XVIII Festival Habano*: Day 2 By Steve Nathan
After a glorious day “numero uno” at Festival Habano, it was time to board a chartered bus for the two plus hour ride to the holy land of Cuban leaf—the famous Pinar del Rio growing region.
Cuba grows some of the world’s finest cigar tobacco, but most of these farms are located outside of Havana. To see the Cuban tobacco farms, one must travel far west to this legendary province surrounded by lush grassy mountains and blessed with ideal weather conditions.
The journey from Havana, although breathtaking, was far from comfortable. Our large, fully packed bus navigated Cuba’s sparsely traveled highways and back roads filled with potholes the size of small craters, strategically dodging motorbikes, roaming farm animals, stray dogs, and horse-drawn carts. This made the trip very interesting to say the least!
To enhance this outing, our tour guide from Habanos S.A. explained the history and culture of every town and village that we passed along the way.
When we finally reached our destination, my eyes were fixated on the endless rows of lush green tobacco plants soaking in the sunlight. We immediately wandered into the rows of fields, as one would dive into a warm ocean. What a sheer joy it was to touch, feel and smell these huge, brilliant green leaves standing tall and proud under the hot, Caribbean sun.
Our next stop was the curing barns where young wrapper plants were turning into deep, clay red Colorado leaves that would soon be covering some of the world’s best Cubano Liga tobaccos.
After at least one hour of frolicking in the fields and filling our phones with a lifetime of pictures, our lovely guide escorted us to one of the Cohiba family farms where we were cordially treated to several tasty sticks and a home-cooked feast of mouthwatering Cuban delicacies.
With bellies full and fond memories retained, we once again boarded our bus for what we thought was the long journey back to Havana. Little did we know that we were bound for another destination, an outdoor landmark called Mural de la Prehistoria.
This piece of historic treasure is the work of Leovigildo González Morillo, the former Director of Mapping at the Cuban Academy of Sciences and a master of neo-caveman artistry. From 1960-1964, he along with a handful of skilled artisans created this hand-painted rock face mural that spans through the age of the dinosaurs, and ends with three giant, red human figures. The painting is over 250 feet tall and almost 400 feet wide, and depicts the evolution of life in Cuba.
The surrounding pastoral valley was gorgeous and featured several outdoor restaurants and tiki bars. A band of musicians played traditional Cuban music while our gracious hosts from Habanos S.A. treated us to even more great sticks and a feast of rice, pork, yummy desserts, Havana Club Rum, and ice-cold beer.
Four hours later, my traveling companion Brian and I were back at the lovely Meliá Habana Hotel sitting by the pool enjoying the warm tropical breeze, smoking our fine cigars and recalling all of the beauty and culture we had just experienced.
Stay tuned for the chronicles of day 3 in Cuba!
*Habanos S.A. is the Cuban company that has exclusive rights to market and sell Habanos cigars and worldwide.