After the hectic and very loud city of Havana, we welcomed the change of scenery – green lush nature (and a small town). Less hectic it is, no doubt. Less noisy, not really. The rooster crowing competition early in the morning, the pigs and the neighbor’s blaring TV sound in the evening told us, that we are still in Cuba.
We did an afternoon Viñales tour with Nicole and Zenon, starting with an amazingly different piña colada at Finca Ecologica (take a piña colada and add mint, basil, lemongrass and cinnamon on top) looking over the Viñales valley. Also, visited a tobacco factory and farm. The tobacco farmer there was a quintessential Cuban man sporting a Panama hat, who delicately rolled tobacco leaves into cigars, dipping the cigar into honey before smoking.
Apparently, the tobacco farmers have to provide the Cuban government with 90% of their crops. They can keep 10% of the crops/products for their own consumption and sale.
Another economic indicator: one of our guides used to be an English teacher and his monthly earning was CUC 25 (the equivalent of US $25). It was hard to make ends meet so he became a tourist guide to make more money. Most people try to do some kind of side-jobs in related to tourism so they can improve their economic situation.
Many of the Cubans we talked to are welcoming a change in the political climate with the US. Opening the trade with the US means more tourists and more opportunities for a better life.
On other days we hiked around Los Aquatios with a guide (we were with a very loud Turkish lady who talked non-stop : ( But the views over the valleys were making it up again.
On the next day, we tried to walk the path from our casa to the Valle de Silencio with the help of a hand-written map by Papito. There is basically no real path and no signage and as usual, we got lost after walking back on the ridge of the large boulders (or mogote) and maneuvered ourselves down a dense, steep and bushy hill. We finally made it down with only some scratches on our legs : (( After hiking for 5 hours, we saw menacing heavy clouds approaching and unloading a torrential rain just minutes before we got back home without the need to shower anymore.
Maybe because of walking in the intense sun for 5 hours and/or of getting completely wet in the rain at the end, Philippe did not feel well and he was in the bed for a day. We canceled our beach outing and I was lazing around in the terrace, occasionally checking on Philippe.
Our Casa owners, Leybis and Papito, were super-friendly and we had a really good time (see our entry on Leybis).