I promise this is the last chapter in my Cuba travels. I will admit seeing the photos takes me back there and provides a welcome distraction to reality.
Today’s post is a mix of scenery , culture , architecture and Cuban revolutionary history.
This starts with a visit to the city of Santa Clara and the necessary pilgrimage to the Plaza de la Revolution and the monument, mausoleum and museum dedicated to Che Guevara.
The museum was extremely interesting with many old photographs and items from his time growing up as a boy in a moneyed family in Argentina and his university days , he graduated as a doctor, as well as his years as a revolutionary fighting to improve the lives of the poor in Latin America.
He was killed in Bolivia under suspicious circumstances in 1967.
The bustling centre of Santa Clara is centred around the Park Vidal , also home to some of the city’s finest buildings and the statue of El nino de la bota (boy with a boot) , a city emblem.
Our next revolutionary site was Playa Giron and the Museo Giron , a small but interesting museum where we learned a very different view of history relating to the Bay of Pigs invasion. On April 14th., 1961 at the height of the Cold War a group of 1400 Cuban exiles , trained by the CIA , left Nicaragua for Cuba on six ships . They landed on the main beaches along the bay to be confronted by the Cuban armed forces headed by Fidel Castro , who were well prepared for the battle with the support of the local population. The fighting lasted three days and ended in the rapid defeat of the invaders. The Cuban exiles were mainly the sons of wealthy Cubans who had fled the country . The captured invaders were returned to the US in exchange for supplies.
Stopping by the roadside to see coffee bushes and also little plants (I have forgotten their name) that curled themselves up to disappear when they were touched.
Views and road side scenes on the way to our next stop Vinales.
The town of Vinales was totally different to anywhere else we visited in Cuba. The pretty single storey tiled roof houses lined the main street.
The thing I enjoyed about Vinales (Cuba in general for that matter) is that you never know what you will find around the corner. In this instance a working horse and cart and a compressor mounted on the back of a bike so it could be taken to different sites – the ingenuity of the Cuban people was incredible.
Vinales is set in a most beautiful natural setting and very popular for hiking, cycling and horse-riding attracting visitors from around the world.
The farming area near Vinales is the centre of the tobacco growing region .
We went to a small family run plantation to see the process first hand. Most of the crop had already been harvested , with just a couple of plants left .
The tobacco leaves are then left to dry on these open racks.
Well you couldn’t visit a tobacco plantation in Cuba without a demonstration on the making of hand rolled cigars. It was certainly quite a skilful process and to our amusement Aussie rock band AC/DC was playing in the background.
John in full tourist mode puffing on a cigar wearing a hat adorned with Che Guevera.
Our last stop on our way back to Havana was Las Terrazas , an eco village built in 1968. Today it is an UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and has an activity centre with a canopy tour. The nearby village is a vibrant art community. There is also an upmarket hotel.
I loved the lush tropical gardens with their beautiful blooms. The tree above is jokingly known as the tourist tree- the bark resembling the peeling skin of sunburnt tourists.
I will finish the Cuba tour with this shot of magnificent blue water , palm trees and a vintage American car.