The Viñales Valley, National Monument since 1979, was the first cultural landscape recognized by UNESCO throughout the Americas, declared a World Heritage Site in 1999 and National Park in 2001
“Timeworn but magnificent, dilapidated but dignified, fun yet maddeningly frustrating – Cuba is a country of indefinable magic.” Lonely Planet Travel Guide
Charlie and I took a 3 and a half hour horse ride through Viñales National Park for a fee of 25 CUC ($25) each which included being picked up at our casa particulare in a horse-drawn taxi. The tour was arranged by our hostess the day we arrived in Viñales.
Our tour started at William’s stables. He assigned a horse to each of us — we were 4 plus William who was our guide and wrangler.
Our first stop was a tobacco plantation where we saw men cutting the plant in preparation for drying. It was explained to us how the tobacco grows and is readied to become the famed Cuban cigars — Cohibas, Monte Cristos, or Romeo y Juliets.
It is dried in barns then rehydrated in an herbal bath to make it pliable enough to roll.
Each of us was given the opportunity to smoke. I declined but Charlie was happy to give it a try after our tobacco expert dipped the end that goes in the mouth in honey.
Our presenter showed us how he takes the vein, the part that holds most of the nicotine, out of the tobacco leaf.
Charlie smoked his cigar as we watched the creation of a hand-rolled cigar.
As the cigar-maker stacked the leaves he also rolled them.
Then he trimmed a leaf to become the outer wrapper. At this point the cigar was firmly wrapped but limp due to the rehydrating of the leaves. It will be dried again before it is sold.
Ninety percent of the tobacco grown on this farm goes to the Cuban government. We were allowed to buy and bring back to the U.S. unmarked Cohibas from the farm in a natural humidor.
To be continued . . .
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