Sunday, July 31, 2005

Chasing hippies in the Artic!!! (Rainbow Gathering)

I have been living in a week-long day which only my biological clock fragments into periods of sleep and awakeness. It’s summer in Northern Norway, the sun shines at midnight, and five past twelve is already sunset. I stayed in bodo for two weeks, with Mohammed and Josefina, two local musicians, Bodo itself is rather ugly, with the average harbour infraestructures at least giving the town a very artic feel. When a local journalist asked me if I liked the town I thought of a chocolate cake and sayed yes with the head.
I had to move, I was still 450 kms away from the Rinbow- Ting hippie gathering, but the second car that stopped for me was that of our norwegians with the genuine offer of trekking over a glaciar inside a cave, and I couldn’t resist. Obviously that night I dodn’t get very far and just camped by the side of the road.
The next day I could see the first effects of the interview with my picture in Bodo newspaper: a amn stops because he read about me in his breakfast, and the officers of the ferry operating from Bognes to Narvik welcome me free on board. Travelling along the E-6 is sets me nostalgic: narrow road but well kept, lakes and fiords, mountains with the last snows, scarce towns and little traffic: everything indicates a nordic sister of the Route 40 (suns for 4,667 kms from Patagonia to northern Argentina). When on the way to Narvik I traveled for the first time in this 3 months in the back of a pick up, the similarity became unbearable. A petty the prices don’t join the game.
Narvik, another gray harbour in a dramatically beautiful fiord, was the artic sanctuary of many nazi battleships. There, loyal to my “spend 0” policy I changed accomodation for a mention in the website of the project, in the hostel where I slept (Spor 1 Guesthouse
The Rainbow Family meeting was located in the very end of a valley called Dividalen, which is 50 kms long, in sami territoriy. The samis are the last european indigenous people, they live from rheindeer herding, but they live up to date, with mobile phones and Volvo’s. My first impression when I got to the meeting, with a polich hitch hiker (Maciek) that had joined me, was that I had reached an uncontacted tribe. A couple of dozen people were talking beneath a fire, around there are several tipees. When they see us they shout “Welcome home!” A second look was required to confirm that those nice people belonged to my same time and culture, maybe because of their succesful efforts towards a timeless esthetic. Most of them went barefoot, most of them had dreadlocks, beards were long. They are students, they are mothers with children, they are middle age men. They are european, they are japanese, they are Southamerican. They seem excesivelly cultured and aware, and they think (and I agree) that in some stage we took the wrong turn and that we should trade big cities for small self sufficient communities. They consider themselves a family and they nickname the outside and corrupted world as ‘Babylon’.
I had started tto talk with an icelandic guy who blamed the patriarcal society for all our pain when another arrival happened: a blonde, moustached american guy that dropped his backpack and hugged three of us as if we were his sons. In general there is a kindness and a human warmth that babilonics have long since lost: any eye contact can spark wide and cuasi idiotic smiles. Others live, three swedish guys set off walking for their country (3 days)
In a moment we moved to another fire, near the river. There, Eduard from Romania did a kind comment about Borges, so I thanked by praising Cioran. In the group, in which scandinavians are majority, many speak spanish and have lived several months in LatinAmerica. It’s nice to see american, swedish and french using Spanish as common channel. After the first day my conclusion is that, if Christiania was a revolutionary place, the Rainbow Family was defenitly the “Foreing Legion” in charge of exporting that pride, of keeping the fire alive. I went to sleep just when many others were waking up. The absence of night takes people here to slep rather randomly according to chaotic schedules.
The ‘family’ as any human group also has rituals. By lunchtime we all did a “food circle”, and took each other by the hand to sing: “We are circling, circling togheter, we are singing, singing our heart songs, this is family, this is unity, this is celebration, this is sacred.” It’ s our way of thanking nature for the food we are about to eat: polenta with apple and raisines. Alcohol is banned.
That night I had the opportuniy to join a “vision circle”, in which one of the ‘brothers’ announced a vision of a big meeting in the Altai mountains, in the border between China, Kazakhstan and Mongolia. The visions of future meetings should be ratified by absolute consensus in previous meetings. People talk one by one as a ‘talking stick’ is passed to them, never interrumpting (in theory, with some exceptoins) subsequently giving the right of speech to their neighbours. The melancholic american girl ended talking about nomadism and Flavio asks please to focalize on the vision, just when the ‘talking stick’ reaches the french guy with turbant who has just arrived and knows nothing about the gravity of the issue, so he seats, takes the stick to this forehead gently, closes his eyes and announces that he visualizes a yellow eagle. Flavio asks again please to leave our eagles out… All that day people was talking about Altai, about the visas, about a truck that the someone of tha family had in Marocco and that could be used for the long trip there. Miki from israel and me think the same, we should set the stress in communities, the meetings are necesaary but are picnics in nature that will not change the world themselves.
The last day (it’s a metaphor, it’s always day) started with a surprise. I wasn’t the only argentinean. Candelaria has tavelling since 1989. She is 41, and her daughter Paula , that was born in Costa Rica, is 5 and can even speak some english. “I saw Menem caming to power and I rushed to buy the ticket”. In the city, one always comes across people that never hot the road or people who did it but came back rather soon (these are anyway those inspiring us). Only in the road we meet the people that made the road their home and movement their air. Cande shares a ‘mate’ with me and tells me about a French family she knows who is having problems with the state because they don’t want to send their child to school, because they are always moving and the child is anyway learning really important things with them and the people they meet. I think in concertino, the german man who has been travelling for 25 years with his bandoneon and his hamag. I also met him here. Some examples can be too much for a single day, I have better go to sleep.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Homefulness in Gothenburg. The three Thors in the E-6. Midnight sun in Bodo

