Nimbin – Take One

On my quest for exploring the rare sites in modern society, where anarchy is a positive concept put into practice, I have – for years – heard of Australia’s flagship of freetowns – Nimbin.

Studying this cultural misfit from afar I have always thought it to be much like my favourite freetown Christiania in many respects.

There is, of course, the age-old issue of marihuana legalisation. Both Christiania and Nimbin are in it for the long haul. The carricature of a burnt out stoner with greasy long hair and lazy red eyes, drooling a “dude” between tokes, pops all too easily into the minds of conditioned net-surfers and news-readers. But there is more to Nimbin than that.

For the original Australians here – the Bundjalung People – Nimbin and the surrounding area is known as the “Rainbow Region”. The name Nimbin comes from the Nimbinjee spirit people who protects the area.

For the white Australia, up until 1973, Nimbin was your regular little town, where dairy farmers and banana-growers were barely holding on to a livelihood under the pressure of recession.

Then suddenly a gang of Hippies decided to throw a big bash of an experimental party: The Acquarius Festival was the first event in Australia that sought permission for the use of land from the Traditional Owners. The festival has de facto never ended. Thousands of people have attended it by now, lived in it, had children in it, worked the land in it. Imagine that.

A Way In

I wanted to find out more and I had a feeling that my street-wisdom from Christiania would serve me well here. But how to approach it? I could of course take the daily Nimbin Tour Shuttle – a 4 hour sightseeing from an old and colourful bus with “wicked tunes” booming out and the above mentioned stoner hunched over the steering wheel. It includes a sandwhich and a stop on Nimbin’s High Street (the one and only street in town) long enough for you to buy a few joints’ worth of pot from the local hustlers, whose business hours are directly aligned with the bus schedule.

Fortunately, I never even had to consider the tourist trap tour, for already by my 3rd Australian sunrise, my guardian-angel Rad sent me a text saying: “Planting work in Nimbin: 043476…”. I called the guy up, and the conversation went like this:

– Yello!?

– Yes, hello, my friend gave me your number. I am calling about the job you’ve advertised out in Nimbin?

– Yeah, too right mate.

– So I understand it’s to do with planting ginger?

– Yup, we grow ginger and other stuff. You interested?

– Yes! Very much so! But I was wondering what sort of wages you are offering and how much work you’ve got?

– Well it’s 27 bucks an hour if ya wanna do it by the books and 20 if you’re lookin’ for cash. Whatever you like man, we know how it is…

– That sounds very good. I’m still waiting for my TFN (tax file number) so maybe we could do a bit of both?

– Yeah man, no probs, we know how it goes.

– Excellent.

– We’re out in the back of Nimbin and if you’re on a working holiday visa, we can also give you the paperwork you need for the 3 months regional work. I guess you’re from Ireland eh?

– Well, I did live there but I am actually from Denmark.

– No shit! Could’a sworn you were Irish. What’s you name mate?

– My name is Cornelius.

– Dude! Planet of the Apes! You know!?

– Yeah, well, I am hairy but I am not an ape.

– Ah yeeh? Right on. So, Cornelius, do you smoke weed?

– Ehr, mmm, yes I do smoke occasionally…

– Good, it’s just that we smoke a lot of weed out here, and we’ve had a few guys out here before who, you know, by the end of the day when we start rolling up, they didn’t like that. We prefer people who are cool with weed smoking.

– Oh, I see! Well, to be honest with you I am from a similar community to Nimbin, also a pot-smoking community, so I am quite okay with that to say the least.

– That’s good mate, very good.

– Yes. So, when were you thinking to start the planting and also, how much are you paying?

– We’re just about finished preppin’ everythin’ and gettin’ the holes made, so I suppose around Tuesday or Wednesday…

– Sounds pretty good… It’s just that I’ve been invited to a corroboree  next weekend, and since that’s apparently a rare chance, I should like to go there first, so that….

– Ah yeeeh?

– Yes, it’s a sort of rainbow festival not far from here I think, my friend is going to take me there.

– Ah, you’ll be goin’ to the rainbow, I know about that one, lot’s of mates are goin’ there.

– Yeah, so I was thinking, if it’s okay with you guys, that I could start working on Monday 8 days?

– Yeah, sweet, whatever works for you mate.

– Fantastic!

– So, you can get back to me mid-next-week if you want the job mate.

– Well, I was just gonna say; that’s a deal!

