Jekill & Hyde Harley Davidson

Part 2 – The Cuba Harley Tour goes from Havana to the tobacco plantation in Pinar del Rio to Vinales

Here we go, we are in a hotel right on the Malecon and our Harleys are waiting for us in the underground car park. The plans for today are in place, the main goal is one of the best tobacco plantations on the island of Cuba .

Classic American cars are part of the normal street scene in Cuba
Classic American cars are part of the normal street scene in Cuba

It is located a little west of Pinar del Rio , a distance of about 200 kilometers, which will take us 3 hours.

Before our Cuba Harley tour starts, we first drive to the gas station. I didn't really understand how much gas costs here, we each fill up for 10 CUC, which is the tourist currency in Cuba . You can compare them 1 to 1 with the euro, that's roughly how it works.

We first fill up the tank before we set off on the tour
We first fill up the tank before we set off on the tour

I'm on the road with my two friends Richard and Uli, the rest of the group isn't known to us yet and comes from different countries. Toni is a well-known Australian journalist who writes for major US magazines with a circulation of millions, and we have a very good rapport with him.


We drive out of Havana and head west on the Cuban highway. Ernesto told us before we left that we had to pay attention to the hand signals from the person in front of us.

The roads in Cuba often have big holes, but he knows all of them. The strange thing is that some of the holes even have their own names because no one has repaired them for years. But for the most part the roads are ok so far, we're used to a lot in Germany by now.

The country is on the way to changing; many things such as paint for the houses and building materials are still missing. However, we did see a section of highway surprisingly being paved.

The roads in Cuba are better than expected.
For the most part, the roads are fine

We continue to relax on the four-lane road past tractors, oxcarts and a few vintage American cars from the 1960s that are part of everyday life here. So far the driving has worked very well, to get used to it and see exactly the right route.

Coffee break at the motorway rest stop

In the late morning we reach a rest stop on the motorway. We park our Harley's next to ox and horse carts in the parking lot.

We're just taking a coffee break here, the Cubans like to drink espresso, but they're more into café con leche (coffee with milk). We all stand out quite a bit in our Harley clothes, which is not an everyday sight for the Cubans.

The Cubans are very friendly, we regularly receive a friendly smile from them.

The journey continues to Pinar del Rio to the tobacco plantation

Richard at the Les Barrigonas motorway service station
Richard at the Les Barrigonas motorway service station

Cuba Harley tour now continues Pinar del Rio to the tobacco plantation . I've been a non-smoker for 20 years, but I'm still interested in what's going on on the plantation and how people work there.

I'm a little surprised that we want to have lunch at the plantation. This has to do with the fact that tourists often come to the plantations and they have adapted to it. Tourism is becoming more important on the island every year, which is one reason why hotel prices have risen significantly in recent years.

However, it is entirely possible that Cuba will have to contend with completely different problems next year due to US sanctions that have been further tightened by Trump and the unrest in Venezuela. Most of the fuel is imported from Venezuela and this source is currently slowing down a bit. But that shouldn't burden us now, we're enjoying the short time we have in Cuba for our Cuba Harley tour .

We drive through Pinar del Rio

A Harley Davidson in Pinar del Rio
Uli on the Harley in Pinar del Rio

In Pinar del Rio we get our first impressions of the cities outside of Havana.

For several years now, it has been possible for locals to become self-employed in order to earn something to support themselves. There is a special list of approved professions for this purpose.

There are still significant differences between socialism and a market economy; the state holds 51% of each company and determines the prices. The self-employed require a permit and capital investments are limited. Nevertheless, for many Cubans it is an opportunity to have a little more money at their disposal.

We saw a mobile ice cream parlor and also a florist at the market. Many use these opportunities to sell their own goods.

The farmers are in the countryside and they provide fresh food, some of which is transported to the towns and villages by horse-drawn carriage.

Hector Luis Prieto 's plantation . We saw tobacco plantations everywhere to the left and right of the road; the farmers alternately plant other fruits and vegetables to keep the soil fertile.

This may be one reason why the soil is very fertile and, especially in combination with the Cuban climate, is suitable for growing high-quality tobacco.

The Harleys are on Hector Luis Prieto's tobacco plantation in Cuba
We arrived at Hector Luis Prieto's plantation with the Harleys.

