The next morning, I meet a friend at breakfast, an Italian climber who lives in L.A. and is also traveling in Cuba alone. Tito is busy running errands in Pinar del Río today, so we borrow his rope and draws and wander down the road to Raul Reyes’s finca, “the” spot for Viñales climbers — partially because you have to tramp across his property to reach a lot of the walls, and partially because I think Raul really likes being “the” spot for Viñales climbers. He keeps a huge tree rat on a leash next to the covered porch where he sells mojitos and fresh plantanos to weary climbers on their way back into town.
At Raul’s finca this morning, Ascanio and I run into four familiar-looking guys we’d both seen before. Ascanio climbed with them yesterday, and today, the six of us climb together. One of them is a Ryan Gosling look-alike; he and Ascanio conquer tougher routes on the huge, concave wall to the left, while I climb some routes to the right with our other three new friends. The spot is la Cueva de la Vaca, and it’s reached from this side by a long, steep staircase that goes straight up the side of the hill. At the back of the cave is a tunnel that deposits you on the south side of the land mass, at the edge of some other fincas.
Later, we search for a pair of multi-pitch routes Ryan Gosling wants to climb. When we find them, it’s close to 7 p.m., and Joshua decides to head back to town. Three boys go up the line on the right, and Ascanio and I get to the second belay of the line on the left before bailing — it’s dirty climbing, and we’re losing the light. I leave Joshua’s headlamp, which he loaned me, in Devon’s shoe because our three friends will need it when they come down.
Ascanio and I have a drink at Raul’s and chat with him while I pull a puppy onto my lap and give him more love than he’s ever had in his life. Ascanio buys a cigar, Raul gives me two plantanos to go, and we walk back to town in the dark.