Travels with V

Cuba

On underground waters

Las Terrazas and Viñales

From the bus station in Havana we ride on a southbound bus to Viñales in western Cuba. But we’re not going all the way, we hop off at Las Terrazas, an eco-village built on the site of a former coffee plantation. The coffee bushes grew on terraces, hence the name. But the coffee plantation was run with slave labour, and had been deserted for a long time at the time of the revolution. It was a de-forested wasteland and Fidel Castro initiated a re-forestation. Today it’s a lush green oasis.

We stay at the hotel Moka in Las Terrazas. It’s an eco lodge where a tall tree grows right through the floor in the lobby and continues through the roof. They also have a cosy bar overlooking a steep hillside. The surroundings are just beautiful.

We join an excursion through the old farmlands with wild vanilla and pomelo, and through a jungle with lizards and birds, among them Cuba’s national bird, the Tocororo. We see the ruins of the coffee factory, now overgrown by the forest, and we end up at the commercial centre of Las Terrazas where hummingbirds dance around a bush with yummy red flowers.

Watch the tocororo do his song and dance number:

But the main tourist attraction in Las Terrazas is probably the 1,6 kilometers long zipline that allows you to soar over and through the jungle canopy, and finally swoosh across a little lake mirroring the sky. I hadn’t tried zipline before, but the feeling of really flying was fantastic!

We really want to take a closer look at Viñales, so one day we go there with a guide and a cab. This is a strange and almost alien landscape of great beauty, and it also has a lot of caves. We enter one and end up in a boat slowly floating on an underground river (!), then we proceed to a tobacco farmer who rolls his own cigars. Raul Castro, Fidels brother made it possible for tobacco growers to earn extra money on tourism by allowing them to sell a portion of their harvest as hand-rolled cigars.

The farmer is an expert cigar maker and anyone can try them. I do, and they are absolutely delicious. He tells us there is a secret ingredient that is sprayed over the drying tobacco leaves. He won’t give us the details, only that it’s rum and herbs.

How do they make those fantastic Cuban cigars? Like this:

We’re curious to see some organic farming, which is quite popular in Cuba, and we’re taken to a paladar called Finca Agroecologica El Paraiso. They grow the vegetables they serve on their own lands, as eco-friendly and organic as possible. And in Cuba they have a secret eco weapon. The tobacco. Stems and other waste from the harvest are fermented and used as a very effective insecticide.

We didn’t have enough time to eat at the extremely popular Finca Agroecologica El Paraiso, which we regret deeply. The food looked super fresh.

Our guide is a young man who tells us that he works as computer tech, but as computers are among the things that are forbidden to export to Cuba from the US, the equipment at hand is hopelessly out of date. He is no fan of the government and the ruling party, his father was a farmer with big lands, and most of it was confiscated by the revolutionaries. He can never forgive them for this, and he is not afraid to say it.

Here are some more photos from lovely Viñales:

Coming up next: the city that saw the final victory of the revolution. Where Che is buried, and where a train that went off the tracks sixty years ago still lies in shambles.

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Jag som gör den här resebloggen heter Lars Aldman och jag har tidigare jobbat som journalist mm på SR och SVT. Och "V" som jag reser med är min älskade hustru Veronica, journalist och fotograf.

Vår favoritsysselsättning är att resa runt i världen och se andra kulturer och samhällen. I flera år har vi äventyrat i Asien, Afrika och Latinamerika, och även naturligtvis i Europa. Och vi vill gärna dela med oss av våra erfarenheter och glädjeämnen, och hoppas att ni vill följa med oss!

PS. På sajten aldmangallery.com hittar ni mina bilder från både när och (mest) fjärran. Djur, natur, samhällen och människor.
Resebloggar finns det gott om men vi har en lite annan tanke med våra berättelser. Vi vill främst beskriva våra upplevelser av udda platser, människorna vi möter och miljöer som är rätt annorlunda mot vad vi möter hemma.

Därför hamnar vi ibland i avlägsna indianbyar i Guatemalas berg eller bland andetroende bybor på en ö i Indonesien. Men också på mer kända platser som Machu Picchu i Peru eller sandstränderna i Goa. Allt sett genom våra ögon och kameror.

Den som vill ha restips får också sitt - varje resmål har en avdelning med sånt vi kan rekommendera. Eller undvika. Vårt fokus är framför allt att sporra er läsare att göra som vi - resa rätt ut i den vida världen.

Jag heter Lars Aldman och har bl a jobbat som journalist mm på SR och SVT.  Och "V" som jag reser med är min älskade hustru Veronica, som också är journalist och fotograf. Vi älskar att resa och uppleva andra kulturer. I flera år har vi rest omkring i världens fyra hörn och vi vill gärna dela med oss av våra erfarenheter och glädjeämnen på dessa upptäcktsfärder. Hoppas ni vill följa med!

Hej!

Vår senaste resa gick till Albanien där vi under tre veckor upplevde detta okända men så spännande och vackra land. Från de hisnande höga bergen i norr, de gamla städerna och de djupa floddalarna i landets mitt, till de långa stränderna med sitt klara vatten i söder. Klicka på Albanien och läs om landets dramatiska historia och dess vänliga och gästfria invånare.

NYTT!

There's now a new addition to the blog, about our trip to Albania. During three weeks we traveled up and down this unknown but beautiful country. From the high mountains in the north to the ancient towns and the deep valleys inland, to the sandy beaches and the clear green water in the south. Click on Albania in the map and read about its dramatic history and kind and hospitable people.

NEW!
I'm Lars Aldman from Sweden. I worked for many years at the Swedish National TV and Radio, but now my main interest is traveling around the world with "V", my lovely wife Veronica, who is a freelance journalist and photographer.
For the last ten years we have traveled through Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Europe. We love to experience different cultures and societies and we hope you'll join us!