The drive to the valley was superb. The first part was along the flat peninsula with water lapping near the road only inches away. The green rolling hills further on were almost void of farms except for a few thatched roof tiny dwellings. There were not many road signs and those that we saw were very faded and hard to read. The main road was one lane and void of traffic except for people walking, on bicycles, or driving double team ox carts with rubber wheels near the villages. We climbed up through guava and mango fields into forested pine hills before reaching the Hotel Horizontes Las Jasmines where we had our first view of the Valle. It was spectacular!

Mogotes in the Valle de Vinales

The mogotes surrounded by a green plain receded into the distant mountains.  We drove down into the valley and stopped to take a tour into one of the limestone mounds hollowed out by a river.  Here we walked inside a cave past huge stalactites and departed by launch out another side on the clear cool water. While looking up, sometimes 135 meters, where the ceiling  is hollowed out gives the impression of being inside a huge ornate cathedral.  The town of Vinales is a quaint cowboy town with a wide tree lined main street and little red tiled roofed cottages with wooden rocking chairs on the porches.  Here we saw the unusual oxen drawn ‘sleds’.  

Log ‘sleds’ being pulled by oxen

Two logs in a V shape slide on the ground while the driver stands on top riding like on ski’s. The red soil is a rich source for growing tobacco, this being recognized as one of the best areas in the world for growing tobacco for the famous Cuba cigars. We stopped in one of the local farm houses and had a tour through their tobacco drying shed and into the farmers home with an explanation of the tobacco growing process. Coming back we picked up several different hitchhikers all so eager to invite us into their tobacco sheds with beaming pride. Except for the only girl we picked up a 21 year old named Didiachi, who was more curious about us. We found the people so curious and friendly and genuinely a happy proud people. And the country itself so unspoiled and rich in diversity. It will be sad to leave.