Friday, January 25, 2013

Viñales (II)

The second day in Viñales started with a surprise, the bus which goes around the valley was broken and there was no other public transportation. We were informed about this by taxi touts and confirmed it in the bus office... so we had to go by taxi. After some haggling, I got a taxi for 3 people and we would pay the same price as for the bus. The third person turned up to be a nice Russian fellow who was completely flexible and open-minded, which made sharing the taxi a really enjoyable experience. The first stop was Palanque de los Cimarrones, a strange kurst formation on a huge mountain (or mogote). There are some caves around there, but we thought it would be difficult to go there with our son so we soon moved on to Cueva del Indio.

On the way there, we had the first problems with the taxi: the taxi driver's wife was visiting him for Xmas and he did not go to stay all day out with us. I could convince him to come back to Cueva del Indio in two hours' time, which gave us time to visit the cave and to hike in the nearby Rancho de San Vicente.

Cueva del Indio was not so large, but still interesting, as caves always are! In addition, it was very tourist-oriented, which made it easy to visit with our son. There is a larger cave in the valley, Cueva de Santo Tomas. But that one is supposed to be quite rough and some point, so we decided not to go there either with our son. The price to pay to be parents!!! ;)

The most interesting part of Cueva del Indio is the second part of the visit, which is done by boat. There is a river coming out of the cave and there is a small boat ride from the cave towards the exit. On the way out, the person in charge of the boat pointed out some "weird" rock formations which resemble other things: bananas, crocodiles, etc, etc...

This is the actual exit of Cueva del Indio:

Just in the exit, there were some tourist traps (souvenirs, overpriced restaurants...) and behind those, Rancho de San Vicente was waiting for some hiking opportunities. The landscape out there felt really tropical with jungle and palm trees all over.

At first, it was difficult to get oriented in Rancho de San Vicente, so we just kept on wandering around, until we found the trails we had been talked about.

The hikes in this area are not so special, but are ok to feel the rustic atmosphere: cattle, pigs, plantations, jungle, birds singing in it...

After Cueva del Indio, our taxi driver was different and some more problems arised. Basically, he just wanted to bring us to places quickly and come back to town really early. It took us 20 minutes to convince him that the plan we had agreed upon was not like that and he should honour that plan. Finally, it was fine and we could leasurely visit the places we wanted to visit and have a nice long lunch at a local paladar (privately owned restaurant).

The other interesting part of the Viñales Valley is around Mogote Dos Hermanas, and here is where the most beautiful karst mountain scenery is. The size of these mogotes is just amazing. Compare the size of the one below with respect to the house on the lower right corner to understand the proportions.

The main tourist attraction in here is the so-called Mural de la Prehistoria, a mural painted over a large wall in one of the mogotes. It was painted over several years around the 70s by some Diego Rivera followers. The result is shocking. You may like it or not, but it does not leave you indifferent. In my opinion, let's say I do not like it so much :P

After this part of the valley, it was time for the best views, from Hotel Los Jazmines. From up there, all the valley is visible and it is really beautiful.

The final stop was in another beautiful hotel-mirador, Hotel La Ermita. From there, we could see the town and the mogotes in the background.

Finally, we got back to town at around 16.30, just in time for some mojitos and chilling out before going back to our casa for a special dinner...

That night, we were meeting some great friends, Seppo and Cynthia, who were also traveling around Cuba! It was very nice to meet them after some years. Actually, the last time we had met them had been two years before, in our own wedding celebration in Almansa, Spain. During dinner, we got up to date with our lives and made plans to meet again in La Habana in the end of our trips, around one week later.

The next day, it was time to leave Viñales. The next stop was Trinidad, but it was more than 7 hours away by bus, so we decided to go back to La Habana to break the trip in two parts and make it more agreable for Yuuhi and for us. Shopping in town, we got a shared taxi with two Argentineans for the same price as the bus. So same price, faster and door-to-door service! The car was a pretty cool old American car from the 50s. However, the sound system was Pioneer, the driving wheel was from a Hyundai and the engine was Toyota! A good vehicle to come back to La Habana, where we planned to visit Vedado, the new city center developed during the American-influence era.

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