After our motorcycle ride to Abeokuta we were “feeling it”, plus Les and I had the bike for another day. It was Sunday but we decided to break with tradition just a bit.
I met Mark three or four years ago at LTU. He and his business partner often go there mid-morning to use the wireless internet, meet and work. He spoke often about his home and retreat in the mountains above Little London. Mark has a passion for everything sustainable. In addition to the retreat he runs with his business partner and his wife he and his partner also have a business there installing rain catchment systems. Mark’s passion is contagious, he’s a bright and gentle man. He spoke about his home with such love – it’s completely off the grid, in the middle of nowhere and it sounded like paradise. Time and time again he’d invited us up for a visit – on this Sunday we took him up on it and headed out to Zimbali Retreat.
We took the Sav road out to Little London and then turned up towards the hills to New Canaan Road. As we climbed into the mountains we were surrounded by beautiful scenery, bush, cane fields, small towns. At the foot of the hill heading up to Mark’s place we stopped. Ron yelled for the fellow we were about to visit, a seriously talented artist named Ishanti.
We found Ishanti busy at work on a custom-made pair of shoes. His house/workshop was tiny, his work bench right there on that small porch. Ishanti greeted us all very warmly and he seemed to be a very genuine and humble man. Ishanti’s specialties included working in leather and in carving conch shells. Ron and Peg had told us about his carvings and Ishanti was eager and proud to show them to us. He brought them out one by one, running an extension cord to the one outlet in his very small bedroom out to the porch so he could light the lamps he’d made.
I was, simply put, blown away by what I saw. Each piece was so detailed, so intricate – with imagery such as dragons, sea life and Rastafarian iconography. The pieces were amazing as they were but when lit all that intricate and tiny detail showed through. We took pictures, ooh’d and ahh’d and was, as I said so humble yet proud of his craft. Here was a man, a dedicated artist, sitting at his place creating this magnificent art so far from the beaten path. You won’t find this guy hawking his wares on the “Seven Mile Beach” – this was something really special, some of the most exquisite art I’d seen made in Jamaica to date. His lamps sell for $250.00 USD – period. No higgling, no negotiating and worth every penny considering the amount of time and work put into each unique object.
We had a nice visit with Ishanti and he sent his warm wishes to Mark with us up the hill. We arrived at Zimbali shortly afterwards where we were greeted by Mark very enthusiastically. Zimbali is Mark and Alecia’s work of art and they are as proud and as humble as Ashanti as they greet us and show us around. Alecia was busy preparing one of the cottages for a guest that was due to arrive later that afternoon. Mark sat with us and we chatted over the sweetest tasting water drawn right from the stream on their property. His home was beautiful and the property it sat on magnificent with wonderful views of the farm right below. After our chat, Mark took us on a tour.
The place was everything he’d described and more. It is just about 100% sustainable. They draw their power from the sun, they have an extensive rain catchment system and most of the food the family and guests eat is grown right there on the farm. As we walk around the farm we see that food growing: Orange trees, Banana trees, Papaya, Palm…and plants whose names and fruits I do not recall but all have a nutritional or medicinal purpose. Mark was sure to tell us that Alecia is the farmer in the family having grown up in that tradition right in that same fertile area.
Since Mark and Alecia are preparing for guests, we take our leave and head out on the road less traveled to Half Moon Beach. That road, not surprisingly, got a bit rough at times but as rough as it got the more beautiful the scenery became. We found ourselves climbing up steep hills with a cliff on one side and a mountain on the other. The views from the top of the hills were tremendous and we descended town into sweet small towns, passing through places such as Delve Bridge and Moreland Penn. We stopped at various points on our route to get something to drink and to ask for directions to make sure we didn’t end up God knows where. Cane trucks were scattered about as were small shops and funky cute homes. We stopped at one point and got off the bikes to check out a little store that sat inside of an old truck container which had some interesting art on the inside. Perched on top of that container was a small house/apartment – a fascinating piece of architecture. This was one of the places that Ron and Peg wanted to show us. The last time they’d passed through that apartment was for rent.
We rode through Cave Valley when we came to a fork in the road. Once again we paused on the bikes, calling over a nice man to ask which was the best way to go to get to Half Moon Beach. As Ron was chatting with that man we hear someone yell “Yo!” Then, like a mirage, our friend Robin’s head appeared out of a window of a small red shop on our left. Needless to say we were gleefully surprised, so we parked the bikes and went inside.
Robin works at LTU: He has been since dinosaurs roamed the earth. He is a good friend to the four of us and for a long time. We’d seen him that morning and invited him on our adventure but he declined since he had plans to spend the day in Hanover. Well, there he was, spending the day in Hanover and here we were just passing through. Kismet!
We lingered in the small town of March Town with Robin for a while laughing, sipping our Pepsi’s and checking out the little out-of-the-way burg.
Directions comprehended we left March Town and headed down the hill towards Orange Bay. We arrived at Half Moon Beach just before sunset. We never even made it to the beach there, we just hung out at the bar visiting with Andrew and Tanya and the girls and enjoying the scenery as the sun dipped into the sea.
It was lovely ending our untraditional day with the traditional…even a small part of our Sunday at Half Moon Beach.