– Ah yeeh? That’s cool…

– Great, so I guess I’ll call you sometime next week and get your address and some details.

– Yeah, you do that, Cornelius.

– That is just perfect, I’ll call you in a few days, and thank you very much!

– My pleasure mate, catch ya soon, then.

– Yes! Thanks, all the best, bye for now.

– Yeah mate!

Impossible Accounting

Hell yeah! How bloody brilliant is that! Everyone I told the story to, told me that this kind of money was almost impossible to find around the Byron Area, and especially Nimbin where the unemployment rate is the region’s highest. I could hardly believe my luck, and looking back I really shouldn’t have. I am a chronic high-hoper and I frequently end up in these imposible dream-like states of accounting, where the same money that I haven’t made yet is spent over and over like a never-ending magic purse. I like being optimistic and It’s a good trait to trust in goodness, but jeez will I ever grow up!

Thing was, I couldn’t get a hold of him again. I called and called and left one message after the other over the next week. I didn’t even know his address! But then at the Rainbow Corroboree (LINK coming soon!) I met a woman who thought she might know where this dude was living.

So on the Monday after the fabulous festival, Rad drove me all the way to the very back of Nimbin, over the hills and into the rainforest, only to find a farmer who’d run out of seeds out in the sticks where the phone conncetion had been off-line all week. He told me to come back 2 weeks later…

Needless to say, I was disappointed and somewhat in trouble. I was down to my last $30 dollars in the middle of no-where. Luckily my bus-driving “job” at the Arts Factory had earned me a 5-night voucher back in the jungle-camp. So Rad drove me back out to the coast (bless her soul) and I was back to square one again, wondering how I might get a second chance to get out and into Nimbin, land of the free and the freaky. Gotta be room for me somewhere out there…

To be continued…

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38 Hours Across The World

My flight out of Copenhagen departed in the leisurely afternoon hours, allowing me the time to wake up slowly, hug a few more friends that I had yet to salute, and arrive stress-free at the incredible place we call an “air-port”, where you can show a few papers to a few uniforms and up in the sky you go!

Since I was a child, and my family was based in Greenland, I have been flying in and out of Denmark (and around the world) more than I would like to admit to my environmental conscience. Some years I have counted 15 flights or more, and sometimes I can’t help wondering if any amount of resources I manage to decrease in my everyday consumption will ever make up for the giant size carbon footprint I have already made…

I Can Fly!

Still; it is an incredible thing to fly. And every time I sit on a plane, I always wonder how the hell it is even possible, not only to move through the sky in a tin-can with 900km an hour, but also to find the time to complain about the temperature of the coffee. For god’s sake mate: YOU ARE FLYING THROUGH THE FUCKING SKY! Would you just sit back and enjoy it!

Having said that, being a seasoned air plane passenger, I do value a good on-board service. And having flown with everything from Air Greenland helicopters and Air Laos’ propeller planes ( dating back to the Vietnam War) to the largest top-of-the-line commercial air crafts, I trust my own judgment when it comes to picking out the best available options. That doesn’t mean, of course, that my finances allow me to chose them.

But on this particular journey; from Copenhagen via Qatar in the United Arab Emirates, on to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia and finally arriving in Coolangatta Airport on Australia’s East Coast, the first two legs were wonderfully luxurious (Qatar Airlines is the bomb, just letting you know…). The third and last leg of this incomprehensibly fast migration, however, was spent on yet another dirty, no-frills Air Asia machine, complete with broken seats, exhausted stewardesses and cramped leg space.

Random Connections

I spent quite a lot of air-time wondering where and how to go, once I touched down in Australia. Hoping to hit the ground running I had yet to receive any news from the random connections I had on the East Coast. Then, as I was watching the tell-tale mix of Indian labourers and Saudi Arabian oil sheiks lemminging through the gates of Qatar Airport, I suddenly remembered a particularly random connection: Radhesyam, or just Rad. 5 months before, I had made friends with Rad in the outrageously utopian, and slickly spiritual, intentional community of Auroville in South India.

Over a cup of masala chai one day, she had told me to drop her a line if I ever came Down Under, saying that she would for sure hook me up. So in the midst of Qatar’s commuting commotion, I sat down to drop Rad a few lines. And thank god for that! She has hooked me up with a deeply spiritual and joyful festival, transportation, a job and hours of fun and interesting conversation. You will hear much more about her later…

A Close Shave

In Malaysia I had a 12-hour layover, and for once I had actually pre-booked a hotel – knowing that I wouldn’t be up for hanging out on an airport-chair for a whole night. On the Net I had found what seemed to be a convenient yet slightly pricey option which I settled for – not getting any younger after all. Turned out to be a block of concrete sitting right next to the low-cost carrier airport terminal, like a turd looking at brick. Owned by Air Asia, of course.

