As I mentioned in my previous post we went on a cycling trip around Vinales. Our goal was to see the landscapes and visit two caves on the way. The bicycle rental was quite easy even though the contract in small print covers the whole A4 page. Prices: 1 CUC for the first hour, 2 CUC for 2 hours and after that 0.75 CUC per hour. The owner of the business advised us to take off the saddle when we leave the bicycles in front of the caves. I didn’t have a feeling someone would steal the bicycles anyway, but in front of the first cave we decided to go in couples so that remaining two people can watch over the bikes. The landscapes were stunning. The road curved going up and down the hill. We didn’t cycle far but I enjoyed every bit of it. You will laugh but this was the first time I rode bicycle without holding the handlebar. The image that popped into my mind was the last scenes from City of Angels staring Meg Ryan and Nicolas Cage. Tunning with the wind, the air, the road. Fantastic.
The caves craved in limestone used to be the homes of native people before the arrival of Spanish explorers. The first one we visited was located next to Palenque de los Cimarrones and was once a refuge for runaway African slaves. We entered it with Marysia and I tried to make some shots without using my flash light. As you can imagine I stayed behind. Also I tend to get lost in photography loosing the real experience of places. It’s hard to keep your balance. But anyway suddenly I heard Marysia screaming and I saw her running and then falling on a rock to sit down. This was disturbing. Only then I heard the drums. Only a little worried I hurried to the exit of the cave. I was surprised by the drums again and a man setting himself on fire. This performance meant to demonstrate the music and rituals of the runaway slaves. At the end of the path, you come to a re-creation of one of the nomadic homes – series of interconnected ranchos (thatched huts), each decorated with a painting representing a different orishá, or Afro-Cuban deity. A restaurant that receives good reviews is located in them. And don’t worry the soup pictured on one of the huts is not in a menu… you are perfectly safe… well unless… you misbehave.
In the price of the ticket a ride in a horse carriage is included. Although I understood we will get a free drink… You’ll get a fascinating tour: Pineapples on the right, bananas on the right, black beans on the left…
The fact is we talked to the barman a while before we went in. When he found out we were Polish he told us of his girlfriend Monika, who already visited him four times this year. He said for him he is the most beautiful girl in the World. We were in great moods so we joked and chatted away. Then the barman told us to wait as he had a surprise for us. and guess what, he put a Polish music on so we could sing along. This were songs by Wilki, Brathanki and many more. He had it still on when we came back. We had some more time to chat as it was guys turn to go sightseeing. This is when we found out that from 13th January 2013 Cubans will be allowed to leave the country for 24 months at a time, with an option to extend their stay abroad, by applying for an extension at the nearest Cuban embassy. This means Cubans will be able to leave the island without a permit for first time in 51 years. I found information that the state-run newspaper Granma, reported that this change in regulations is part of a broader effort to “update” the island’s migration policy and “adjust it to prevailing conditions.”
It turned out that we got a free drink in the end. Something absolutely amazing. I’m going to try to find it now as we didn’t see it in cocktail menu anywhere else in Cuba. It should include honey, rum, juice and fresh fruit. It’s not Canchanchara. I should have written it down. We did write down recommendations where to go to the beach and we forgot the most important thing! Now this is something to bare in mind. In one of the pictures you can see a couple dancing, this was so cute.
When the guys came back we headed to the next cave called Cueva del Indio. It’s a system of caves (45 km) mostly underwater, making it the longest one in Cuba and Latin America. Only 1 km is open to public. I think the entrance fee is 5 CUC. The entrance is covered by lush flora, waterfalls of ivy, bloody red flowers and monumental palm tree columns. The stairs down look mysterious and inviting, promising adventure is about to begin. You walk in through carved steps and follow a concrete path at end of which a boat is waiting. But before you board it you can explore a small niche that is dark and mysterious. The boat takes you further down the cave and then turns around to let you out just outside a small waterfall and a restaurant. It was rediscovered in 1920. As I already said the caves where a shelter for runaway slaves. In Cueva del Indio bones of Guanajatabey Amerindians were discovered hence the name. Also some relics and pictographs were found confirming their presence there. I saw magnificent and colorful rocks there which made me think of rainbows and, don’t laugh, meringue cakes. The guide pointed out to shapes reminding pigs and piglets. I suppose all is down to your imagination and your mind playing its tricks on you. I read it somewhere that our minds associate shapeless objects with known objects in the need to prevent us from harm. The unknown being ultimate danger. I enclose the movie I recorded in the cave, if you get impatient just forward it to second half.
