Friday, June 16, 2017

Rain Rain Go Away...

Up at dawn. Again.

We had a quick breakfast in the vaulted ceiling private dining room at Casa Ivis before what I would soon discover was the ride from hell.
Having been spoiled by our coches privados prior to this morning I was not expecting a big, steel contraption in way of a station wagon of sorts that was slowly filling to the brim with young travelers.

10 people in one car should just be against the law unless its big and yellow.

It is becoming evident that this 2 hour car ride will be much closer to 4.
A couple hours in we pull off on a dirt road that is only marked by a low hanging billboard with a Fidel quote and I figure we’re being recruited for some guerilla warfare or murdered and buried in a ditch. When I discover that instead we are at a farm I light up like a fucking Christmas tree and while the other travelers seem to be obediently following some sort of tour, I take the opportunity to commune with nature. Chat with pigs, communicate with kitties and have moments with some goats.
A quick snap of an old man with his pants down – I asked permission – he agreed – and we’re back in the dungeon of doom through the windy roads (did I mention I get car sick?) to Vinales.

We enter an idyllic little town and moments later we’re dropped off at Garaje de Joaquin where we will be bunking for the evening.

Joaquin greeted us warmly and immediately showed of his ride in none other than… his garaje!
Our room is large and airy and decorated just as you would expect an elderly Hispanic couple would and once our bags are dropped and passport numbers recorded, the skies open up entirely and pours down on us. You can see by looking at plant life around Vinales that rain is frequent here and has created beautiful shapes, colors and scents all over the place. It has also allowed for the beauty of the cornucopia of beautiful umbrellas here in this tiny hamlet.

The rain ruins our hiking plans, but not our eating plans – especially once the abuela of the house tells us she knows just the place and takes us on a little walk through the neighborhood to her fellow granny’s spot where we walk into the backyard and are met with the original rainforest cafĂ©.
A bamboo platform encases us as we are surrounded by big green leaves and mango trees. The air is fresh and the food is delicious and, being the only customers here, the service is second to none. Chicken and TuKola is consumed and, once the rain lightens a bit, we walk home to our grandparents.
Grandpa Joaquin is anxiously awaiting our return and pulls his white walled wheels out of the garage to take us on an adventure for the day. Without hiking as a viable options we headed into Vinales Valley National Park to visit the Cueva de Indio where you pay $5 to enter into the cave and then take a Pirates of the Caribbean ride through the tunnels. We did climb down into the center of the mountain but, after several minutes of impatiently waiting for the boat to arrive we were informed that the rain had made the water levels rise so much that a boat ride was no longer a safe option. Bummer.
We climbed our way back and  let Jesus take the wheel. And by Jesus, I mean Joaquin.
It seems like tobacco is a major cash crop here in Cuba and I am quite certain many a tourist wants to see where the famous Cuban cigars are made. Joaquin must have had this in mind when bringing us to a tobacco farm where we got a brief lesson on seeds and farming and then were ushered into the smoking section just as the clouds parted and the sun shone down warmly upon us.
Part Jabba, part Soprano the proprietor of the farm sat behind a wooden table and effortlessly rolled cigars. To my surprise no paper was used as is the case in my native country of above 175th street, but here its literally tobacco torn inside of tobacco rolled and then for some unforeseen and inherently sexual reason dipped in honey and then popped in your mouth.

Clearly a photo opp, my travel partner tried to snap just the right shot of me doing my best Che, but I looked far more Mamma June than Che Guevara.

After buying a single cigar to bring home I made my way back to the animals – duh – where I thought this horse was really feeling me, until it attempted to give me a single mastectomy and I decided he was no longer my friend.

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