Before we look at the plantation, we want to have lunch. I am very sensitive to such things and have stocked up on charcoal tablets as a precaution. But I won't need it, the food in Cuba has generally tasted really good and is always fresh.

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We don't expect luxury in Cuba, the country really slows you down, the Cubans have time and enjoy what they have. This is a nice insight to help us get back down to earth from our affluent society.

We explore the tobacco plantation

Tobacco leaves on the Cuban tobacco plantation
Richard looks closely at the tobacco leaves

We are shown everything, where the tobacco leaves are grown and how the leaves are removed and where the fermentation finally takes place before the best tobacco leaves are processed into cigars.

Each leaf is sorted and given its purpose, whether it's a wrapper or whatever, it's a meticulous story that they take very carefully until the cigar finds its purpose and is fired up at some point.

And in the end something like the five star Behike comes out, which in Germany is equipped with one of the special Cohiba banderoles.

Ernesto Guevara and Uli smoking cigars
Ernesto Guevara and Uli smoking cigars

The whole cigar topic somehow turned me on, after Ernesto explained everything to me, you not only have to enjoy a cigar, but you also have to learn to understand it.

It's different than smoking a cigarette, you don't inhale the cigar, it's more like puffing, but you still absorb the Nikon into your blood through your mouth. And all of this can be just as addictive as smoking a cigarette.

But if you find the moment once a month to quietly enjoy the time you've found and burn it off, they say it's good for the soul. And what can I say, there is something to the story. You concentrate on the moment and enjoy.

I have a new hobby, a glow stick on my neck for the first time in 20 years.
I have a new hobby, a glow stick on my neck for the first time in 20 years.

Now we've seen enough for now, of course we have a few cigars in our luggage. There are currently 50 cigars duty-free (11/2019), but you'll have to try out whether customs will turn a blind eye to the really thick cigars and let them be 50, 50.

We continue to the limestone cliffs in the Vinales valley

The American classic cars are simply the show!
The American classic cars are simply the show!

Enough smoke, we still have two hours of driving ahead of us and definitely want to see the limestone cliffs in the Vinales valley.

If you want to know what the “cultural landscape of humanity” is, you have to go to this 10 km x 4 km valley near Vinales. In 1999 the national park was awarded this title by UNESCO.

We reach the viewpoint

West of Vinales we reach a viewpoint from where we can look over the entire valley. I've seen this view many times in photos, but live it's a completely different story.

The limestone rocks are also called mogotes, or elephant backs
The limestone rocks are also called mogotes, or elephant backs
A hotel complex with a view of the valley of the chalk cliffs of Vinales
The Horizontes Los Jazmines hotel complex overlooks the valley of the chalk cliffs of Vinales

Directly below the viewpoint is the Horizontes Los Jazmines hotel complex, which you might also like, but we want to drive a few kilometers further to our hotel.

Our hotel in San Vicente – Vinales

We've seen enough for today, our next stop is in San Vicente, where our hotel is.

And we did it well. A good hotel, clean, a bar and a pool is available.

The surroundings have something of a jungle in which we landed. The rustic trees look really cool. We park our Harleys right in front of the jungle.

We park our Harleys in front of the jungle in San Vicente - Vinales
We park our Harleys in front of the jungle in San Vicente – Vinales

There is something of a little paradise where we are; for dinner there are local dishes, lobster and other fish dishes.

The food is really cheap here, we didn't like that, but we noticed that in Havana and we can get used to it.

Ok, the evening ended in a fun and relaxed way for us, we took Ernesto's advice to heart
Ok, the evening ended in a fun and relaxed way for us, we took Ernesto's advice to heart

Ok, the evening ended in a fun and relaxed way for us, we took Ernesto's advice to heart and enjoyed the Havana rum and another cigar in the evening before the day came to a relaxed end for us.

In part 3 we will go to the province of Artemisa and again to Havana before going to Cienfuegos.

The limestone mountains and the cigars really left an impression, this piece of earth really looks exceptionally beautiful. However, it makes you think, because most people don't have much to live on, but it's enough and when you see how bad things are in some other countries, they are doing better with health care and education than many others. As an outsider it is very difficult to assess the situation, except that they really love their Cuba.

Cuba Harley Tour we are lucky enough to be able to experience the positive and pleasant sides of Cuba. You can look forward to the next part.

Part 3 – Cuba Harley Tour

Las Terrazas – Havana



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