Smoking hot – the famous Cuban cigars

Welcome back to our blog! Our next stop on our tour of Viñales Cuba by horse was a cigar plantation.

We arrived, Elle hopping off her terrifying beast and walked (or limped) over to greet the man lounging at a table outside a dusty Mars orange casa. This was the man responsible for an entire cigar plantation producing only the finest organic, sustainably sourced, environmentally friendly cigars… coming soon to a Waitrose near you (middle-class supermarket, if you’re from London you’ll get it!).

cigar rolling 2We sat down and introduced ourselves and he showed us how the cigars are made over a rum and honey with some mouth-watering freshly picked pineapple. He explained that cigar types depend not only on the strain of tobacco plant and soil, but on how high high up the tobacco plant the leaves are taken. The lower the leaf, the more heavy the flavour – Cohiba’s are from these low lying leaves.

cigar rolling 1   cigar smoking

When the cigar was rolled and ready the conversation took a weird turn.

[In Spanish]

“Would you like to smoke one?”

“No, thanks, I don’t smoke.”

“Go on..it’s beautiful. One won’t hurt.”

“No, I’m ok..”

“Why not?”

“I’m not massively keen on the idea of smoking related diseases. My grandad smoked cigars and the fifth heart attack made me slightly wary.”

“Oh, that. *Lighting up* Yes, my father smokes cigars and they killed him. *Puff* Will probably do for me too.”

We spent the entirety of him and Rosie smoking cigars discussing how cigars and smoking kill you. We went into a lot of depth. Still, at least they’re tar free and far better than the preservative laden Cohibas we’d bought in Havana. Not to mention cheaper! They also cut out the midrib of the tobacco leaf which contains the most nicotine.cigar stem

We’d highly recommend a cigar plantation tour if you’re in Viñales. It was interesting stuff and the plantation was incredibly peaceful. Sitting outside a tiny farm with nothing but the hum of insects and the hot sun warming you through is a great experience. Rosie also enjoyed the cigars.

Only a few more posts left from our trip around Cuba to go, tune in to our blog again next week for more photos, tips, and the final part of our stay in Viñales!

Advertisements

Horses and Cowboys

Welcome back to our blog! Lots on this week this week with a visit to a cave and general horseplay in Viñales…

Post treatment, we felt ready to continue with our Cuba experience. The memory of our first trip to the Clínica Internacional in Trinidad had faded enough for us to feel ready for one of the best ways to see Viñales – by horse!

We got our casa owner to call up, changed and waited for our guide to arrive. Our horseriding experience started with a fairly long walk. This was good! We know how to walk! It then took a step into the unknown when we reached the horses and immediately remembered that neither of us actually know how to horse ride. We hopped up and hoped for the best.

horse Viñales 1

It immediately emerged that one horse was far less obedient than the other. Sod’s law held true..this was the horse being ridden by the person with the use of 50% of all attached legs. This didn’t seem like too much of a problem until we realised that the mechanics of horseriding rely on gripping firmly to the horse with your inner legs. Specifically the bits that an unlucky clumsy person could graze against a hot exhaust. Oh well, we were in for a ride…

horse Viñales 3

After a fair bit of pain and, to our sheer and absolute amazement, absolutely no falls at all, we reached stop one. A cave! We tied up the horses and climbed down the dappled path (paths are always dappled in the jungle – something about the quality of the light) and into the darkness.

1006229_10151542231738790_2098272375_n 980013_10201672860971105_2096462171_o

The cave was huge and gorgeous. Which all in all, is pretty standard for Cuba and, whilst fun, we enjoyed it more because of certain antics than because it was especially amazing in itself. If you find yourself there, there is a back entrance up a long slope that can be used to sneak out and ambush unsuspecting friends on their way out.

cave Viñales

More horseplay followed and we eventually found ourselves at a farm for cocktails. This we were very much on board for. Fresh coconut with miel (honey) and ron (rum) will never get old and we cannot recommend them strongly enough! Rosie grabbed a coconut and Elle spent some quality time reflecting on the strange feeling of sadness that antibiotics meant rum were a bad idea, which then became a vague apathy when she found hers were nowhere near as strong as the cocktails Rosie was knocking back. This may have been because Rosie kept topping hers up with the bottle of Havana Club which had been left on the table.

1077654_10201672860891103_1274830297_o

Some more tourists arrived – the first we’d seen bar those on our bus. These ones though were Americans! A number of rules govern American citizens with regards to visiting Cuba as a result of the tensions stirred up during the Cold War and a tendency for capitalists and communists to not get on too well. In a nutshell, US citizens can receive large fines and substantial prison sentences for visiting Cuba. Ever eager to learn, we asked about this. A response of, ‘”we’re Americans – we can do whatever the hell we please” was helpful in upholding the stereotype of Americans abroad as brash ignorant cowboys. One of us immediately walked off in disgust. The other played true to the stereotype of the English by attempting to smooth over any affront with an impeccable display of politeness and suggestion of mitigating factors before hobbling off as fast as possible…

horse Viñales 2

Next week on our blog we offer up an intelligent social commentary on Cuban cigar growers’ perceptions of the international industry they contribute to…