Now… let’s talk salsa. One evening we went out to this Cafeteria in the main street of Viniales. At the beginning there was four of us, Maria being sick at home. Then Adam felt sick and went home and in the end Marysia left us too. In the meantime we were drinking mojito and watching a salsa performance. The dancers after showing off asked the members of public to join them. It was quite difficult with our table as no one wanted to go. Besides me of course but I was asked the last. Nevertheless this was my dream coming true so I didn’t complain. To be honest I didn’t do too well. I can put the blame on my platform shoes or on the fact it reminded me of children dancing in the kindergarten, but honestly it felt uncomfortable. Both me and my partner managed to survive it somehow. I sat down happy and thinking I will do better next time. I didn’t have to wait too long… a pirate in bandana took my hand and swiftly pulled onto the dance floor. We danced twice and in the meantime my dancing partner made sure Michal was not my boyfriend. Third dance went much better and ended with a fiery kiss on my cleavage. This left me giggling and amused. Earlier during the day we heard there was another club just up the road and Michal convinced me to check it out. Can you blame me I was a bit reluctant?
I said my goodbyes and off we went. We ended up in a restaurant next to Centro Cultural Polo Montañez. I have a picture of the entrance but not its name. We had to pay the entrance fee of 2 CUC and even Michal did not manage to persuade them to take Peso instead. We bought drinks (mojito 2.50 CUC, toilet paper 1 CUC) and watched the dancers. Some characters I tell you! An older black woman with short bleached hair asked every possible guy to go dancing with her. She danced with so much passion! There was a macho there as well dancing with two sexy girls at the same time and blond girl with a reggae type of guy. At some point three couples joined and started to dance together. Women opposite to men. Nice. I promise you it gets frustrating watching people dance and being stuck outside the dance floor. I got lucky. My pirate found me and took me dancing. Hahahhahaa and this was nothing like the civil dance before. Sensual, joyful and free. His hips and hands became more and more bold as I felt his tongue following the path from the décolleté of my dress up to my neck. Let’s just say what happens in Cuba stays in Cuba.
After some time I met the dancer from the pictures you can see above. He was dressed in ordinary clothes and tought me a bit of African style salsa. For me this was it for that night but my salsa education had a follow up the following evening.
Marysia stayed at home, so it was again four of us who headed to enjoy salsa night. This time instead of dancing we were exposed to popular music in Cuba, a singer, a band making me think of latino Westlife, duo singing latino hip-hop and finally fire performance. In course of the evening there was a power blackout. The light and music were gone but everyone seemed to wait patiently until power was turned back on. I guess the fire performance was too much for Adam as he went back home. I asked Maria to teach me salsa and so we went on the side to practice. This is when she met handsome Cuban and I had to dance with smelling Bob Marley type of guy. It didn’t go very well for me. But during the evening I was dancing with two more partners one of them called Hector. He spoke English at least well enough to try to convince me I’m beautiful, can dance, move like a Cuban girl and that the other guy is stupid. I told him that of course I know I’m beautiful, that in fact I can’t dance but am not worried about it and that ‘moving’ gives me a great pleasure. Either he understood my sense of humor or he didn’t care and laughed in the right moments hahhahaa more like all the time really.
So anyway we got this far and there is only one more person to write about. Yes! Jeronimo! We went for a walk with Marysia and we ended up half buried in mud, wounded (Marysia scratched her leg on a stone) but happy. This is because we left victorious in a duel with two bulls and one cow, patted a horse and met a handsome, half naked Jeronimo on a horse. To say he was well built is an understatement. But he left Marysia stunned with her jaw opened and wanting to go horse riding with him. No dirty thoughts now! He is an owner of a stable and organises horse rides to the caves 🙂 with this pleasant thought I leave you until the next time. Enjoy the slide show!