Tobacco Farm and Town Carnival in Viñales
My time in Cuba was sadly coming to an end with just two days remaining. I was going to spend them in the Viñales region, famous for its tobacco plantations. I can also honestly say that Viñales has some of the most amazing landscapes that I have seen anywhere in the world.
You can’t come to Cuba and not sample the cigars. It would be just rude right? I didn’t have time to visit a cigar factory when I was in Havana but I was able to visit a tobacco farmer in Viñales. The farmer, Heraldo, was able to talk through the process of growing the tobacco leaves, harvesting them, drying them and the final stage of rolling the cigars (by hand).
Like most farming in Cuba, almost everything is done manually. It is hard work and a lot of the people that harvest the tobacco leaves are elderly. Also the Cuban government take about 90% of the tobacco leaves, so the farmer only gets to ‘keep’ 10% of the tobacco leaves that he grows.
Once the leaves have been harvested, they are taken to a wooden warehouse where they are left to air dry for 1-3 months. There was a lot of tobacco leaves drying in this place and the smell wasn’t as strong as you would imagine. It was a smokey smell, almost like that of chipotle chillies or of a peat/turf fire. Certainly not unpleasant.
After seeing the dried tobacco leaves, I was taken to Heraldos house where his wife had prepared fresh coffee Cuban style (STRONG!) and was able to see Heraldo rolling a cigar by hand.
I wish I had filmed the process as it is crazy how a handful of leaves can be rolled into something which eventually takes the shape of a cigar. Heraldo has obviously had a lot of practice at this, but the speed he is able to do it as well I find really interesting.
It is a long way from Ireland to Cuba, so I had to sample one of the cigars that Heraldo had rolled and I ended up buying 20 of them from him. The perfect souvenir right?
In the evening I discovered that tonight was the first night of the towns carnival so I had to go out to investigate. Dark streets filled with alcohol, food, music, dancing and children’s entertainment.
I found a man selling beer from the back of a tank and was able to pay in some local money. I filled up my empty 2 litre water bottle for about $1! There was even a club area for the party goers, though everyone in Cuba seems to like to party!
I was able to record some footage of the party, enjoy!
As I said at the start of this post, the scenery in Viñales is just stunning. To see the main photo in full size, click on the image below.
In a way I feel that Viñales deserves a more detailed post but when you have cigars and scenery like this, what else is there to say but thank you Cuba for an awesome two weeks!