9 April 2016

Vinales

After 5 nights in Havana our lovely driver and guide Manuel met us at our hotel. He was going to be with us for the next 6 days. Our drive to Vinales was very picturesque through the province of Artemisa, stopping at  places of interest on the way. Our first stop was at a restaurant built on the ruins of a coffee plantation founded by Jean-Pierre Soroa, a French immigrant, in the 19th century,



These trees are nicknamed "The English tree" because they have pink peeling bark! 


The cute little Loggerhead Kingbird and the stunning Cuban Trogon, the National Bird which was more elusive so the image is slightly blurred. 

Our next stop was Las Terrazas, a small community and nature reserve in the municipality of Candelaria, Artemisa Province. It is located in the Sierra del Rosario mountains, which was designated a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1984. 
In 1968, President Fidel Castro forged the idea of a green revolution: he would reforest the mountains that had been logged by Spanish conquistadors, plant fruit trees in areas destroyed by coffee plantations, and nurture land ripped up by hurricanes; and he would improve the lives of Cuba’s campesinos (in this part of the island, mainly illiterate charcoal makers) who lived in poverty in remote rural ridges of the Sierra del Rosario mountains. Work brigades created 1,360km of terraces with six million cedar, mahogany and hibiscus trees, plus grapefruit, mandarin, papaya and avocado. 170km of roads were built through the mountains; and a village of homes, schools, playgrounds, and clinics was created.
The young community of Las Terrazas flourished but in 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed and with it Cuba’s economy, people “were forced to make ‘steaks’ from grapefruit rind, and ‘beef stew’ from banana skins to survive".


With the fate of the community at stake, Osmany Cienfuegos opened Las Terrazas to tourism. Twenty two years ago the Hotel Moka greeted its first guests. It is a white multi-level structure, screened by teak trees and built around a 100-year-old rain tree that soars through the lobby. Since then, trekking trails, a zip-line, a restored coffee plantation, artists’ studios and restaurants have opened. It is home to what is claimed to be Cuba's only authentic vegetarian restaurant with 70% of the food served coming from Las Terrazas and the remainder from withing a radius of 25km.
Everything at Las Terrazas is government owned, private businesses such as B&Bs and restaurants are prohibited and the houses can’t be sold but they can be handed down to family members.
It is a thriving self-contained community of villagers, musicians, singers and artists, including Lester Campa, whose work has been exhibited internationally, and who was in his studio when we visited


and a popular holiday resort for tourists, and Cubans who can afford to stay there. 

flamingos on the lake



Surrounded by lush foilage, indigenous species and a respect for nature 
it is a hallmark of success, tranquility and sustainability.


Cafe de Maria, a small unassuming coffee bar that really does serve the best coffee ever. Manuel recommended the Cafe Las Terrazas, a refreshing cocktail with milk, coffee, cacao liquor, chocolate and ice. It was so delicious we had to have another cup each before departing for our next destination.



The botanical gardens at nearby Soroa which contains an excellent orchidarium, home to more than 700 different 
types of orchild. The surrounding countryside is lush, hilly and very pleasant to wander around.

We arrived in Vinales late afternoon. 


Casa Margarita
Our stay for the next two nights, run by Yuliet with help from her husband and mother, who the casa was named after, I think Margarita originally ran the business. Casas are like our B&B's and are run by families who take a share of the profits, but owned by the government.


There are two small detached bungalows in the garden, both immaculately clean, offering comfortable beds, 
air con, en-suite shower room and a well stocked fridge. We also had use of the roof terrace 


Breakfast was a generous serving of fruit, hams, cheese, bread, crackers, cakes and eggs - scrambled, fried or boiled. Juice, tea and coffee.



The small town of Vinales is spruce with well tended gardens and brightly painted houses and restaurants


Vinales valley is encircled by mountains and sprinkled with mogotes, sheer sided limestone masses covered in thick vegetation, remnants of a collapsed cavern system that was created underwater during the Jurassic period.


It does look and feel as if dinosaurs would suddenly appear 


Parque Nacional

Mural del la Prehistoria
Discovery of fish fossils, skulls of large saurians and evidence of aborigine settlements found in local caves led to the idea of a mural on the wall of this mogote. Horizontal lines were painted by farmers of the locality who hung by strong ropes attached to parachute harnesses, whilst being directed from the ground by the artist. It depicts evolution from ammonite to Homo sapiens. 

There was a restaurant and bar where we had Pina Coladas - we had quite a few during our holiday :-) - at this one you can pour your own rum!! They were exceedingly good pc's and we didn't take advantage.



This lovely chap was singing very nicely at the opening to some caves. 
I'm not a huge fan of underground caves, the best one I have ever been to was in Australia. 
This one was allright and it wasn't very long.



And of course you can't visit Cuba without going to a tobacco farm. What a handsome chap.



Tobacco seeds, stages of drying out and ready to be rolled


Cutting the leaves, rolling, and the finished cigar. It smelt good. This guy was really enjoying his smoke.


This plantation also grows cocoa beans and coffee beans 


Enjoying a cup of coffee laced with rum and I had sugar in mine, mmm delicious



The chicken whisperer. He made a kind of cooing noise and they all came running from different directions.



It's interesting that the world's finest tobacco is grown in fields cultivated by good old tried and tested farming methods. The rich red soil is turned by ox and plough.


I hope you have enjoyed your visit to Vinales


Up next: Trinidad


9 comments:

  1. Your blog is amazing!!! Lots of intresting informations, great places and beautiful photos!
    I am a new follower now. Would you like to visit my blog, meyby follow if you like it?
    WELCOME TO MY BLOG (CLICK)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Niele, thank you for your lovely comments, and for joining my site. I have joined your site too. I love your miniatures, I like your comment about falling into the miniature world and forget about the large realities :-)

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  2. Interesting world to see. It has been such a closed country for years. Nice to have a look behind the curtains at last.

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    1. Hello Marianne, yes it is and I do admire what they have done with almost no outside help. Cuban people are very resilient and immensely proud of their heritage.

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  3. Thanks for taking us along, Polly, I've never been to this part of the world and it looks colorful and vibrant and fascinating seen through your eyes.
    Amalia
    xo

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    Replies
    1. Thank you Amalia. It is, it was everything I hoped it would be. I'm so glad I've been now before it changes x

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  4. My stepniece is in Havana at the moment and went to the Rolling Stones concert last week - she queued up for nine hours! Lovely photographs and I like the English tree - the whole of me would look like this after 2 days in Cuba

    ReplyDelete
  5. My stepniece is in Havana at the moment and went to the Rolling Stones concert last week - she queued up for nine hours! Lovely photographs and I like the English tree - the whole of me would look like this after 2 days in Cuba

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your comments. I was ok until the day we went to a beach, I got a tad wind burnt!

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