Although the Biche Auto Fest was scheduled for a 3pm start we figured, we’d give it a few hours because of the concept of island time. After making a few background check calls we learned that this Saturday evening show was but the second of its kind, to be held annually. Not having been to Biche since my childhood days, like three local musketeers we packed the camera and some magazines for sale, then piled in to a bone-stock automatic Suzuki Swift 1.5 ‘incognito-mobile’ and set off on our adventure. My mother smiled as we left, happy to know we were heading to her original home.
To get to Biche you can take a number of routes since it’s centrally located between Sangre Grande, Mayaro and Rio Claro. We heard that the Biche Forest Road route was in rough condition and since we were not in a pickup, we opted to drive past Sangre Grande and Sangre Chiquito and upon arriving at the outskirts of Manzanilla Village, took the right at the T-junction towards Plum Mitan Road. We almost stopped for some roas’ corn but decided against it since our estimated time of arrival was looking like around 5pm.
Growing up I had always heard my dad and other men of the time speak about Plum Mitan Road with a certain reverence and enthusiasm. My only recollection was that even when the place was wet and humid, my dad would press on at such a rate that my mother would have to ask him to slow down because “the children feeling sick.” I would often wonder why there was never any simpler route, as I always ended up swinging side to side in the rear seat and holding on to whatever I could. He would go slower, which took longer and since there aren’t any rest areas (like the lookout on the Maracas route), we would end up going faster again to shorten the suffering.
But now I was driving to Biche via Plum Mitan Road as a grown up and I was enjoying it like the happiest child in the world. “Waaaaye! “Yes!!!” and “...Rally Road!” I exclaimed, as my passengers laughed at the fact that a road could actually evoke such joy and delight. The place was hot and humid, just as I remembered it, since rain had recently fallen. You could smell the moisture in the air.
The trees provided enough shade to keep most of the road wet, while the sun dried up most of the exposed areas, providing a delightful mix of slip and grip. Instinctively, my left foot began to operate the brakes, simply because it was the easier thing to do. Corner after corner came quicker and tighter as the road coiled and unfurled, snaking up and down. I took care to blow the horn around all the blind corners, but suddenly, a truck came around the next one! They gasped and I took the edge. Boy was I was glad to be driving a small car. Up in the distance I saw a front-drive Nissan Cefiro up in the distance moving fairly quickly. Thanks to the adrenaline rush à la truck, my brain was now assimilating information about the road at Borg-level– every crack, bump, indentation, moisture patch and pothole ahead was quickly scanned and processed for inertial advantage or avoidance. Something in my DNA loved it so much that a roadside pregnancy test would not have been out of the question. The Biche road was taking a pleasurable pounding. The Cefiro driver would yield in about five or six corners, indicator on, stopping on a short straight to let us pass.
The light, little, short-wheelbase Swift was the perfect car for the job. In my dad’s day it was his throaty, carbureted, manual 1300cc Mini that left FA/SA22C RX-7s for dead, particularly in the wet. As children it was our favorite car. We also grew to love the rotary-powered RX-2 afterwards, on the highway. Our pace only slowed when we arrived in Biche and I realized how much it had changed. Just like me, it was all grown up. The roads were wide and paved, with businesses all around. The schools were large and looked very new. But could they do a car show?
It was a good thing we enjoyed the drive. The show was billed to be at the local recreation grounds, but as we drove up we realized the venue had been changed. Many of the lowered vehicles would not be able to make it up the roads leading there. A phone call confirmed that the show was now being held at the RC School Grounds, which was easy to access. When we arrived at 5:30pm, scaffolding and tents were still going up.
We decided to visit Nigel’s grandparents who directed us to Fitts Road where mine once lived and cared for me as a baby. I remember busting my chin on their wet back step, watching them mix juice, pouring form one mug to the next, and turning coconut ice cream in a pail with ice and salt. Like the main road in Biche, it was now paved but seemed less steep. I remember that cars used to struggle to climb up and would often roll down the hill when parked, as it was once made of dirt and gravel.
Next, we opted for a mini mart stop, as locals seemed iffy about the local Chinese restaurant and enjoyed a few snacks by the roadside. Sarah documented the time-killing with a few selfies, then we returned to the new venue. From 7pm to 10:30pm the place gradually filled up with some genuinely interesting cars and characters. For me the black Miata, white R34 Skyline GT-R and blue Supra made the show, along with a few other regulars like the orange custom Galant with the lambo doors, as you can see in the pictures. I met a few familiar faces, Uncle with the ‘light-up’ Triumph bike and the Trini Car Culture Crew. Soon the sound off competition started. By then Kevin and his wife Karen had arrived, also curious about ‘the car show in Biche’ and drawn by the lure of the winding forest roads.
After touring around a bit, observing two rounds of crowd-judged audio competition and getting kicks on the on- and offstage banter between the MC and some guy called ‘Braids’ (community entertainment at its finest–KVTV would have loved it), we decided to call it quits. We left a few magazines with the organisers to give along with the requisite tall trophies and began the journey back. And yes, both the headlights and the foglights were on.
View this photo set on Flickr