Horseback riding in Viñales, Cuba

| Petra Horsch

We drive through the mountains towards the village of Viñales. In this town you can find a few influences of the Spanish colonization and therefore it has its own charisma.

An extensive lunch

We'll stop at Balcon del Valle for lunch. The view over the green mountains rising out of the landscape is beautiful. The flat landscape is interspersed with green forests and agricultural pieces. We are welcomed by an employee with a smile from ear to ear. We are welcomed with a cocktail of papaya, watermelon, mango, pineapple and guayaba. The cocktail is richly supplemented with rum. We eat fried platano macho, a kind of savoury mealy banana, which is not seen as a fruit but as a vegetable. The skin of this banana is hard and green. The crisps are deliciously crunchy, which gives the taste buds a boost. As an appetizer we get a soup. Then comes the main course, where I choose a ropa vieja, a kind of beef with paprika. We get a small salad with white cabbage, cucumber and tomato. In addition, three different types of rice are served. All freshly prepared, not too spicy. Meanwhile I enjoy the view.

When we finished our lunch we drive further into Viñales. Everywhere you see casas particulares and restaurants. We drive a little further from the town in the direction of our hotel. Here we pass Mural de la Prehistoria. On one of the mountain walls Fidel Castro made a drawing with bright colours of prehistory. A little further on is our hotel. We are warmly welcomed by our host and drink a cup of coffee while we enjoy the view of the valley and the mountains in the background. In front of us lies the hotel's own vegetable garden. The garden of the hotel is lush and has various shades of green. The interior of the house is rustic and creative. A lot of stone, wood and bamboo is used.

Visiting a tobacco plantation

After a cup of coffee it's time to get dressed for a horseback ride through the area. The friendly farmer is ready with three horses and with a little help we climb on it. We ride along the farms with various crops, from mangoes to pineapple, platanos (bananas) and cassava. We reach a tobacco plantation where there are no tobacco plants at the moment. However, the tobacco leaves are drying in a thatched barn that serves as a drying place. The local tobacco farmer comes to tell us how the process goes, how a cigar is made and of course how it can be smoked. Then we ride into the mountains, testing the horses' legs and their stamina. Once uphill we enjoy a beautiful view, time for photos and to stare into the distance and enjoy the peace and quiet. Along the way we don't meet anyone, except the people and animals that live here.

On the way back we stop at a house that also serves as a bar. Here we taste the local liqueur guayabita. We drive back to our hotel. We lie in the hammock and reminisce about what we have seen. Then it is time for a nice shower to rinse off the sunsceen. We sit down for dinner, ropa vieja, rice with beans, salad and pumpkin. For dessert cheese with guayaba. The countryside is beautiful, simple, tasteful, fresh, peaceful.

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