It maybe stereotypical but it’s true, Havana is full of classic United States cars from the 1950s and earlier. Historic economic and political anomalies led to Havana (and Cuba as a whole) being the best place in the world for such vehicles. Cubans can’t import auto-mobiles privately so they do everything they can to keep their old cars running.
The Great Cavern of Saint Thomas (Gran Caverna de Santo Tomás) is Cuba’s largest cave system. Near the town of El Moncada 18 kilometres’ drive west of Viñales, the cave belongs to Parque Nacional Viñales.
As a geology lover, Rocío was keen to see the cave, especially after seeing artefacts from it in Havana’s Fundacion de la Naturaleza y el Hombre museum. From Viñales we hired a car and driver for 20 CUC (US$20), waiting time and return journey included. Continue reading
Founded in 1845, Finca el Pinar, also known as Finca Robaina, grows some of the world’s finest tobacco. 20 kilometres drive south-west of Pinar del Río, the farm and its cigars became famous under Alejandro Robaina who passed away in 2010. Alejandro’s grandson, Hiroshi Robaina now runs the property.
Although Rocío and I weren’t cigar fans, we didn’t want to miss seeing an iconic aspect of Cuba. From Pinar del Río we took a Lada 2107 taxi to Finca Robaina (20 CUC/US$20 round-trip including waiting time). Fortunately our January 2017 visit coincided with the tobacco growing season when the fields were lush and green.
Unlike most tobacco farms, Finca Robaina remained independent post-revolution. Alejandro was persuasive enough to convince Fidel Castro it shouldn’t be taken over by the state. However, 90% of production still goes to government-run cigar factories in Havana. State company Habanos SA’s Vegas Robaina brand is named after the family.
* See bottom of post for a video of the day
Camagüey Province’s Río Máximo Wildlife Reserve (Refugio de Fauna Río Máximo) contains not only Cuba’s but the Western Hemisphere’s largest flamingo nesting site. After not getting to Cayo Sabinal, Rocío was determined to see the flamingos at Río Máximo.
In Camagüey City we asked people and agencies how to get the reserve. No one seemed to know. State tour company Ecotur hadn’t organised tours there for two years due to the track there requiring a truck and the lack of on site hygiene facilities. An official tourist guide, who also didn’t know the way, recommended we hire a large US car (with driver) that had been converted to diesel to maximise our chances of reaching the reserve. In the city centre while looking for such car, we met an old man who reckoned he knew a way there. Then we met a younger guy who was willing to take us and had a friend with a car.
Instead of a hulking diesel-fueled US classic we had the opposite: a small Soviet petrol sedan! But our Lada had character, including huge windscreen cracks and no internal rear door handles. Time for another crazy Cuban adventure. Continue reading