A Travellerspoint blog

Three Valleys

This morning, we awoke and got ready for the day. We saw some standard Caribbean "indoor wildlife" in the room, but I'm not sure you can help that. Breakfast here is also way too huge. The highlight for me was the guava paste and the mango cream. Both are traditional in the Caribbean and rare where I live. Candita was very kind and friendly. She took great care of us, but if we didn't speak Spanish, we might have had some issues. She held on to our bags for the day, as today's tour was a purely walking tour. Our guide, Alejandro arrived to collect us, and the tour started right from the casa. Walking with him through town was sort of like walking with our friend Lisa- he knew everybody. Every few steps, he was giving somebody else a handshake. Once we got out of town, he started explaining things to us. He got us oriented to the 3 valleys that we were scheduled to see today (this tour is called the 3 valleys tour for a reason). He explained about some of the plants that we were passing on our way. And he told us a bit about Cuban life in the country. Mostly we enjoyed the views. The one thing that was a bit annoying was that he kept smoking. We're out in nature, trying to enjoy the sounds and smells of nature, exercising, and he's smoking. Otherwise, he was an ok, if a bit quiet, guide. He took us over the plantations, through the woods, and past lakes. Lots of people do this on horse, so the "parking lots" at a lot of the stops look like the outside of an old west saloon. Most of the land is required by law to be used for tobacco during the 3 months of the year that is tobacco growing season. The government pays crazy-low prices for the 90% that they take, and the farmers can sell the rest to whoever. The rest of the year, they can grow what they want, and the government pays under-market prices for a much smaller percentage of the crop- maybe 25%, Alejandro said. But, for farmers, that "government discount" is all they pay in taxes related to the land, so they really get to keep their other income. Of course they can't go to town to sell without permits, but there are merchants with permits who come out to the farms to buy products for resale in town. Our first major break was at a coffee farm. Here, Joeandre showed us how they make coffee. His enthusiasm for the process is definitely contagious. I'm not a drinker, but it was cool to see the car parts repurposed to press the beans. Because they are in Vinales park, legally, their process can involve no chemicals (including pesticides) and no machinery that isn't hand-operated. We did drink non-coffe drinks though. We sampled a great guava alcohol that is local. I got a coconut again, but this time, after I had emptied the juice, he cut me a chunk to use as a scraper so I could get all of the jelly flesh. It's funny- I adore fresh coconut and the jelly inside, but the hard shredded stuff that they put on cookies and candies is abhorrent to me. We continued hiking through a landscape that pictures can't do justice to, and words are even worse. We passed a lot of cows. Alejandro explained that it was quite the crime to kill one. You can own a cow for milk, but the cow meat belongs to the government. Prepare for jail if you take the cow meat away from the state. We passed a special tree related to the baobob. Santeria practicioners place broken saint statues here as part of their religion. Our final stop was lunch at the same place as yesterday. I'm guessing the company has a contract with them. The food was just as plentiful and tasty as yesterday. I think we ended up taking more time to complete the hike than expected, because our guide left us there with directions to just follow the road a few minutes back into town. It wasn't very professional, but we felt less rushed and were able to take our time at lunch. We had taken lots of standing water breaks during the hike, as well as several breaks sitting in some of the many mini-cafes posted at the good viewpoints along the trail, but we were still hot and tired. We were plenty happy to chill longer at the restaurant. My conclusion for the tour- it was a nice hike. We wouldn't have known the spots to go without a guide as nothing is marked. He added some additional value to a self-guided hike that was interesting. It was worth doing the activity with a guide, but the price we paid was a bit much for what we got. We left the restaurant for our casa, and heard thunder. The wind picked up. The clouds darkened. We walked a bit faster. The thunder got closer and more frequent. We raced the storm, and arrived back to the casa about 1 minute before a drenching storm poured down. Our original schedule had the taxi pickup at 7pm, but since our tour ended much earlier, we had asked Alejandro to see if the pickup could be earlier. The company had not only arranged an earlier driver, but he had left his card at the casa so that we could call whenever we were ready, and didn't have to wait. That's pretty good service! (Company is Taxivinales) Exhausted as we were, naptime on the ride back sounded fabulous. The car was air conditioned perfectly. The seats were soft and comfy. It didn't seem to really have a full set of seatbelts, but we didn't have a ton of choice. Also, I feel like drivers in Cuba are much better than elsewhere. In the cities, the drive slow and cautiously. On the highway, they leave lots of open space between cars. I've never seen anybody cut anybody else off here. I've never seen anybody texting or otherwise distracted while driving. Perhaps when the consequences of an accident aren't just that you could die, but that your most valuable possession and source of livelihood would be gone and not replaceable, you drive more carefully. I bet that if the rules became that you can't get a replacement if your car is in an accident, more people in other countries would magically become better drivers as well. Fortunately, we made it back without incident. Nancy greeted us with excitement and got us set up again in our room. After refreshing and getting settled, we went out for peso pizza. I headed towards the popular place I had been to before, and started asking for directions when I got close. Today, the Cubans out on the street directed me elsewhere. This place also had a bit of a crowd, although not as much as the other. The pizza here had less sauce, the cheese wasn't fully melted, and it didn't come out as hot as at the last place. But it did have oregano on it, which it appropriate for pizza. Mine was also coated in a thick layer of chives. It was flavorful, although I think I prefer the other place. We took our pizza to the Malecon to watch the sun set as we ate. We were a little early, so we actually just saw the sun hide behind the tall buildings and clouds, but it was still gorgeous. We strolled through Maceo Park, watching the people as we went. Just like anywhere else,kids skateboarded, rode bikes, and played while their parents sat on benches and watched. The park was actually quite lively, unlike many of the other parks, which are mostly used for wifi.

Farm

Farm


Holy tree

Holy tree


Goat

Goat


Coconut tree

Coconut tree


Coffee beans

Coffee beans


Nice view

Nice view


Soccer in the park

Soccer in the park


Cattle

Cattle

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Cuba

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUpon

Table of contents

Be the first to comment on this entry.

Comments on this blog entry are now closed to non-Travellerspoint members. You can still leave a comment if you are a member of Travellerspoint.

Enter your Travellerspoint login details below

( What's this? )

If you aren't a member of Travellerspoint yet, you can join for free.

Join Travellerspoint