Part 7 On distant dirt – I leave Havana for simplicity
Cities are fine, but large capital cities especially, tend to not be a complete reflection of the country. Genuinely curious and trying to be a good travel writer, I hopped on a tourist bus that took me from Havana to Viñales in just over three hours.
A change of pace
I only had 10 days to spend in Cuba. Limited choices on a big island. I chose to go to Viñales at the recommendation of a friend of mine who talked about great hiking, biking, landscape, et al. I wasn’t disappointed. It’s the kind of place where after a day, locals stop you in the street to ask how your issue was resolved or to remind you that you’ve met before. Viñales is a clean, crisp small city with conservative, rural folks. It’s in the heart of tobacco country. And everyone smokes a puro.
The locals appear to be uncomplicated compared to their city cousins. And on the whole, they appear to be prosperous, in no small part because of the tourism. A lot of people come to Viñales to see the famous mogotes, hilly rock formations that arealso found in Viet Nam, among other places. They come for the tobacco, for the mountain biking, the horse back riding, the hiking. And there’s a Playa Jutia, a spectacular deserted white powder sand beach nearby.
On any given block, several houses will have hand-painted signs advertisingaccommodations. And privately owned restaurants line the streets, all part of the new economic thrust of the government, eager to get people off the State payroll. Prices and quality vary wildly. You can pay $5 for a mayonnaise-y shrimp cocktail, or wait a half an hour for what tasted like soup from a instant soup package, mixed with tomato paste and pay $5 (Colonial). Just down the street, you can get a bottle of decent white wine for $6 and a full meal with excellently prepared fish, beans, rice and salad for around $10(Casa Don Thomas).
Viñales is really easy to be in. You can sit at the corner of the plaza, drink Bucaneer beer and watch life go by. Theres so much to am use and interest you. Musicians will wander by as will any number of tourists and tour guides. The locals will stop to have a beer at lunch, and pick up an order of fries from the vendor on the street. it’s so relaxed. Still, there’s an air of the new entrepreneurship, with people pulling out what they have to sell.
It’s about the chairs
I loved the quality of the light, during every part of the day, except mid day, during which the light was harsh. That’s when I began a series about chairs. Every house has a veranda and every veranda has chairs on which the people of the house enjoy watching the street life in the cool of the shade.