Arriving at the bus station in Havana with Kylie and Carolina (our new Argentinian friend) for the 9am bus to Vinales, we were approached (as anticipated) by one of the taxi drivers offering to take us instead. We knew that for the bus was going to cost us 12CUC each and managed to get him to agree to take us all for 50CUC, 50c more than the bus!Grabbing our bags we headed towards his beautiful green classic american car and got ourselves settled in. In all honesty the springs on the back bench seat were pretty well worn and the suspension wasnt what it used to be, but it was an essential Cuban experience that we all wanted. Our sweet driver, dressed in his smartest pants and poloshirt, with his styley sunglasses was doing his best to impress the boss on his first day on the job. 

Arriving in Vinales, we had planned to stay at a place Ronaldo had recommended, which was 12CUC a night each, but our driver said he knew a place where we could get a room for 15 - everyone knows someone who can do something for you in Cuba, and since almost every house on every street in Vinales is a casa theres plenty of competition! The rooms were in two houses, right next door to each other, one street back from Vinales main street so we took them and our lovely host, Isabella, welcomed us with fresh mango smoothies. YUM!
Our taxi
Socialist billboards are everywhere
Pretty painted casa's in Vinales
We were getting pretty peckish so Ty, Kylie and I headed into town to wander around, check out the tours available and stopped for a couple of cheap mojitos in the sunshine and some delicious omelettes. Arriving back at the casas and poor Carolina said she had been really unwell while we were gone, and that her host had called the local doctor for her. She was travelling by herself and was feeling pretty miserable so she was glad we were all back. 

Ty and I had taken some colouring in books and pens with us and brought a couple of them out for the young girls who lived at the two houses. It was so funny cos the books had a sticker page in the middle and I was showing the girls. I took a sticker out of the book and put it on their hands and they both took it off and carefully placed it back in the book. Sally, one of the girls, was helping me learn my colours in spanish and became fascinated by our digital camera, wanting to take photos of me, us, her mum, the dogs and herself. At one point she really wanted to take a photo of me by herself, and although she was getting a bit too over-excited I said she could but placed the strap around her neck just incase. At the same time her mum came out and offered me a bowl of soup. Sally turned around and tripped over, and all I could see in slow montion was the camera going headfirst into the concrete, so i stuck out my leg to try and catch her. Unfortunately because I was sitting on the ground on an awkward angle I ended up covered in the soup, but did manage to catch her before she hit the ground. With the hot soup burning my legs through my pants I had to try and make light of the situation as I could see the tears welling up in Sally's eyes who obviously thought she was going to be in a lot of trouble. 
Happy girls with their colouring books
Kylie learning salsa
Heading back to our casa to wash the tomatoe soup out of my clothes I joined a thoroughly baffled looking Ty, to have a drink with our casa owner, her son and his friend. They had all been speaking Spanish and poor Ty had been thrown in the deep end, and wasnt understanding about 95% of what was being said. We had only just started getting to grips with our basic spanish but the Cubans speak with a whole different accent - kind of like they have a marble in their mouth - which makes them even harder to understand! Isabella made us some rather potent, but delicious, mojitos and we had a great time learning the basics to salsa and attempting to communicate with each other. 

That night we headed back into the main street to meet up with a Danish couple that Ty had made friends with that afternoon, having a cheap dinner before dancing in the square with the rest of the town. 

The following morning, Isabella had set out a lovely big breakfast for us which got us ready to go for the day. The lady at the casa Kylie and Carolina were staying at had organised a car to pick us up and take us to a nearby beach for the day. Janne, the Danish chick, was coming with us so we picked her up on our way out of town. It had rained really hard over night but the morning felt fresh and we were hoping for a good day, despite the grey clouds. Arriving at Cayo Levisa we were all taken aback by the bright turquiose blue water, and lack of other people there. We had hoped to do some snorkelling, but despite the water being such a delectable shade of blue, it was very milky so it was pretty hard to see anything. We noticed lots of different sized holes in the sand and all of a sudden out popped a giant crab, who sped across the beach. Next thing we know, Ty turns into this 5 year old boy, poking and prodding sticks into all the holes and then chasing the poor crabbies around the beach. Not sure what he would have done if he actually caught one, but fortunately we didnt have to find out as they were all too speedy and weasly, manoevering out of his reach. We spent a lovely couple of hours relaxing in the sun and swimming, until the wind started to pick up. Hoping it would drop off again, we headed into the one and only restaurant for lunch, where we were serenaded by a local band, and Ty ended up buying their CD. Unfortunately the wind just got stronger so we decided to pack up early and head back to Vinales. 
Mr Crabby
The band over lunch
Arriving back at the house, we went to pay our driver, when suddenly there was a 'misunderstanding'. The previous day when the other host had offered to book us a car, and we had asked the price she had said 15CUC for the car. Wanting to make sure I had understood her properly I tripled checked - "por carro o por persona?" - her reply " no, no, no por carro". Arriving back and it was suddenly 15 CUC each. Kylie and I were really unhappy with this turn of events and desite the fact that the lady spoke a pretty good level of English all of a sudden she was only able to converse with us in Spanish. Poor Carolina, who was not around for the conversation the previous day was stuck being the translastor for us. 15CUC each was more than we had paid to get from Havana to Vinales and more than it would have cost us to get on a tour in town, but there was no negotiating with her staunchly crossed arms and ferocious painted talons of nails, so we paid up, but it left a sour taste in our mouth after what had been a lovely day out. Its a shame for her though, as the casa owners make commission of the trips their guests take and we had originally intended to book other activities through her, but decided not to based on our first experience. 

Next stop: The Vinalian countryside

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