Already tired from the first two flights, I still decided to take a bus into Kuala Lumpur (gotta love that name) since I’d never been there before. I had just enough time to see the wacky and world-famous KL-skyline from a mono-rail train, get a dish of street-kitchen chicken chow (try saying that out loud) and buy another 1GB of RAM in one of the many typical Asian electronics shopping centres. Just another day in the life of a modern nomad.

Of course I couldn’t sleep most of the night anyway, and ended up watching two mediocre films on my 10 inch screen, all the while dreading that I wouldn’t wake up in time for my flight. And guess what? I almost didn’t. From the moment I opened my gravelled eyes to the moment I stood in line at the Air Asia check-in counter, I doubt that more than 10 minutes went by. I ran like a rocket and I might have knocked over a few smaller travellers – but I made it!

Lost And Found

Next time I woke up, I was suspended 10.000 feet over a massive arid, burnt orange-red canvas of sand, dust and rocks, with scar-like cracks running parallel for hundreds of kilometres. My first sighting of Australia.

People had told me of the anal customs officers in Australia’s airports. Absolutely nothing organic, which hasn’t been sterilised and sealed, is allowed into Australia, seeds of any kind in particular. I was prepared to lose the small bag of Copal my dear friend Philip had given me as a parting gift, but I didn’t see this one coming: They took my bloody juggling balls! Filled with seeds they were, so that was a no go.

Got my stamp. Got my bag. Got a bus. Got a hostel (thank you Philip again, sweet place!). Got a bed. Got there. Before I nodded off that first night, I remember wondering how long it would take for my soul to catch up.

Retrospectively I can confidently say that it took just about 6½ days.

 

 

So Long Freetown

For the past decade or so, I have been living in and out of one of my favourite spots on Earth: The Freetown of Christiania. About a thousand people continue to live and love in this anarchist community squatting an 84 acre (0.34 square km) area in the heart of the Danish capital, Copenhagen.

41 years ago this former military barracks became occupied land in the name of peace, love and freedom. Over the years Christiania has become a self-governing, and quite well-organized, community based on consensus democracy.

It may sound like a neat and orderly place full of supra-conscious and well-meaning hippies, but in reality it is more like a boiling melting pot of random craziness and unpredictability. I have yet to find out what the place is really all about, and that is one of the reasons I love it so much. Another reason is that most of my friends are there – on and off as we migrate around the world.

Many a time I have left this magical phenomenon, wondering if my journey would ever land me in her emancipating embrace again. Every time I have found myself back in the amazing anarchy within the year. Somehow my fate is intertwined with this place…

On my most recent “last night” in Christiania, I had the honour and pleasure of being surrounded by the best of friends, sitting around a quiet fireplace in an untamed forest, right in the middle of bustling Copenhagen. It was a proper farewell session with speeches, songs, hugs and other declarations of love.

The next morning, as I walked out of the Freetown – paying attention to every bit of colourful chaos on the way – I knew I would be back. And when I touched my forehead to the arch over the corner-entrance, I felt it throughout my body too.

So long Christiania – You Have My Heart!

The Heart Flyer Man



Today I met a guy in the streets of Byron Bay. He handed me a flyer that went like this:

Step onto Your Throne… You Are a Be-ing of Infinite Majesty… This is Your Life… This is Your World.-.. This is Your Sacred Earth… For You are… The True Queen & The True King of Your Self… You Are the True Champion of the Wild Free Spirit of Love & Joy that Lives & Burns Within Your very own Heart… Conragutalations for Believing in Your Self !! Conragutalations for Trusting in Your Self !! Conragutalations for Daring to Listen to Your own Heart and all-ways Being True to Your own Inner Wild Free Spirit… When You Love Your Self in a Natural, Healthy, & Conscious way, & when You Love All Sacred Earth Beings equally unconditionally, Your True Spirit Shines Brilliantly as The Wild Golden Sun… etc. etc.

It struck me that it wasn’t a commercial for anything nor did it seem to have any agenda other than empowering the reader out of sheer good will.

