A Remarkable Encounter

Here is my latest entry on my page called Remarkable Encounters. Enjoy!

 

PEEBEE & FRANCIS

(aka David & Phoebe)

There are those who preach a better way of life and then there are those who live it. In a time where climate activists jet-plane across continents and latte-sipping revolutionaries nurture their online identities, Phoebe & David are simply pulling the plug. And when the oil runs out, I know they will be ready for it.

We’re talking getting off the grid and off the system. Enter intentional community. Call it anarchy, hippie, radical, left wing or even libertarian. Franny and Peebee call it Ponyland. The place where rainbows end – in muffins and in friends. Backed by a band of caring and capable queers from Australia and beyond, they have put an inheritance to good use. A hundred acres of the world’s most ancient land has been freed for the force of love to manifest, henceforth known as Ponyland. They should have broadcast that in the news.

peebee and frani

Sounds pretty doesn’t it? Pretty hardcore too. People know how to use guns around here. Rural Australia isn’t for the faint-hearted either with all its natural hazards. Ponyland certainly has its share of killer critters, from ticks to spiders, all fashion of snakes and of course the endemic Homo Capitalismus (usually represented by mining companies and a mercenary police force).

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New Zealand From The Road-Side

There are few modes of transport that offer the traveler a better view into the fabric of a nation than that of hitch hiking. From Jaguar-driving CEO’s to poultry-farmers in run-down trucks, I have had (and still have) the pleasure of being chauffeured from A to B by people from all walks of life. These experiences have led me to conclude that there are good people everywhere! The following is an account of my hitch from Auckland to Rotorua, a journey covering a mere 230 km.

Hitch 1

Rather than taking a bus about 45 minutes out of town to find a good spot on the motorway, I decide to take a gamble and try out a semi-dodgy spot right in the center of Auckland. I’m standing right in front of a sign illustrating the illegality of my activity with a fat line over a stick man in a circle. At least the drivers won’t see that so well then…

After 4 different cop cars have passed me, however, I realize that the Auckland Police probably have more pressing issues at hand. Nearly 40 minutes pass before a sporty old black Nissan pulls up. Young man, chatty, paying back his dues: “You see I lost my licence there for a while, nothing serious just a few speeding tickets, but that’s when I started hitching. Used to be a meek little man but that sure got me talking”.

He takes me even further than he was going himself, still only about 10 km but he sure knows his good spots. Drops me off at a perfect ramp with lots of space to pull over. In the 20 minutes I spent his car I get to hear about his latest dilemma: “My missus invited this incredibly good-looking Estonian to come stay with us and she is a stunner, I mean she is an 11 on the 10 scale, prancing around my house and hanging her g-strings in my yard and on top of that my wife only told me 2 weeks ago that she’s pregnant!”

Now where did that image go?

If only the picture was taken on this day, but no, rain, rain and more rain…

Hitch 2

As I walk to the spacious ramp I see a really old, beat-up ute parked there with the driver attending something in the cabin. Anxious to get a move on I swear under my breath and hope he’ll pull away soon. Hard to get anyone to stop when someone did already. Too bad it wasn’t for me, but then the driver sees me in his mirror, honks his horn and waves me over. My irritation turns to a big smile, how often do you go hitch-hiking and the next ride is already there waiting for you!

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Hats Off For Snakes & Millionaires

For the quick-fix readers who will soon realize that this is yet another whopping 4-minute read and end up quickly browsing the pictures and move on; do at least scroll down and read the bold text, it might save your life 🙂

We were burning all the hundreds of branches we had collected over the summer holiday. After every bit of bad weather, Camp Moogerah’s massive green lawns were littered with dead foliage which we duly collected to make the property look presentable for the school camps. Now the time had finally come to torch the fruit of our work.

Now where did that image go?

“My alchol-infused brain, however, insisted on knowing more about how to murder a snake…”

The neighbours came over for a barbecue in the light of the blaze. Richard and Joan are millionaires and I worked for them. Anton and I had given their property a thorough trim with whipper-snippers, lawn-mowers and hedge cutters. Pleased with our effort, they invited us for dinner and drinks; two nomads with calloused hands and broken shoes sitting in a sparkling white leather couch, eating Black Angus steaks, each pound of meat worth more than half a day’s wages for us. Damn fine steak I tell you, and great company too.

As we watched the flames eat away our pile of stick-pickings, I ended up chatting to Richard. He is from Western Queensland. To anyone who knows a bit of Australian geography, Western Queensland means hardship, tough times and leathery skin. Born nearly 70 years ago, Richard grew up on the edges of the great inland deserts, where the land is like a cracked heel; dry, furrowed and painful. He didn’t come from money, he came from farmers and hard work – “yakka” they call it here – and Richard still does a hard day’s yakka every day, beginning at sunrise, tending to the nearly 100 premium horses he breeds for the glamorous race-tracks of Australia’s big cities.

Now where did that image go?

Not all snake encounters are serious…

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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…

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…

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