Friday, 26 June 2015

Cuba: Vinales: breathtaking rural landscape

At sunrise in Vinales the 'mogotes', - the limestone hills that rise out of the plain -, glow with the promise of the new day.  It's a dramatic moment, a dawn of time moment that makes you feel humble and privileged.  There is nothing for it but to watch as the curtain of night draws back to reveal this landscape that has remained largely unchanged for centuries.  Long before you can see anything hundreds of cockerels announce the day.  As soon as it's light enough, flocks of white egrets fly back from their roosts to stalk the ochre fields.

This would be a wonderful place to come and paint, write poetry, ride horses, finish a half written book ... Walk in the cool of the morning, write in the heat of the day, eat organic chicken and fruit for supper at night - the cockerels are not kept for their singing!                

Long before visitors like me have tumbled out of bed with their romantic notions, the local farmers have started work.  This chap was ploughing with his oxen right outside our room before dawn. On the morning we captured the beginning of sunrise (pictured below), we watched farmers arrive in the fields to start work, usually with their oxen, while it was still dark.  Some had torches and Andrew gave them rechargeable batteries.  Probably they had been feeding livestock and doing other chores even before this.  Andrew asked one of them: he had started work at 4am.    

The appeal of Vinales is its incredible landscape and its traditional methods of agriculture. Tobacco is the main crop and it has been grown and harvested the same way for several centuries, principally using the labour and sweat of draught animals and man.  Historically, that man was a slave.  The dichotomy between camera wielding tourist and farmer working with oxen is stark, but the combination of tourism and traditional agriculture seems to work.  Unesco describes Vinales as:
 'a "living landscape" with a high degree of authenticity ..... It has been able to preserve its specific character, while adapting to modern conditions and receiving flows of visitors'.  
That is how it felt to me, and I hope that's how it remains.  We felt very welcome here and the abundance of cheerful, hospitable Casas offering bed and breakfast suggested that visitors bring very welcome trade.  At the same time the landscape and the agriculture felt timeless.

Reassuringly so for this country girl.                

More Vinales next time ...

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  1. Thanks Louise. Will pass your compliment on to the man behind the lens, Andrew. Vinales is a stunning place. Kelly x