I promptly turned around and started a conversation with the sweet looking young Asian-descent fella who beamed a smile at me the size of a watermelon slice. “Who are you?”, I tried. “You should be saying who are you-me”, he replied making a double pointing gesture to us both and smiling at my blank expression.

He then went on to perform a 3-minute lecture/mime on how to go about staying in the present moment by keeping your attention on your breath, all the while jumping around the pavement to enact various stages of consciousness: “Breathe in is to take in new energy, breathe out is to dissolve the clouds and give thanks, stay in your breath and you stay in the moment”.

How rare to meet someone who serves his fellow man so directly and hands-on as this guy! After his “show” he offered to send me all his flyers in an email. I have just received them, 20 hand-made and beautiful, well meaning, A4 sized flyers – all in the service of the soul. I’ve picked one of them out for you to enjoy. Bless his heart!

Getting Legal With The Locals

In this fairly complicated (and pretty twisted) world of capitalism, having a bank account is paramount for any money-handling citizen. Only in the last year have I realised what this means in practical life: In order to access public services, benefits and citizen’s rights, one is dependant on the willingness of a private company to handle your money!

In my relatively short life I have already been a customer with 7 different banks and I have been using and abusing their services in the typical fashion of the mainstream consumer – mindlessly. Then I became aware of the oxymoron concept of “Ethical Banking” and I haven’t looked back since. If anything, it is the all-pervading and merciless energy of money that we as individual Human Beings have to grab the reins of and direct towards a sustainable model.

Night Sky Money

Snoozing in my tent at the Rainbow Corroboree I’d overheard a conversation between a lovely-lazy psychic lady with a bent for loud laughs and Jim Beam and a steel-mandoline player with a hat full of dreadlocks and passionate attitude towards liberating Australia’s water supplies from Fluoride and other obnoxious chemicals.

Somehow it appeared to me that the water-activist would be able to point me towards an ethical banking alternative, so I stuck out my head and obtained the following information: “There’re no ethical banks in ‘Straya dude, but you should just sign up with a credit union like Southern Cross. Credit unions are owned by their members, so at least you won’t be payin’ to the man! They operate on a local community basis but all the Credit Unions are linked together so you can get your money out all over the country.”

Personally, I never really liked paying to “the man” (however vague a figure he might be), so I decided to follow the advice. Plus I really liked the name “Southern Cross Credit Union”. I have always been fascinated with the star formation called the Southern Cross – a symbol and a metaphor for the new world in the Southern Hemisphere for so many Northern Hemisphere immigrants before me.

To the native Australians, however, the star formation is known as a possum sitting in a tree, representing the sky deity Mirrabooka. Throw in the most visible dark nebula – “the Coalsack mark” – and this prominent patch of night sky becomes the head of “the Emu in the Sky”. Beautiful.

Local Business

Back in Byron Bay, I therefore went and chatted to the lovely ladies Julie and Lyn at the local branch of the Southern Cross Credit Union. To open a bank account here, all I had to do was to walk in with my Passport, Driver’s Licence, $10 and a letter from the Tax Office sent to my hostel, and 15 minutes later I walked out with an Australian bank account – simple as that!

Simple, of course, because I belong to the privileged tribes of the so-called “developed countries” who have enough finacial leverage to allow its citizens access to the systems of other money-hoarding countries.

If I was, say, a Congolese tribesman, it would have doubtlessly been a different story full of red tape and blatant racism. Ironically, the symbol of the most radical racists in Australia (violent and ignorant skinheads) is the very same Southern Cross, which, as it happens, also figures prominently on the Australian flag.

Aboriginal Banking

However, some tribes have access to Australia’s wealth-generating system across the enormous cultural – and historically tormented – gap between European colonialists and indigenous people, in Australia often referred to as Traditional Land Owners. We’re talking about the Aboriginals of course, who only recently have been treated with just a pinch of recognition.

Where I had to produce three legal documents issued impersonally by various government authorities, an Indigenous Australian is required to bring the following:

A written reference from a community leader, who is one of the following:

  • A person who is recognized by the members of the community to be a community elder; or
  • If there is an Aboriginal council that represents the community – an elected member of the council; or
  • A member of a Regional Council established under section 92 of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander Commision Act 1989; or
  • A member, or a member of the staff, of a local land council established under section 21 of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976; or
  • A member of the staff of the ABoriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commision; or
  • A director of an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander corporation within the meaning of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commision Act 1989.

