Vinales

Ordinarily my transfer was to take me back to Havana, and they were not able to change it to go to Vinales so I decided to get off at the city of Pinar Del Rio and get to the highly touted vinales.A must for the Cuba Backpacking experience! Here is where Cuba began, stepping off my transfer bus I had an amazing next 2 hours being tested by people trying to rip me off ordering a taxi and having a coach pull up full of people on the way to vinales and wanting to charge too much and it also being a coach not a taxi ! I decided to get to the hitching point and go as the locals do- there is a lot of hitch hiking so much so it's pretty organised. That also cost too much but 3rd time lucky and I haggled hard (and hard you have to), many times in Cuba you will not get the right price, they will not take you pride or whatever you call it. Move on if you have more time than money or take it on the chin. My pride and my desire to get some exercise meant I got my pack on back and started to walk, the first Jiniteros (see below) were very soft by cuban standards and I got a lift to the hitching point in a car and then they had no change, of course not ! Always keep some change.

Jiniteros; These are Cuban's who devote their lives to getting money from tourists and drinks and sex from women. Sounds like I would be one If I were a male Cuban as they also earn much more than say a doctor if they are good ! They will be a constant pest untill you get the hang of them, then you can get rid of them with practise and time. A note to the guys - you will be expected to pay for the sex and not just the drinks etc with Jiniteros there is no real prostitutional line that gets drawn on the male side as they don't ask for money for the sex. It is not without obvious risk but many travellers experience no problems I'm sure but just take care and be sensible.

I got a chevy 1948 to vinales which was an awesome ride check it out here . I found a casa particular that was close by one recommended by a French lad called Jan, it was full so I stayed in another casa in a soviet style bloc, I wasn't sure if this was good at first but the amazing thing was the balcony community it lit up in the gorgeous evening air with a cacophony of chickens soap operas and noisy Cuban banter - a first highlight after the ride in, this is why I am here these experiences. My casa costs 10 CUC per night and I for the first time ate lobster for 12 CUC, it was pretty good, but I doubt I will eat lobster ever again.

The following morning was a green tourist bus tour, only a single bus does a loop and hits each stop with an hour in between, so it's awkward at best but allows one to appreciate a bit why vinales is special. On the bus I met John, and he too an Irishman one of many Irish in Cuba was to be found taking a similar path to my own. Vinales is special not for the town or village as it feels, its the Mogotes, limestone formations left after the erosion of millions of years leaving fertile plains ideal for growing sugar cane or today TOBACCO and sugar cane !