I woke up and laid in bed reading for a bit. Then, I went off in search of a Cadeca (money exchange). I went the wrong way, several blocks. Then I asked 3 different people, and finally found the cadeca. It was very close to my Airbnb!
I exchanged more of my money, and then set off to find the wi-fi park. I sat in the wi-fi park for 1 hour, communicating with the world. Then, it was time to go pack up my stuff.
I packed up and said goodbye to Rafael. He brought my bags downstairs and tried to convince me to wait upstairs. The weather was nice (ish), so I decided to wait outside. No worries!
At 11:15, my collectivo (shared taxi) pulled up in front. See? Waiting outside had not been an issue. I squeezed into the backseat with two large men. We began the drive into Old Havana. Soon, the two men got out, and it was just me and the woman in the front seat left. She was let out soon after, and it was just me.
We made the drive back towards Revolution Square, where he stopped and parked near the Viazul bus station. Before I knew what was happening, he put me in the front seat and had let a family into the back. And we were off!
Or so we thought. 15 minutes later, we were BACK at the bus station, picking up one last straggler. Now, we were heading to Viñales and Pinar del Rio. Once on the highway, we were flying. Almost immediately, he stopped by the side of the road for snacks. I shook my head, because I had snacks in my bag!
Then, we stopped at a gas station for no apparent reason. We waited for a few minutes, then got back underway. Then we stopped at another gas station where we had to wait for a long time to get gas (there are lines at gas stations in Cuba). Finally, we were cruising. First, we dropped the family off in Pinar del Rio. Then, the straggler and I were the only two left. Once in Viñales, we let the straggler out at the gas station. And it was time for me to ride horses.
We arrived at Boris’ place around 3p. I had to leave my bags there and was immediately placed on top of Piña Colada, my horse for the day. She was 10 years old and I loved her the minute I laid eyes on her. I was shocked that they did not offer any sort of instruction. I was simply thrown up onto the horse.
For me it was a non-issue. I spent a lot of time riding as a child. I would definitely not have wanted to do this experience if I’ve never ridden before though.
We were led through the trails to a small house where we were offered drinks. I had a mango juice, which was delicious. Then he brought out the Cuba libre, which was rum mixed with cola. It was crazy strong. I started talking with the other guest on the experience, Jenny. She was super nice, and also a female solo traveler. Thankfully, her English was superb.
After our drinks, we were taken to learn about coffee. Our guide was so knowledgeable, we learned about coffee and how it was grown, harvested, and produced, and also the same about rum and honey! We were able to sample the honey and take a shot of the rum. It was strong stuff (40%)! I wished I could’ve bought some honey, but they only had large bottles which would not go in my carry on luggage.
From there, we went back to learn about cigars and tobacco! We were able to see the entire process. He explained how they dried the leaves, and then showed us how they roll their cigars. It was amazing. I also got to smoke a cigar! I did NOT end up making a fool of myself, thankfully. I coughed on the first try, and then smoked nearly half of it. I bought 6 to bring home, 2 for each step-brother and 2 for my step-dad!
After this, we continued our ride. We rode our horses up to a stunning lake. Jenny and I were able to take pictures of the mogotes and the lakes. It was absolutely amazing. We saw so much wildlife! It was fantastic. Then, it was time to go eat.
We went back to where we had our drinks earlier, and were immediately served platter upon platter of food while we watched the sunset over the mogotes. It was all to die for! We had rice and beans, chips, a salad, and yucca with pork. Delicious! I also had another mango juice.
After we ate, they tried to teach me how to play Cuban dominoes. It was way trickier than I thought, and I still don’t fully understand it! It’s almost like mahjong. We played 3 games, and I think I won one. Maybe. After that, we got to ride our horses home.
Piña Colada was amazing and picked her way from the dark with ease, allowing me to marvel at the constellations above me. It was truly magical. From Boris’ house, a taxi drove me to my casa in Viñales, and that was that!
My host Susana was amazing. Her house has wi-fi, which is super rare. I had her turn it on and was able to browse the internet before bed, a luxury I hadn’t had in DAYS. I took a shower and climbed into bed.