                                Brochure from Southern Cross Credit Union

From my understanding this means that all you need is a personal letter of recomendation from someone, anyone, who knows anyone in the world of Aboriginal bureacracy or business or simply from Gran’pa down the road in your local village. Pretty neat if you ask me.

Keep it Comin’!

With my new account came an old-fashioned paper-card with a hand-written account number and a plastic slip so it doesn’t tear. With that and my Tax File Number I am now officially a legal money-making entity in Australia. All I need know is for the money to roll in…

One Up For The Factory


My ally and fellow journeyman Philip, who has trodded this trail before me, said of a place unlike most. Where warriers and wanderers and wanters of wisdom will wade in weed and wonderful awakenings. T’was indeed…

I arrived at the Arts Factory late at night and stepped right out of the bus and into the jew-bear Brad’s calm and collected cigarette break. Night security & all round solid boss, twinkle in the eye, good fella. Pulled my leg. “Sold out tonight” he said with a grave face, looking me up and down. Caught his bluff, but shrugged and lit one too. Got talking about my mandola. “Don’t fret” he finally said, breaking a laugh and a puff, “let’s go set you up”.

Next morning I came down to reception. “Oh yeah, you’re that Danish guy. You can drive the night bus.” Easy peasy. Drive a beat up 10 seater van between the Factory and the Rails for a star lit 6 hour shift. A simple 1 minute and 26 seconds drive, back and forth about 32 times. Pays for 4 nights of accomodation. I’d mentioned to Brad that I needed work asap, and he had already set me up. Good omen I say.

In this case accomodation means squatting a patch of sand in a rain forest garden together with possums, bush turkeys, dragons and a crew of young and enthusiastic travellers and roustabouts. Good toilets, great showers, functional kitchen – bring your own shelter and food. So off I went to the local Byron Bay Camping Disposals and, more reluctantly, the nearest supermarket. Holy stools this place is expensive.

Byron Bay is a tourist town with a strong alternative flavour. Drinking, surfing and relaxing is what this place is about for the passer-by. A hedonistic haunt some would say. Like a minuscule San Fransisco where a 2 week stay gets you a ticket to the long-termer’s club and where everyone is looking out for each other.

At the Arts Factory a straight forawrd “yes I can” is all you need for a ticket to the jungle. So here I am. Writing a song on the beach. Loading up on Australia’s abundance of natural medicine. Slowly and joyfully understanding the nature here. Laughing like a 6 year old when I look up at the night sky and my 32 years of subconscious star-mapping suddenly doesn’t match anymore.

Everyone I know here is looking for a job. Any job. It’s the early beginnings of the summer, cold gusts of wind still linger and traders have yet to hire this season’s hungry hands. About half of us serve at the Factory in exchange for her hospitality. Old lady she is; from the early 70’s onwards, the Arts Factory has delivered her promise of a refuge for the odd-outs and the creatives on the road to more roads. Lord knows how many before me…

Here’s a song I wrote for her…

Verse

D
I’ll tell you a story
G                    D
and I’ll tell it today
A                 D
about all the folks i met
G          D
in Byron Bay

Arriving one evening
to where it was at
I had my leg pulled
by a fella named Brad

He did put me up though
‘said “come stay with us”
and before I knew it
I was driving the bus

Chorus

A
And it’s one up for the Factory
D          G      D
and her crazy crew
G                C           G
you know, it could be you!

I moved to the jungle
t’was a bungle of tents
and within the hour
I had a hundred friends

There were all sorts of Hippies
and Travelling Types
playing their music
and smoking their pipes

They took me around
for a magical ride
with star-studded eyes
to the beaches at night

And it’s…

It’s like a big family
of Nutheads & Grinners
Lovers & Sinners
and Pro’s and Beginners

‘Got Bushturkeys and
a Bushman on the site
with a bird on his shoulder
and a mouth full of shite!

The Gal’s at the desk
they’re always a pleasure
if I was a Pirate
they’d be in my treasure

And it’s…

I spoke to a fellow
one day over tea
I asked him his job
and he said this to me

“It would be a shame now
although I’m in need
to look for a job
while I’ve got all this weed!”

And it’s…

So the days roll by
in peaceful bliss
t’will be a time
that I’m going to miss

‘Cause I’m going to Nimbin
where the weeds grow tall
to work on a farm
but I’ll think of you all

And if you pass by at
the Arts Factory
could you check for my mail
I’d be grateful to thee…

And it’s…

Repeat Ad Lib