I don’t usually tell people I have a blog. Especially when I travel. What if I want to write awful things about that person? (ex. the American guy I met in Nicaragua) Or incredibly sappy stuff?(ex. you know the series. Travel romances are the BEST.) But I told Jack. Mostly because I was so excited to tell him about my trips to Nicaragua and Costa Rica and all the information is contained in these pages. Somehow, I showed him this blog and let him read it. YES, I watched his face like a crazy person to see what he thought and racked my brains to figure out ways to erase his memory should he judge it horrible. (Any suggestions? All I could come up with was hitting him in the head with a piece of wood.)
I had written a version of this post in Cuba on my way from Havana to Santiago. Somewhere along the way, either waiting at the bus station or trying to nap after being up all night, I wrote down words that carried the high I felt from my brief interlude in Vinales. I talked of kissing a boy underneath the stars and dancing in a cave. There were mojitos involved. There was rum involved. There were cigars. A boy who took selfies. A boy who took my hand, led me to the bar, kissed my cheek and danced with me on stage.
I had to change it.
When I look back at my time in Vinales, I am overcome with two feelings. One, that it was one of my favourite places in Cuba. And two, well, it’s another feeling.
But, that is neither here nor there. So what is Vinales like?
It’s beautiful. (Smooooth change of conversation. Yes)
It’s located in the West, in the Valley of Vinales in the province of Pinar del Rio. Once we caught sight of those cliffs, those lush, green forests and cute little houses, and lakes and national parks and horses…. AHHH – THIS NON-CITY GIRL WAS IN LOVE!
But first, our car breaks down. Of course! At this point, we had become a group of six. We met two Turkish software engineers living in London in our cab who were heading the same way. We ended up spending the whole time together in Vinales.
So, we settle in to the city and find a casa. Our room was beautiful. Two gorgeous wood beds, in a room with #exposedbrick. It exited onto a lovely sitting area in which I found myself chatting with two lovely French women who were on the adventure of a lifetime. Gary asked them if they were with their husbands. They laughed. These two went everywhere in the world. As they told me, one drove and the other talked. They also said they hated English in which Jack agreed with them. They were adorable. .
Here’s something else I want to talk about. Language
I speak and think in both French and English. But I understand Spanish in a French way. Basically, when I hear Spanish, I translate it in French. Mostly because it sounds similar and because I took a Spanish class on the Quebec side. So, most of the trip was spent listening in Spanish, processing in French and translating to English for my friends and then trying to speak Spanish which included French words. By the end, I was mentally exhausted. I was just drained. So when i met these two lovely ladies, I relished the time to speak French to them until I felt mentally capable of continuing. I wish I would have had more of an opportunity to do so, though near the end, and Holly and Jack can attest to that, i just spoke French. Sorry guys. Had to do it because my brain was literally turning into mush.
Our casa had two lovely terraces that we spent most of our time at.
The first day was spent wandering around town looking for food (#groupproblems – someone always has to make a decision) and hanging out at the plaza and listening to music. The next day, Jack and I had made plans to go hiking and the group wanted to go horseback riding. But we changed our plan when we heard how awesome it sounded.
We did make time for hiking. Following Ahmet’s instructions, we wandered off a side street and wandered through a tobacco plantation and climbed up a cliff to explore one of the caves. As we were to head down, I wanted to see if we could climb up a side of the cliff and Jack and I tried to do just that. He made it further than I did, effortlessly swinging his much longer legs to get to the side.
Once down, the rest of the group had stopped to drink coffee, mojitos and smoke some cigars.
Finally, horseback riding!
I named mine Pumpkin.
We wandered through fields, plantations and mountain-side villages. We stopped to learn how cigars are rolled (smoking my first cigar! (Ok, shared it) It was dipped in honey. I will eat, smoke or drink anything dipped in honey.) We got back on our horses and headed to a coffee plantation. Where we learned that they are not allowed to use any type of machines because they were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Then I bought an empty water bottle filled with coffee beans. Not sketch at all. We stepped off and headed towards a cave. We wandered through. It was nice. Lovely. The machoism of Cuba reared its head again when the guide gave the boys flashlights and told them to look after the girls. Once we had gotten through ( still questioning the validity of paying 2 CUC for admission), the sun was starting to set. We galloped majestically across the field to witness the sun dip down behind the mountains as we swam in a lake. (We did not gallop.)
This was another moment when someone would ask me if I would do something and I would say, sure I’ll swim if you swim. GOSH DARN IT IZ.
We wandered back in the dark and were set free into the night. We had gotten to the horseback riding place by taxi (another sketch moment) but we wandered back into the town on our own. We settled in and had dinner at our casa, followed by drinks, cigars, rum and just endless chatting about travel, lust, love, sex, drugs, parties, travel trips and any another story that would come up. And the stars. I still can’t get over the stars. Luckily, one of the Turkish guys had an astronomy app on their phone and we could make out constellations. And a shooting star. We wandered back into the plaza and were immediately approached by locals telling us about a crazy party in a cave. Here’s what we did right: as we are a little sketched out, Ahmet took the address and asked the police officers if it was a real place! It was. We jumped into a cab and had one of the most incredible and surreal nights ever. Imagine. You drive into a parking lot. There’s a giant limestone cliff shooting into the sky. A cave is filled with hundreds of local people, a bar, music, dancing, tables and just a crazy atmosphere.
Ahhh. Cave party.
We eventually made our way back to the main square and some things happen and the next day, we made plans to head to Santiago. That was a nightmare to arrange! Everything was booked or expensive. So we thought our best bet was to head back to Havana with the two Turkish guys and figure it out from there.
We said goodbye to the boys on the side of a road near the cemetery. Because of course. This is how all love stories end.
So instead of a brief fleeting love story of a girl and a boy in a cave party, I’ve talked about Vinales and language and travel friendships. Fair trade?