The bus journey to Viñales was amazing. After about 3 hours, we got to Pinar del Rio, a small town set into a valley of limestone hills (locally referred to as mogotes). Thirty minutes on and I was in Viñales. It's a tiny town which is surrounded by crop fields (mainly tobacco) and a huge mogote range. I was met at the bus stop by Jorge, who owns the Casa with his wife Sara. We were joined by Brendan, an Aussie traveller.
Having dropped our stuff off (and sawed off the padlock on my suitcase - which had decided to refuse to accept the pin I had set), we booked a horse ride. We spent an hour on the horses, taking in the backdrop of mogotes and riding through the tobacco fields before stopping at a farmer's house where we were shown the cigar-making process. The final hour on the horses included a mogote cave and a ride up to a stunning viewpoint that looked out onto the surrounding landscape. At one point my horse passed about a metre from a bull which lowered it's head and threatened to charge- I almost shat my pants as I envisaged being thrown off the horse and charged by the bull!
That evening we had a fantastic meal of frijoles and pork soup, fish fillet with rice and deep fried yuka, banana chips, fresh salad and fruit salad. We then headed down to the main square for a beer and then to the local Casa de Musica to see some amazing Salsa.
Day two in Viñales was a little less hectic. We headed out on a bus tour of the surrounding area, taking in a stunning view point from Las Jazmines, a walk and boat ride in the Cueva (cave) de Indio, as well as a giant painting on the side of a mogote (murales de la prehistoria). Early night that evening due to an early start to head to the beach the next day.
Sunday morning and we had a 1hr coach ride before a 30min boat to Cayo Levisa. This was a secluded beach with white sand and warm caribbean waters. I actually swam in the sea for the first time in a couple of decades (that makes me feel old!), putting my swimming lessons to good use (thanks Pentland!). We took a bottle of Havana Club with us and spent the day with a Scottish couple (Richard and Carla from Sterling) who were a good laugh. Two bottles of rum, a couple of coconuts, some Tukola and some beers later we were back on the bus for my last evening in Viñales, before my 9hr coach trip to Trinidad.