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…

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