After breakfast and a disappointing mango juice, which was my first disappointment because the mango juice is usually muy bueno, and after our class session, the group set out on the bus with our guide Julio for Vinales Valley and Vinales National Park. The land between destinations is green and undisturbed, with mountains in the distance dotted here and there with small private farms, and the occasional horse-drawn cart on the road. Our hotel in Vinales Los Jazmines is located at a spectacular lookout point with a small souvenir market. The mountains here are unusual—irregularly shaped, rising straight up out of the ground like fat columns with flat vertical sides. After a few photos and purchases, we set out for la Mural de la Prehistoria—a mural painted on the flat rock side of a mountain depicting the evolution of man painted by a well-known Cuban artist. Our reactions ranged from disapproval of defacing the natural landscape to mild interest. Lunch was good, accompanied by local music in the typical open-air thatched roof setting. There were cats and dogs wandering in and out, hoping for scraps (of which they received plenty from our table. There were lots of birds, larger than hummingbirds but almost as fast, dive bombing the restaurant and rapidly flying off. I don’t know what they were and neither did Julio.
After lunch, we set out for the Santo Tomas caves, about which Heather will tell you more!