El Moncada

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    • Day 6

      Hiking in Viñales

      November 28, 2019 in Cuba ⋅ ☀️ 28 °C

      For our second day in Viñales, we decided to visit the Cueva de Santo Tomás cave. This cave can only be visited on a tour and we decided to take the earliest one, at 9 AM. Our house helped us arrange a car (25 CUC) that drove us there and waited for us while we visited the cave. The cave was quite interesting and the guide was friendly and entertaining. We even saw a tarantula hidden in the rocks.

      We went back to Viñales, where we needed to get two main supplies that we had run out of: money and internet minutes. I waited in line at the Etecsa office while Dean went to change money. We were surprised to see we had spent so much money, but I guess we had several nice meals and tipped generously. We also got the Cubanacán bus tickets to Cienfuegos (32 CUC each), where we were heading the day after.

      After running these errands, we took a long walk around town. Truth to be said, the town is tiny and it mainly has one street, but we went back and forth looking for ice cream, a restaurant to have dinner later (it was Thanksgiving night) and to buy Dean a hat and even more cigars.

      After going back home and taking our traditional Thanksgiving picture with my fake inflatable turkey that I carry around when I travel at this time of the year, we went for a hike.

      The hike was so fun! We had read that hiking in Cuba by yourself is not that easy. There are not many well-defined trails and tour guides expect you to book their services to do this. But we did a bit of research and we found a route that seemed reasonable.

      We got somewhat lost, somewhat repeatedly, but the whole thing was a highlight of our trip and not as complicated as we had been led to believe. Many people were doing the same as us and locals were friendly and helpful when we asked for directions.

      We walked by some sort of cabins, where we saw something that looked like a giant rat on a leash. A Cuban guy told us the name and that we could pet it, which I did. Apparently it was a hutia (jutía, in Spanish.) They're rodents that live in the Caribbean Islands, and at least one-third of the species are extinct, but a couple of them are common and widespread. I'm gonna assume this was one of them.

      We headed to the Cueva de la Vaca. This was fun and it felt magical because we entered one side and exited the other without really knowing what we were doing or where we were. It was beautiful and while looking at some climbers in the rock -- this area is well-known among climbers --, an old Cuban man stopped and chatted with us about climbers, his son, who was visiting from the US, and how Americans would easily shoot you for entering a field. He was proud of Cubans welcoming and helping others, and of the Cuban doctors, who travel internationally.

      We also stopped at a bar that seemed to be the most random place ever, all empty and in the middle of a gorgeous field, and drank mojitos, which by then we were treating pretty much like water.

      We were out for longer than planned and it got dark before we were back, but we found our way back to town and had a shower before going to our Thanksgiving dinner at La Cocinita del Medio, a restaurant that we had seen recommended. It was good, but not extraordinary. We ended the night at the Centro Cultural Polo Montañez, some sort of social club with live music, where a group of young dancers was giving a show.

      Cueva de Santo Tomás…
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