We set off behind the official guide (who was on his Czech motorbike) who said he’d drive slowly whilst we walked. Ten minutes later we arrived at a small dirt track where an older guy was waiting and who took us to our steeds.
It later transpired it was our official guide’s father! Pipo does the afternoon/evening rides and his son does the morning ones. I told Pipo I’d only ever ridden twice in my life before, once in Tucson, Arizona, 30 years ago on a similar sort of trek, and once on my friend Caroline’s horse which was so big I was terrified and had to get off after riding a few yards!
We continued and eventually arrived at a coffee plantation. Twenty-three year old Dani gave us a personal talk about how everything is done, manually, from picking the beans when they are red, waiting 10 days for them to turn brown (roast) in the sun, then using a huge hand-carved wooden pestle and mortar, to grind the beans to break them out of the shells. The resulting beans are then roasted over a fire, all the while being stirred quickly, then you have the arabica coffee. We bought ‘a bottle’ of freshly ground coffee- the Cubans find many uses for empty water bottles:
They have to pay a 90% tax to the government on all the coffee sold and also on the cocktails sold to tourists. I asked what would happen if they didn’t declare everything and he said they have no choice as the inspectors come by twice a week to check that the books tally with what’s left in the bottles.
We had two wonderful cocktails for $3CUC – a house speciality called Coco Loco (rum poured into a whole, freshly cut coconut so it mixes with the milk and then afterwards Dani cut the coconut for us to eat.
We also had an ‘atardecer’ (‘twilight’) with rum, fruit juice, grenadine, honey and white wine. Both were delicious.
We stopped off at some caves where, if we’d had more time, we could have done some wild swimming (those of you who know me well will understand when I tell you that I was most disappointed that we didn’t have time!). Instead, we tied up the horses and clambered down to the cave entrance and carefully made our way through the dark opening. Pipo took my camera and showed us the ‘butterfly’ trick, with and without flash: