We decided before we booked our honeymoon that we wanted it to involve some travelling. We also decided we didn’t want to spend days on a bus. Las Terrasas is only a few hours from Havana and Viñales a few hours from there so they seemed like a great bet. And both are set in the Mountains so great views were guaranteed.
Our first stop was Las Terrasas and we only had a night. There isn’t much there but we stayed at an eco-resort and it was gorgeous, just what I’d imagined for our honeymoon. Huge room, en suite with views of the valley, balcony, fridge and a TV. We stayed a night and enjoyed some time in the pool, a storm (and a powercut, not a problem but we did have to wait for a pina colada as it required a blender) and a walk through the village. We also tried to go zip wiring but we were scuppered by the weather – those of you who read our Jodphur blog will know how disappointing this was for us.
Our second stop lasted a bit longer. We headed to Viñales to explore the mountains. I wasn’t kitted out for the mountains, but I was keen to see them. I envisaged sitting in a bar, watching the hills, enjoying a pina colada. Nothing my flip flops and flimsy white, lacey wedding trainers couldn’t handle.
Winding through the pathways you can see rolling hills and the deepest green plantation. In fact it was much greener than I’d ever imagined. Arriving at the bus stop we were greeted by shouts of “Casa for the night, beds free”. We weren’t quite expecting it in sleepy Viñales but there were touts ready and waiting to pick off an unsuspecting tourist, although I suspect that if you’d gone with them you’d have found a perfectly respectable Casa at the other end. We’d booked ahead though and found a girl and a lady carrying a sign with our names on it. They were mother and daughter and ran Villa Jorge Y Ana Luisa. They both spoke good English, and were quick to tell us all about Viñales. We followed them down a dusty road (maybe flipflops and lacey whites weren’t the best choice after all) with no pavement and what seemed like hundreds of dogs and farm animals.
After reaching our Casa, we were given a welcome mojito and shown our rooms. They’d carefully arranged the towels to show a welcome message and the simple room was clean and fresh. There was even a fridge in there, although powercuts were common. Needless to say, we felt truly welcomed and we stayed that way until we left.
Viñales is a small town with plenty of restaurants and tourist information. At the top of a hill is a proper hotel with a big swimming pool. We trekked up there one of the days and enjoyed a heavy storm and a number of drinks. We didn’t sample the rum here but I’m going to hazard a guess that it is good, the coffee certainly was. It was worth the trek even though we couldn’t spend much time in the pool as the views were stunning. You could see rolling hills for miles.
Our casa owner arranged a trek for us and we were led through the mountains by a guide that spoke impeccable English. We strode through farm land, and across bridges (planks of wood across rivers), trampled high and low in the glorious sunshine. After a few hours and a few thousand photos, we arrived at the first tobacco plantation, here we were shown the different stages of harvesting tobacco. A few minutes later and we were on the move again.
The next time we stopped we were at another tobacco plantation. We were joined by another couple and our guides left us to cool in the shade alongside the tobacco. We were joined by another man who came to do a talk about making cigars. He didn’t speak English and our guide was still outside, but with the help of the other couple (If memory serves me, they were German… or Swiss) and our limited Spanish we followed the talk quite well. Part way through he stopped abruptly, grabbed a coconut and asked if we liked rum. All the guides were with us now and they quickly began to slice the tops off coconuts, enough for everyone. The coconut was almost entirely discarded and they were quickly filled with rum. By now the Cigars were ready and we were offered a chance to smoke one. Tim took them up on the offer and clumsily smoked it like Popeye smokes a pipe. He did not look cool.
Following our slightly surreal but welcome break, we began our trek once more, this time slightly tipsy. Our final stop before we headed back was a cave. Here we paid a small fee and headed inside with another guide and a whole group of tourists. Inside was beautiful and filled with stalagmites and stalactites. As we were led through the cave the guides chatted as we tried not to fall into the river below. We soon arrived at a big open space, it was dark and required torches. Here we were told we could change into our swim suits and dive in to the lagoon like pools. Tim jumped at the chance and was the second person in. And despite the communal changing room (it was pitch black apart from where the torch was shining) he was quickly joined by most of the group.
On our return the casa owner was distraught by the state of my beautiful, white lacey wedding trainers, which were now stained orange from the clay-like soil. I didn’t mind, they’d cost me £8.40 in the sales and although I did love them, I wanted to trek more. I am very glad I did. The trek was brilliant, we learnt more about the history of socialism, drank rum from a coconut, learnt about tobacco and enjoyed the darkest caves. I strongly recommend it… just remember your walking shoes!