Exploring Vinales through words and pictures

Posted: 21-Jun-16 14:13

With a personal narrative of two days in Cuba, a writer shares her experience of exploring Vinales. In recounting stories and photographs of locals, landmarks and scenery, the author brings her experiences on the island to life, painting a picture for others to see the beautiful countryside and welcoming faces of Cuba.

Exploring Vinales through words and pictures

By sharing just two days of her excursion to Cuba a writer creates a detailed vision of life in a rural section of the island, from the food and hospitality to the unique scenery. Published on The World in My Pocket blog, a frequent traveller named Joanna revisits her journey to Vinales with two days of photographs and narratives.

Joanna explains that her tour group left for Vinales on Christmas Eve morning, taking off from a much-adored stop in Trinidad. During the nearly day long trip between the two destinations she delighted in eating fresh cucumber and pork sandwiches purchased from a local sandwich maker, stopping twice during the trip to snap some photographs of smiling local children and infants.

Once they arrived in Vinales near sunset owners of the casa particulares in which they planned to stay greeted them. She shares the story of walking to a small yet beautifully constructed casa with her smiling elderly host, making note of the rocking chair on the porch and the purposeful flat tile roof.

As a Christmas Eve surprise, the tour group was invited to dine in a Cuban family’s home for dinner, their first experience of doing so. A cheerful photograph shows the family and the tour group together enjoying cocktails, fresh food and cake, all while gathered around a small private swimming pool.

After a good night’s rest and a tasty breakfast, the group then hopped on a bus for a day of exploring, joining in on a round of songs that added to the Christmas Day celebration. First stopping in Mirador with its expansive valley views, Joanna took photographs of the dramatic scenery of the UNESCO protected area.

For the second stop they drove to a cave, welcomed here by locals outfitted in traditional Taino clothing, accompanied in their singing by a flute and drums. Another photograph shows an up close look at a baby hawk one of the locals held on his arm.

After indulging in a drink of fresh sugar cane juice, they walked into the wet and narrow cave, continuing on for about 10 minutes before coming upon a boat ride. While she found it interesting, it wasn’t her favourite part of the trip, though she admits they did learn about some of the native rocks during the tour.

Continuing on the trip, two photographs detail the next stop at the prehistoric wall. A hillside rock formation painted in vibrant colours, Joanna admits the name may be a bit misleading as it was actually designed in the early 1960s. Taking four years and 18 people to complete, she notes the wall has to be repainted every year due to fading. The group did not spend very much time at this site, instead looking forward to seeing the next stop, a tobacco farm in the Valley of Vinales.

As they stopped next to a field surrounded by tobacco plants, she admits the farm appeared far from how she thought it would, yet acknowledges she’s heard you’ll find the best quality of tobacco produced in the Valley of Vinales, comparable to popular Cohiba cigars. In describing the harvest, photographs show fresh tobacco leaves drying in barns where they would eventually be sorted by quality, then made into cigars. Noting that everything is done by hand at these small tobacco farms, she recounts watching a man make a cigar while they conversed. While not a cigar aficionado herself, she did try one and found it enjoyable, then purchased 20 souvenir cigars, priced at $10 CUC, to bring back home as gifts.

The same afternoon the group went hiking in a non-tourist rich area, which she notes is easy to do outside of town. Sharing more pictures of locals on bicycles, horseback and a child delighting in some fresh fruit, the author shares some key photographs of her journey, from a series of thatched roof buildings at home in the countryside to a vintage American car and stunning shots of nature, with peace and quiet all around her.

She concludes her second day by describing Christmas dinner, as each of the members of the tour group indulged in a special meal cooked especially for them by their casa hosts, coming together to share their meal as one group. Delighting in a lobster dinner of her own, Joanna admits that it was something she had wanted to try while in Cuba as it is much more affordable than a comparable meal in the UK.

While this particular stop was just one blog in a series that detailed her overall journey, the tour group visited several island locations during their travels. Located in west Cuba, Vinales is a small town compared to the capital city of Cuba, popular with tourists yet Joanna admits is a place where visitors can still experience a slower pace of life by heading outside of town, surrounded by authentic scenery and local charm.


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