We mount the horses and head to one of Viñales’ many caves. The whole area is like a Swiss cheese. A Mecca for those who like dark holes with many secrets.
Neither Joe nor I have ridden a horse really, but when our travel companions suggested horseback riding in the valley of Viñales, we couldn’t say no. Of course we should do this! So there we are, trying to get comfortable in the saddles, at the mercy of the horses’ balance as they tread carefully through the thick mud. A proper soup it is too. Behind us is Mr. calmness himself, Osario. He is the daily manager at ‘Campismo Dos Hermanas’ where we are staying, but today he is our guide. After four days in the Viñales area, we have chatted so much with Osario, that he feels like a good friend too.
When the horses hesitate, Osario is there with the right commands. Here and there we meet local farmers who greet us with Hola before we move on. We pass happy pigs that root around the plants in a flooded little field and horses standing in between the sugar canes, chewing. We continue past the incredible green fields of tobacco and houses where tobacco leaves are hanging out to dry. We cross a river and finally we are there at the cave.
At the entrance, we pay a few CUCs to a guy before we enter with Osario. Several people have emerged and in all we are a group of 20 persons moving quietly into the dark. We have brought our own flashlights and Osario collected one from the guy at the entrance. We watch our heads as here and there are towering stalagmites and stalactites hanging from the cave ceiling. We continue walking a few more minutes before we come to a full stop. Do we want to swim? Sure we do! Unless you want to get very wet, it is not possible to walk any further in this cave. We are prepared of course, wearing swimwear under our clothes. Along with Osario we jump into the water.
We swim into the darkness, while Osario lights up the darkness ahead with his flashlight. Twenty meters in we come to some sort of end wall before we climb over into the next pool and swim a little further. When we reach the point where can go no further, Osario points into the darkness, ‘the cave continues another 14 kilometers’, he smiles. But now we must turn aback. A reluctant Joe too.
The water was cool and fresh, but it felt so good to rinse off the dust and sweat after the horse riding. A proper spa it was. We find our horses again, feeling refreshed. The horses, they know that now is the journey home, so they seem a little more awake too. Even if it means another round through the mud.
This incredible valley …!