Today was filled with those moments that just reek of the tourism that no one in this group wants, and yet, we had no choice, so off we went.
We visited the Indian Cave, located in the Organos Mountain Range in the Guaniguanico Range. The valley, and a large part of the mountain range, became a national park in 1999. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site chosen for its Cultural Landscape.
These are limestone caves developed during the Juraisic Period. The largest of these caves, Santo Tomás is 47 km long and is considerably north of where we were.
As soon as you headed into the caves you were accosted with three people dressed in “native” costume performing for coins.
After a short walk the group was put onto a boat to navigate the subterranean San Vicente River and promptly shown all the things in the cave that looked like something recognizable, i.e. a wine bottle, or a dragon’s head, the classic cliché of every cave tour in the world.
Some of the caves of this area were originally inhabited by the Siboney Indians. The Siboney are a branch of the Arawak Indian that lived in Cuba before the Spaniards. These are separate from the Taino Indian branch that inhabited the Zapata Swamp area.
The Arawak Indians were originally South American and came to Cuba through both the Lesser and Greater Antilles. All the indigenous people of Cuba were wiped out by the Spaniards.
The next stop was the lovely town of Vinales. Here, we and all the other tour buses snapped photos, bought ice cream and even more trinkets. This area was originally settled by Spaniards from the Canary Islands.
These two stops of the day left me wondering why this spot, why this town? Is it, like America, who you know, or what palms you grease? The answer lies with someone whose Spanish is far more sophisticated than mine.
Lunch was the highlight. We ate at the first privately owned organic farm in the Pina del Rio area. We began with freshly fried taro chips, tostones (fried plantain often stuffed, in this case, with ground turkey) a vegetable soup, vegetables to our hearts content, and then pork, lamb and chicken.
They use natural insecticides such as planting bug-loving plants away from the vegetables, or placing motor oil on brightly covered squares amongst the vegetables.
The farm practices crop rotation and they fertilize with the excrement of the farm chickens and rabbits. The also do some fertilization with tobacco infused water.
The farm itself is part of a co-operative, whatever is left over after making their required contribution is shared between the local hospital, day care center and senior center. What is left from that feeds guests like ourselves.
Explore the Cueva del Indio and Vinales town
Visit a local organic farm and have lunch
Tour a tobacco sorting and drying facility to talk with the workers (see Tobacco in Cuba)
Dinner at the Hotel