken in.

 

The next stop was a tobacco farm. Here was the real thing; tobacco plants growing around a tobacco curing barn. Inside we were treated to a display of hand making a cigar. My vision of watching a virgin roll it on her inside leg was not quite met. It was created by an elderly man, perhaps on the wrong side of 80 and he used a small piece of wood on his knee as a table. Still it was good fun. He lit the cylinder and we were offered a tasted. I took one small drag, being deathly afraid of falling back into tobacco’s vice.

We were then taken for a cup of coffee. This farm also grows its own coffee and they gave a sample of it too. Quite pleasant but I don’t expect Gloria Jean to be too worried.

We were taken to lunch in a restaurant set against a limestone wall.

Tobacco Farm

Here I tried to get a wine to accompany my quite delicious food. No chance. I did meet another Aussie, via Israel, at the gents. It was not an earth shattering experience.

 

After lunch we were taken into a limestone cave but not before visiting an “Indian” village. I met the Cuban tree rat. It is small rodent about the size of a rock wallaby. It was very friendly. Sadly I had left my camera on the bus. The cave was small, maybe two hundred yards long. It led to an underwater river where we embarked into boats that held maybe a dozen people and were taken on a cruise. This was perhaps a kilometre. We were then deposited back onto dry land for the trip back to the hotel.