By Kayla Shults
Wednesday morning began bright and early as we checked out of the Hotel Capri and got ready for the four hour drive to Viñales, the countryside town where we would be spending the night in someone’s private home, known in Cuba as a casa particulare.
About an hour and a half into the drive, we stopped at Las Terrazas. Las Terrazas is a small, eco-friendly community and nature reserve that was sanctioned as a place to reverse the effects of deforestation and preserve the environment. We were greeted at Las Terrazas with a welcome cocktail and a performance by the band Alabao, before heading out to explore the land with our tour guide Oriol.
Oriol is one of the nearly 1,015 people who lives and works in Las Terrazas. The community features a school and daycare for the children, a hotel for tourists, restaurants and even a zipline. Oriol is one of the most energetic and happy people that I have ever met, and it is so easy to see the true passion he has for his job and being able to show off his home to the visitors this place gets every day. And even though we visited on a cloudy day, the mountains, trees and lakes were some of the most beautiful sights I had ever seen.
After about four hours exploring Las Terrazas, meeting the people and enjoying a delicious lunch with a band and of course, salsa dancing, it was time to say goodbye to Oriol and board the bus to continue our journey to Viñales.
Once we arrived, we split up and entered the homes of our Cuban families that were stretched out over two blocks. Abby and I stayed in the home of Maritza and Tato along with a couple from Quebec who ended up playing translators for the night as my Spanish skills were still slim to none, even with the help of my Spanish-English dictionary.
We spent the first part of the night exploring our new neighborhood and getting a bird’s eye view of Viñales thanks to our family’s rooftop. The best part of the evening, however, came when Maritza made us what I think was the best dinner of the entire trip. Julio, who was staying at the house next door, even joined us for dinner. The dozen plates of food certainly kept us full for the rest of the night!
After dinner, we sat on the back of the porch and enjoyed the sounds of the rain before falling asleep in Viñales.