How these latest photos came to be was purely unplanned. My goal was to get to the end of the island with this tractor of a bike I was riding the KLR650. This bike can really go anywhere…at it’s own pace. Half way into my ride on the windward side, a massive gust of wind hit me on the coastal road which nearly set me off on a dissenting voyage out to sea, so I decided NOT to go further up the coast. As I was making a decision about how I would spend my day on this bike I spotted a turn off into the Greiggs community. I had been a few times before and always found it incredibly beautiful, and incredibly ‘St.Vincent like’ which is perfect for unplanned inspiration. Mid-corner I leaned away from the main road and now onto the path to Greiggs.
The best thing about riding through the serpentine road through the Greiggs hillsides is leaning from side to side on your bike has everyone on the roadside shouting “YES BIKE MAN RUN WID IT”, especially the Rastas who really love bikes. One rasta-man ran into the road with his teeth shining bright smiling at me raising his fist in the air shouting “RESPECT”. Even when i’m just puttering along, the loud 650 engine makes a very loud ‘BRAPP’ sound echoing through the valley which has the whole community turning their heads towards you long before you come into their view. Passing by all sorts of people dressed in church clothes, business wear, to rags; they all give me a shout, nod or beep. My favorite is when I passed by this one bar about 4 times, each time I would give the guys at the bar a honk, they shouted back “Oooy!” without any reduction in enthusiasm.
The valley road leads you onto a small plateau like village where most of the community comes together. And just beyond the village is a road that very steeply rises into the farming community which Greiggs is famous for. This I knew, is where I wanted to go.
This standing pipe sits in the middle of the village plateau community. As I pulled off the road and shut off my engine, the church bells started to ring and everyone began shuffling slowly towards the sound. Almost a symbolically equal distance away from the pipe was a bar which had a fella sitting with a clear liquid in his glass as he was slumped over a wooden railing. A priest walked passed him and yelled “ I hope you can find us after your morning medicine!”. The man replied “ Yeah, just now”. which anyone from the Caribbean knows that it means it almost definitely won’t happen anytime soon. I sensed this may have been a weekly ritual between the two.
From a mostly quaint village with low running hills, it almost instantly turns into a farmland of high rise mountain peaks which groove the landscape. Many farmers are walking along this trail and are incredibly helpful and pleasant. So much though that I asked a pair of farmers to take a video of me as I rode up through the mountains and the happily obliged. I had to do the ride on video 3 times so he could get it sorted after a quick lesson in film, being when to press the record button after a miscommunication both with him and me.
I must admit I dropped the bike on my foot while turning it around to do the video. I thought I broke all my toes but my boot took the blow, but don’t worry the bike was fine I could still keep riding.
From about here I spotted some fellas silhouetted on the horizon walking along with massively full farm sacks on their backs. But I noticed they were stood still looking towards me, I raised my hand towards them with a fist indicating ‘respect’ and all 4 of them did the same back. Obviously since now we were friends, I begun my ride towards them in excitement to meet them.
At this point near the highest peak I was looking down into the valley feeling sublime, where the clouds now cast me in their shade and the wind blew cold air into my helmet, it felt like the world was telling me what I was doing was just fine. I looked over and noticed the end of the road, which had the same farmers standing almost waiting for me to arrive with sacks of ground provisions pilled up. After staring long into the farmland valley I rode on over to my agricultural welcome party.
We quickly became acquainted, I think it had a lot to do with how cool the bike looks. When they asked me where I was from I said “Villa side” and they went “VILLA?” as if they couldn’t believe I was even from St.Vincent. But after chatting to them some more it quickly didn’t matter where any of us were from as we were just talking about life in general and how great it is to be alive. I began talking about photography with them and I said “You can’t go around the world and not stop to take a break to appreciate the journey” one of them put his hand out to me and said “ THANK YOU”, he continued “you have to stop by the bar on the way home to finish off the day”. I humbly agreed with his translation. One of the fellas called Michael offered to take me for a walk to some vantage points where I could really see the valley and how far I’ve come. “As you were coming from far we heard your engine” Michael said, “we watched you ride all the way up”.
I asked them about their lifestyle living as farmers. They tend to the hillsides almost everyday from morning till dusk, growing mostly Dasheen. They looked at their sacks of dasheen pilled high and pulled out this rather nice one and handed it to me. Michael said “This one is your’s" I felt two things here, very humbled a man worked so hard to grow this crop with his bare hands working day and night , and then a sense of how the hell am I going to take this home. With my contention in my brain I just blurted out “I can’t take that, and pointed to my bike” His face also went kind of in an ‘oh yeah’ expression. But he said he would just tie it on good and I could go along fine with it. I agreed and accepted his kind gesture thinking it would look amazing to have a dasheen on my bike as I rode home, and also eating it too right?
Michael put his straw hat on to hold the weight from the sack of dasheen. Then him and his colleagues set off on their way back into the mountains and I prepared to travel through the winding hillsides home with my new Dasheen smallie riding shotgun. Feeling content after these guys took the time to spread some life and love, I just enjoyed the ride all the way back down to the coast.
On my way home I would keep forgetting I had a dasheen strapped to the bike of the bike in the smallie seat, and people would yell at me saying “NICE DASHEEN” I would find myself bewildered until I remembered what I did almost 30 minutes ago.
Big thanks again to Michael, the farmer dude and the Greiggs community for their time and love. I hope to see you all again soon.