Today was the day I was probably most looking forward to in Cuba.

It was a day spent touring the Vinales valley, doing some horse back riding and going to a tobacco farm.

I had arranged a tour through my casa host for 9am this morning at a cost of only $10 to do everything over 4 hours.

Despite being in my own private room, I still had a very interrupted sleep last night.

The aircon was amazing but almost too amazing as it was getting too cold in the room and the mosquitos, well, there were some stragglers still hanging out in the room that would zip by me with a loud buzz every so often.

Oh, and those bastards bit me too.   Alot.

I eventually figured out the optimal way to have the aircon and slept with a heavier blanket that was stored on a shelf.

Oh, and the mosquitos?

Yeah, I went to war and stalked them all down whipping my tshirt at them as they just sat there on the wall mocking me.

Anyway, I did finally get out of bed around 7am this morning, ready to start my day.

I got ready, dropped my laundry with my casa host, arranged a collectivo back to Havana for a couple of days from now, and headed off to grab some breakfast before my guide would come to pick me up.

Eggs and bacon, a side of potatoes, and a uber real and fresh lemonade.

Best breakfast so far.


When I arrived back at my casa, my guide was early already waiting for me.

I didn’t know what to expect from this tour as my casa host explained it in broken English.

I guess I was expecting a driver picking me up and then picking up other people and we’d drive out to the Vinales valley together from stop to stop.

Somewhere along the way we’d tour a tobacco farm and go somewhere to ride a horse.

Man, was I way off.

My guide led me to his mode of transport, a horse drawn buggy.


Okay then.   No worries, let’s go!

The buggy ride was not comfortable given all the potholes in the very unevenly paved streets.

After 10 minutes, we arrived at a man’s home.   He was standing outside in front of a motorbike.   My buggy guy told me I was going with him.


So this wasn’t actually my guide.   He was the transport to my guide.

Guess we’re going by motorbike.

Ah, no.

My new guide led me to his backyard to his horses.

Ah, it’s all becoming clearer now.

The tour is by horse as we ride through the valley from stop to stop.

Horsing around

Now, I’m not really a horse person.   In fact, the only other time I’ve been on a horse was 10 years ago while I was in Iceland.

I will say, though, I mounted my horse like I was a pro.

His name was Mojito (naturally) and as my guide told me, he was the boss.

He had a very leisurely gait which was kind of nice, my butt would thank me in the coming days, I’m sure.

Every so often my guide riding his horse behind me would make a special “sheesh, sheesh, sheesh” sound and Mojito would all of a sudden speed up bouncing me up and down.

I quickly learned that when he made that sound, I should hold on just a little tighter.

Of course, Mojito would just decide on his own from time to time to just randomly speed up without warning.

My poor butt!

My phone did fall out of my pocket at one point but, thankfully, it made a loud thud on the ground so I heard it fall.

Equally lucky was that it didn’t land in some mud or something even worse.

Zipped back into my backpack, we were back on our way.

At the farm

We arrived at the farm at 9:30, we parked our horses, and my guide left me with the farmer.

The farmer, thankfully, spoke English fairly well which was good because I’d be with him for the next two hours or so while my guide hung out in the background waiting for me.

This family farm has been passed down a few generations since before the revolution in the 1950s so it had been in the family for at least 80 years.

Along with some fruits and honey, it’s main products were coffee beans and tobacco.

Because this is communist Cuba, 60% of the coffee and 90% of the tobacco are set aside for the government leaving him very little to sell on his own.

First, standing in front of grinding apparatus and, what I would describe as the world’s largest muddler, he gave me a pretty in depth explanation about coffee and how it’s produced.

Then it was time to try some.

Now, I really don’t like the taste of coffee.   If I ever have some, it’s almost always as a latte or a cappuccino so it has enough stuff in there where I don’t taste the coffee.

Don’t hate me, you Starbucks loving weirdos!

This coffee though was great.

Turns out, it was producing with the skin still on the beans leading to natural sugars being produced in the brewing.

So, while I was worried I would offend my coffee farming friend by only taking a sip, I ended up drinking it all.

Tobacco and cigars

Before we continued onto the highlight of the farm tour, the cigars, I sat and waited for the farmer to go through his whole coffee spiel with 4 others who had arrived during my presentation.

They were Jensen and Anne, a Bahamian couple and Patrick and Catherine, an English couple.

Once they were done, all 5 of us headed over to the tobacco area of the farm.

First, let’s talk about the actually tobacco plant.

It’s made of five parts.

The leaves on the bottom part are used as the actual outside cigar casing.

The leaves from the top (or crown) part of the plant is mixed with the 2nd bottom part to produce the filler.

This is where you get your different types of cigars.

There are 80/20, 70/30, 60/40 and 50/50 cigars depending on what percentage of leaves come from the top and what come from the bottom.

So, an 80/20 mix would be a high end cigar like a Macanudo while a 50/50 mix would be something milder that is branded for men and women alike like a Montecristo.

The leaves are then fermented in a mix of honey, lemon, vanilla, pineapple, vitamin R (the affectionate name they give rum) and 3 undisclosed ingredients for 4-5 years.

As for that little band that wraps around the cigar, well, it’s also produced from the same plant from the center part which is more elasticky.

We also learned that African bees are used here to create honey as they nest in the ground.   The farm produces both summer and winter honey.

The summer honey is that light golden, mild honey we’re used to seeing on grocery shelves while the winter variation is a darker, with an almost molasses color and viscosity.

The honey also is used to create a natural filter for the cigar when smoking them.

You dip the cigar tip into the honey, smear some on your lips and light the cigar on the other end and puff away.

After the presentation and the smoking, and the best fresh squeezed lemon and honey drink I’ve ever had, the farmer laid everything on the table and listed the pricing for each.

The cigars ranged in price from $6-$34.

I actually looked it up and the $6 Montecristo cigars actually go for $32 back home.

No wonder people smuggle, ah sorry “import”, in cigars to sell back home.

Back in the saddle

At noon, it was time to leave the farm.

The sun was beating down hard now and it had reached 29C.

We made a couple stops on the way back including popping into a small cave and stopping at a bar/café where a bunch of riders were there waiting for some kind of riding competition.

I love how I kind of glossed over going to a cave.

That’s what happens when you’ve literally been in a dozen caves over the years.

At the end of the day, all the caves kind of are the same, ya know.

Anyway, by 1pm we had finally returned to my guide’s home.

Bye Mojito.

Thanks for the ride!

I don’t know if I was supposed to get a horse buggy ride back into town or not but, honestly, when he said I’d have to do the 20 minute walk back into town, I was kind of alright with it.

By 1:30 I was back in my casa, drenched in sweat, and looking forward to just relaxing in the a/c for a bit.

The rest of the day

As for the rest of the day, I exchanged some more US dollars for pesos, got my laundry back (only 300 pesos, $1.25), had some lunch at 3:00 and an early light dinner at 6:00.

The plan was to go back out for a real dinner at 9pm but I was crashing hard by 7pm and what I thought would just be an hour nap, turned into a long, luxurious sleep into the wee hours of the morning.

It had been a long few days with broken sleep, so it’s not surprising that I crashed.

Tomorrow I plan on seeing a couple other things around Vinales and the next day is a long travel day down to Cienfuegos so, buckle up, Cuba trip is in full swing…

Cuba Trip 2024, Trip Journal, Vinales, Cuba
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