Posted by: Caroline | July 31, 2012

Biking in Viñales

The town of Viñales is pleasant, but the real reason to visit is to explore the national park. We asked our casa owner if we could rent bikes, and within 10 minutes, as if by magic, a man with a bike was standing in the front yard. He quoted us a ridiculous price, but after futile negotiations, we accepted; one downside of getting the casa involved is that you we couldn’t really tell the bike man “no” without insulting someone who was possibly a good friend of the casa.

The national park is full of mogotes, which are limestone domes.

Once inside the park, you can see this “prehistoric mural”–a very non-prehistoric painting. The scene, featuring snails, sea monsters, and people, was painted in the 60s.

The price of admission includes your choice of beverage, but there’s only one correct choice: a fresh, chilly glass of pina colada (virgin–although even at 10AM, the friendly bartenders insist that un poquito de ron makes it “much better, much better!”).

After our stop at the Mural de la Prehistoria, we tried to forge deeper into the park–before being turned around by some campground guard who insisted a guide was required (doubtful, but what can you do?). We quickly consulted a map in the guidebook and found another way into the park.

Uncharacteristically heavy rains had been falling on Cuba for a while before we arrived, resulting in these flooded fields…

… and (seemingly) impassable roads! We had already ridden several more kilometers to go this alternate route, and it seemed like we would have to turn around and admit defeat.

Enter the hero of the day, Carlos, a farmer who offered to carry our bikes across while we hiked up our jeans and waded through the mud pit.

Carlos invited us to his farm, where he grows tobacco to sell and crops like corn and coffee for his family.

My favorite? The fresh-from-the-tree mangoes.

After hanging out on the farm, we turned around–only to meet up with some ferocious dogs that seemed straight out of The Hunger Games.

And at the end of an exhausting but exciting day, all that stood between us and home was this…

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