There are many ways to explore Vinales. Since we’d explored the surroundings by foot already, it was time to be creative and find another way. We’d seen some ATV’s on the side of the road. They looked brand new. It was worth checking out. The owner said they were only for organized tours, but he may have some spots available due to cancellations. Did we have a motorcycle license? No. Ok. Experience with quad bikes? Sort of. Ok. You do at least have your normal car license? Yes. Although officially you need a motorcycle license, the rules could be bend for us. He was already showing us all the features of the new bikes, but we’d decided to go for the somewhat cheaper and legal option.
We walked to a spot where we new the cowboys were always hanging out and asked one if it was possible to do a tour. When you do a horse riding tour, you always have to wait and see what it will be like. One of our group had already done one and complained about the slow pace they had to keep. Today she was lucky. Although we had the same guide she had on her previous tour, the horses were energetic and the guide didn’t mind a faster pace. It was just the three of us with the guide and his dog. I had only ever sat on a pony as a kid and had no clue what I was doing. Of course they put me on a gigantic horse and I was towering above everyone. When we left I hadn’t even been told how to steer the horse. My reigns were slightly too short anyway, so I was constantly leaning forward and still pulling.
Of course I also had the horse that kept going the wrong way. So sometime we went up a little hill and down again, where we could have just gone straight. Every time we went up or down the horse would run and I would be shaking and squealing on his back. Then I would hear our cowboy Daniel “Caramelooooo”, which was the name of my gigantic horse. Lets just say I had to adjust and get used to this mode of transportation. Our horses also had some sort of rivalry going on. My horse loved going fast and had leader aspirations, but one of the other horses would not let us through. It would jerk to the side, pushing us in the bush. Consequently my horse would jerk and I would scream, half out of fear and half out of laughter.
When we arrived at our destination, a hut where they dry tobacco, the farmer started mixing some mojitos. The rum kept flowing, free pouring to the max. “Do you want some more rum?” the farmer asked while he lighted a cigar for us. The cigars have some honey on the tip to make it taste a bit better, but I still couldn’t do it. Next to me a French girl was smoking one fast and happily. We didn’t even finish one between the three of us. Our lovely farmer also explained a thing or two about making cigars, all in Spanish of course. After our 11AM cocktail, we also had time to explore a cave. A local was showing people for a few CUC. I am no hero in dark, small spaces so I hung out with the cowboys instead. I was offered a seat several times and after declining thrice I thought I’d better accept. “Do you want another mojito?” said one of the cowboys as he got another one. “La ron es la gasolina de chicos Cubanos”, he said laughing.
It seemed to take forever until the others returned from the cave. It was so awkward! But when they did we climbed back onto our horses for our return journey. This leg had another stop at a small café, in the middle of the tobacco fields, where a band was playing some Spanish tunes. We picked up the pace and passed groups of 15 that were walking slower than you would walk on foot. At this point I was used to the movement and urged my horse to go a bit faster “Go caramelo, go”. Suddenly our guide takes off into the bushes. He returned a bit later when we were almost back where we started. Gracias cavallo! I can still hear our cowboy screaming “Cavalloooooo!”, because most of the times, just shouting ‘horse’ was enough to make them go a little faster. It was a great experience, but my bottom will think twice before going again!