Valle de Vinales and the Colours of Prehistory

It is early and the mist is still low in the valley.The plow is pulled laboriously by two white oxen. With each jerk, a new scratch appears, until finally the earth bleeds red. The dark green leaves of the palms rise out and can be seen distinctly from up high, but their white stalks are lost amidst the swirling cotton waves of air which creep along the ground.The farmer takes off his straw hat to mop his brow and looks up towards the sky.

The sun rises higher and the strangely shaped hills glow with an orange hue. They are covered in trees which have sprouted out the hard rock at different angles, sometimes overlapping, sometimes dangling. Stunted banzais, baobabs with thick trunks and skinny heads, white palm trees germinating from sheer rock faces.Roots and branches are entwined. They are what they are because the world needed them that way.

Now we travel down, down passed the thatched cottages and blue huts, down into a place where the sun doesn’t shine and the moon doesn’t wander, passed the green vines that cascade down the wide cave entrance. It is here that a little boat glides silently along in the darkness. Thousands of droplets fall, some land noiselessly but others hit water. Water versus water. Echoes, echoes, echoes. Artificial lights dance around the cave. I see the silhouettes of people.

A prehistoric mural is the newest thing somehow. Here are the people again, but this time all their features are clear. A domesticated bull is stroked and ridden and then rolls around like a dog in the grass. There are some cowboys and horses, the children gallop up the hill towards the giant animals. The rocks have been shaved and emblazoned with paint and colors.The men here are red, like the earth. Flowers bloom. Man and nature’s palettes are combined and neither is going for anything close to subtle or understated.

Finally, our journey ends in a sea of green. Big furry leaves and a large triangle thatched building. A slab of shiest is painted with the faces of five men and a star. These are Cubans but now they belong to America. A guitar adorns the side of the barn wall. The thick smell of hay wafts into our nostrils as we pass into the shadows. The doors bang slightly, shut. Whereas outside the leaves were luscious, here they are dry, leathery and pungent. This is the prize.

We huddle round. So it seems that there be gold in them hills after all.

I would highly recommend a day trip to the Valle de Vinales,  the heart of tobacco country, which is around 2hr30 minutes drive from Havana, which can be booked at the tourist office at Hotel Sevilla.

  • Visit an alcohol distillery and get a taste of typical Cuban spirits and buy cut price branded cigars.
  • The Indian Cave trip included a cocktail made from freshly mangled sugar cane and pineapple, after which we entered the cave and enjoyed a scenic boat trip.
  • Lunch was served to the sound of music in front of the Prehistoric mural
  • Next a quick stop off at Pinar del Rio, with its little church and small plaza.
  • Visit a real working tobacco plantation. Learn all about cigars and their manufacturing process in an outdoor setting with a great view. This plantation was really authentic, a proper working farm and run by locals.
  • Scenic view of the valley from look out point.

This was a very full day, so make sure that you do not go on a day when you are feeling tiered.

Enjoy the long journey back to Havana. Don’t miss the political propaganda and the palm tree forests!

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