31st May 2013 - There is the choice of firm beds or extremely firm bed which leads to an interesting nights sleep.... But enjoyed a full buffet breakfast at the hotel complete with bread and diet bread, they both looked like white bread so not sure how one was diet and one was not. Had a tour meeting and then headed out to the old town of Havana for a walk around. We looked the basilica with st christopher inside. The old military square and barracks. Most of the architecture in this area of the city is colonial Spanish. There is are many great projects underway to help restore the buildings. It was interesting to learn that as tourists we use a different currency from the locals. The CUC= tourists currency, is used for goods that are charged at a higher tax rate and the government apparently uses this tax money to help pay for the restoration projects. We stopped at the small brewery but they were having a staff meeting so not able to try any. Wondered around an artists market. Stopped at a local cafe for a drink before wondering over the capital building and park central. Used the washroom in the same hotel were beyonce stayed when she was here. Then onto the van and headed towards Vinalas. We drove about an hour on a decent highway with duel lanes and an interesting assortment of transportation. You see everything from modern tourists buses, old 50s style cars, horse and cart, assortment of 80s style eastern European cars and hundreds of people trying to hitchhike. The local buses are often over full so many locals chose to try and hitchhike and it is a national policy that if u have room in your vehicle you should stop and offer a lift. There must be a lot of exceptions or it isn't strictly inforced as a lot of cars just drive past. After an hour of driving we stopped for lunch at a road side cafe. Lunch was the standard ham and cheese sandwich. Then continued on the journey for about another hour of highway driving, then turned off to Vinalas. This was a much smaller windy and minimally maintained road. The countryside is incredibly lush and green. Lots of small crops, maybe 1/8 acre in size and the farming is done a lot by hand or horse still. Corn, a tropical variety of potatoes, pineapples, pumpkin and banana seem to be the main ones. It rained again as we were driving. The end of may, start of June is the start of the rainy season so I guess this is to excepted. We arrived in Vinalas, a small community set in a valley surrounded by national park. We are staying with locals family which is great. Took a walk around town and then enjoyed a drink at the local corner. Booked a walking tour for the next day. Back to the accommodation for diner that has been prepared by the women at our accommodation. It was a tasty chicken dish with rice, beans and a kinda salad. Then fried banana and creme fan for dessert. They have very large evening meals and then just the small ham sandwich for lunch. Headed out to the local bar, listened to band play also had a women singing. Lots if salsa dancing. Got a laugh and slight freak out that a guy was able to coat check a giant machete knife. It rained a little while out but that doesn't seem to bother the locals.