Blogs from Viñales, Oeste, Cuba, Central America Caribbean


Central America Caribbean » Cuba » Oeste » Viñales February 24th 2020

I don't know what it was that really made me want to go to Cuba, but after many years of holding on to that dream, it finally came! Two weeks is enough to get you to the main west coast hot spots such as Havana, Vinales and Trinidad with maybe another smaller place on the side. We spent the first two nights in Havana and then took the Viazul bus to Vinales. Tourists in Cuba can only use one bus company (Viazul) to get around and with limited routes and limited buses per day, these get booked in advance. If you don't book a bus, the chances of you getting a seat in and out of these hot spots can be very difficult and costly.I had booked our tickets online about a month before. It was ... read more
Tobacco Plantation
Ox Farming
Cigar Making

Central America Caribbean » Cuba » Oeste » Viñales January 10th 2020

We left fairly early to visit a factory for rolling hand-made cigars. On the bus Daniel explained the process thoroughly and showed a short video, which had been made by a marketing company from Kelowna, BC. The Francisco Donatien cigar factory was surprisingly small, especially compared to the very large place I had seen when I first visited Cuba in 1984. Fewer than thirty young women and men sat in straight hard chairs in tight rows of three, each working at a crowded desk with all their supplies. (A few personal items made each desk unique.) Three kinds of cured tobacco leaves were in small stacks. One was the “binder”, a large flexible leaf from which the central vein had been cut (65% caffeine in that vein). Depending on the brand being made, the worker quickly ... read more
Pinar del Río
Cuevas del Indio
Traditional lunch

Central America Caribbean » Cuba » Oeste » Viñales January 9th 2020

At 6:30 pm I am sitting on a swinging chair overlooking the astounding Viñales Valley, a World Heritage site. An almost full moon is shining down the valley. Rounded karst mountains stretch along the horizon, facing into the fast-falling dusk. The hotel is called the Horizontes Los Jazmines, because some rooms (as is our privilege) range along a downwards slope opposite the mountains, all with this breathtaking view. We arrived here after a long day of driving and sight seeing. Leaving Havana was a history lesson through architecture. Just outside the city centre is the district of Miramar, which in the 1930s was built by the monied to escape the press of ordinary people. Further on, in the 1940s and ... read more
Sierra del Rosario Biosphere Reserve
Mastic Tree
Students in class

Central America Caribbean » Cuba » Oeste » Viñales January 28th 2019

Cuba Day 5 Friday A good nights sleep for me in the Classic Vueltabajo Hotel in Pinar del Rio. Room average but comfortable, others fared a bit worse I heard. The previous evening meal was very good, as have all meals so far. Salad, rice and beans, pork, chicken and other meats. I think they are trying tpyfatten us up. Today 26%, cloudy and wet at times but rain not as hard as yesterday, although glad of rain jackets. The roads were filthy and we were like drowned, filthy rats at the end of the day in the village of Pons and 100k of riding. Still loads of ponies with carts and several with men on board with lassos hooked on the saddle. Cuba, a country of contrasts with two boys and one man seen today ... read more
Cigar testing

Central America Caribbean » Cuba » Oeste » Viñales January 28th 2019

Cuba. Day 6. Saturday. Not good news today in Vinales. In the middle of the night I was taken down with severe stomach pains and the rest that goes with it. The same thing happened to Paul two days ago and he is now feeling a lot better. Consequently I have been in bed all day with the tablets and water. It was not until early evening that the pain got to be bearable. Not nice. Luckily this is a two night stay and I still had the room at our Bed and Breakfast (casa particulares). The rest of the group were cycling to the ferry at Cayo Jutia and then onto the nearby island and the beach for snorkelling etc. However, it was a bit wild for going in the water and it rained from ... read more

Central America Caribbean » Cuba » Oeste » Viñales July 1st 2018

Sun-Mon 1 & 2 July Day 3,4: Viñales After another hearty (fresh, organic) breakfast, before leaving Soroa, we visited an excellent orchid garden with about 200 different types of orchids, more than half of which are Cuban species. The property was developed from 1960 by a man who had lost his wife during the delivery of their daughter. It was beautiful and so cool. Massive ficus trees provided homes for epiphytes as well. On the bus we watched a video on the Peak Oil crisis of the 1990s when the USA started their crippling embargoes on Cuba. People were starving as Cuba’s partnership with Russia produced a reliance on Russian tractors and fertilisers for their urban agriculture. Cuba had to take drastic steps to change. All spare land and roof tops in Havana were used to ... read more
Mogotes around Viñales (1)
Santo Tomas Cave near Vinales (20)
Mogotes around Viñales (3)

Central America Caribbean » Cuba » Oeste » Viñales June 30th 2018

Saturday 30 June Day 2: Soroa via Las Terrazas We joined our co-travellers for breakfast of fruit, vegies, chick peas, pancakes, guava pie, eggs and bread roll. Fresh juices and coffee was all the go as well. At 8.30am we hopped on the air-conditioned bus. Dany gave us water to fill our bottles each morning and throughout the day. On the way to Soroa we stopped at a couple of community art projects. Firstly to Callejon de Hammel where local resident Salvador Gonzáles Escalona has painted and decorated a pedestrian alleyway which has now become a cultural focal point with workshops for young Cuban children to learn painting. Next in the outskirts of Havana we visited the fishing village of Jaimanitas and the home of the famous artist Jose Fuster. Fuster has made his entire home, ... read more
Callejon de Hammel  just outside Havana (1)
Callejon de Hammel  just outside Havana (3)
Our Hostel Yumy in Soroa (9)

Central America Caribbean » Cuba » Oeste » Viñales October 10th 2017

While the state is the dominant player in the Cuban economy, many people work in other jobs on the side or set up their own enterprises. These people are referred to as “workers on their own account”, as they may not have the normal benefits associated with state jobs. With doctors earning as little as $50 per month in the official state sanctioned economy, I can understand why people may want to become workers on their own account, especially with tourism booming (it is now the most important industry). On our trip to Vinales and all around Vinales, we saw that this side of the economy is alive and well. We headed west on the main highway after our morning tour of Havana. We had two stops en route to Vinales. The first was lunch at ... read more
Communa Terraza
Communa Terraza
Our Guesthouse

Central America Caribbean » Cuba » Oeste » Viñales May 30th 2017

Today was another travel day. We were up early as our driver arrived at 8 am to take us to Viñales. We have been told it is anywhere from a two to four-hour trip. The good thing was that most of our luggage including backpacks fit in the trunk of our car, but we had no A/C. So everyone had a seat for the trip. The drive was long and slow in the old car. The old cars are nice to look at, but when every trip you take is in an old, uncomfortable car, the novelty wears off. The backseat has springs and cloth to cover them and nothing else. While Chester was sitting high on the hog in the front seat, Megan, Riley and Kirsten had springs up their butt and bounded to the ... read more
Chester Smoking Cigar
Tobacco Drying
Ready to ride

Central America Caribbean » Cuba » Oeste » Viñales January 11th 2017

Wednesday we went to Caya de Juatia, a beautiful beach 2 hours north of Vinales. There were 7 of us in the collectivo taxi, a thoroughly beat up 49 Chevy. Our driver had to stop once to top off the radiator with water, as there was no radiator cap. The roads were awful, with little population along the way. We met a very nice German dentist Lora on the ride. On the way back our driver was constantly playing games with another collectivo taxi, passing each other, racing, etc. We went out that night to the town’s dance club, and sat with Lora and her friend. They both danced with local guys, and were really good salsa dancers. Robin and I stayed firmly rooted in our seats. The music and dance acts were really good, and ... read more

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