Quite happy to be out of the tourist madness that can sometimes define Havana, we found Viñales really sleepy and quite tranquilo. A main road runs through the town, and single storey houses, painted in pastel colours, line both sides of the street. Small, mostly state-run restaurants and casa particulares dot the stretch. Apart from the occasional bored taxi driver doing burnouts down the main strip, and the tourist Via Azul buses that ply the stretch, traffic was limited to the odd tractor and man on horse.
I left my job as an advertising Creative Director in August 2012 to travel Africa and South America for a year with my wife, documenting these beautiful places with my Fuji X-Pro1. View the rest of my RTW adventures on Handcarry Only and follow me on my journey by subscribing/following/bookmarking.
When the light fades in Havana and the mercury drops a notch, Havana takes on a distinctly different character. The streets, normally so full of people and scorching hot, are now largely empty. The flicker from the television sets in the houses cast a bluish glow on the threadbare curtains on the windows, like a strange deep sea jellyfish…
As I rounded yet another corner in Old Havana, a picture perfect scene played out in front of me. It was a shot out of a classic movie, two guys, one perched on a stool, a cigarette between his fingers, the other standing, his lean mascular arms stretched across the doorway, sucking a lollipop. Ok, so the lollipop is not really reminiscent of a classic movie, but still …
You would think that all the years of international isolation, economic sanctions and general hardship would have exacted a devastating toll on the people on the island of Cuba. That they would be angry, hostile and bitter with Americans and the outside world in general, seen as more or less responsible for making life harder than it already is, severely limited purchasing choices for everyday items and inflated prices.
You could not be further from the truth.
As the scenery flashed by outside the window of the taxi from the airport, some of it seemed strangely familiar, whether it resembled a mishmash of other tropical islands I’ve seen before or if it was just the countless images of Cuba portrayed in books and films that I’ve watched, I cannot say for certain.