|Lunch...plates and plates of food! (photo E. Eastwood)|
Later the bus left the main highway to wind up a narrow road to the Soroa Orchid Garden. This beautiful garden, covers 7.5 acres high on a hillside and showcases 20,000 plants from 700 species including 250 plants native to Cuba. The garden is maintained by the University of Pinar del Rio which uses it for research purposes. The orchids are spectacular but are really only a small part of the garden which includes large trees, ferny bush walks, a waterfall and river and some old stone walls, tumbling down to artistic effect amongst the shrubbery. The garden is well worth the detour, serenely beautiful, blissfully quiet save for the sound of birds. We were all thrilled by the several humming birds hovering about and a wood pecker merrily pecking away at a tree.
|Soroa Orchid Garden|
|Views of the Valle de Vinales, a UNESCO world heritage site|
Ten minutes down the road and suddenly we were in a street full of brightly coloured casas, our destination, Vinales. Vinales, built first and foremost as a farming town to service the surrounding tobacco plantations, has now become a popular tourist town. Most of the traditional casas lining the streets are what is known in Cuba as Casa Particulars, private houses which take in paying guests, or what we would call a B and B. The streets were a real hive of activity buzzing with tourists vying for space with horse drawn carts and locals calling out to each other. My friend and I were staying in Casa Louis, a spotlessly clean, brightly painted casa with several rooms given over to paying guests. Our room was simple, immaculate and had its own ensuite...all boxes ticked, very happy.
|The colourful casa particulars in Vinales|
|The Cubans love rocking chairs and every porch seems to have them. I enjoyed a rest on the porch|
|Our guide at the organic farm|