Taking distance from Christiania was difficult, but I finally kept on with my original plan, that of traveling Scandinavia clockwise via Nordkapp, the northermost point in Europe, land of the Sami, europenn last native tribe, and of modern home german tourists. In spite of this, Nordkapp dropped to second row when somebody in Christiania said that the Rainbow Family was gathering somewhere near Oslo. The rainbow Familiy has been gathering people al around the world since the sixties under the ideals of peace and respect for nature. The exact coordinates of the event were unknown. It seems as if the organizers trust Freya will lead the travelers into the right path…. And if you don’t get there is because you didn’t have to be there. The only thing we knew is that the gathering will be on going all july and that it actually was a re-edition of the centuries-old tradition of the “Ting”, popular councils of pagan times. Towards it I directed my intention even before my steps.
Entry to Sweden was made in the car of an afghan exporter who gave me his telephone in Kabul. The following drivers were peruvian, estonian and palestinian, and that gave me a parameter of what I coould expect from Sweden in terms of hospitality. This, added to prices that invite to ascetism (U$D20 for a pizza) caused a first pesimistic day. That day I made it to Helsingborg after having waited for near 3 hours in the road. There I camped in a park by the sea that was crowded but gradually cleared. All of Scandinavia’s national territory is technically free camping space (it’s called the right of all men”), so when I doblu check with a policeman, skeptic myself, he laughed, said yes, and wished me a pleasant stay in Sweden.
The dollowing morning I continued to Gothenburg. There Gunilla was waiting for me, but she left to visit her parents and leaving me her appartment for two days, fridge and internet included (thank you!!). Homefulness was something I had honestly forgoten. Still obnubilated by Christiania I paid little attention to the city, which seemed a bit mediocre to me. Sure it’s a cultured city, but still a normal city with malls and stuff. So I limted myself to strol around the harbour.
In Gotenburg I got to know trough an internet forum that the hippies were meeting not near Oslo as I thought but in some settlement lost above the Artci Circle, and I tooked the decision of going there giving Bergen and other more obvius attraction a great miss. I try to make an ode to mevement out of this trip, not just a rosary of postcards. I promised to let myself be guide more by intuition that by the Lonely Planet. I also took the decision of not spending any more money that I haven’t earned in the same day. With this prices I declare myself in strike. So, I started to offer “Harmony of Chaos”, my travel story book to my drivers.
Trusting provindence I left for Oslo, with zero norwegian kronen in my pocket. In the way a bus stopped for me taking me some 90 kms for free, the a man that bought my book in 100 kr (thank you Klaus), then a vangardist artist (he called himself the Art Ranger) who lived in a camp near Frederikstad in an old russsian army truck and who invited me a pizza and finally a turkish man (Ozdemir) who left me in Oslo Bus Station and even gave me coins to call him if I couldn’t find my contact in the city. I stayed only one night in Ligas’s house, a latvian girl volunteering to convince the norwegian people of joining the EU. I advicesd her that if her really loved Norway she should convince them of talking to each other to prevent extinction (they are 4 millon with an average of U$S50.000 in the bank each).
In Oslo I started my pilgrimage to the Artic Circle. Endless pine forest cover the territory, soon mountains appear, which tops still harbour snow. At the side of the road signs alert drivers of the presence of Muss, the “king of the forest”. I got two rides with guys whose names were the same: Tor, like the viking God of thunder, and in Fagernas I got a ride with my third Tor!!! The third Tor asked me where I was going: “the northernmost possible” – I replied- He was going to Bodo, far in the North, so we drived more than 1000 kms togheter, and what a better guide to Norway that Tor himself…. In Dombas we stayed in a motel that gave me a free night accomodation in exchange for publicity on the website. You can contact them on
One hour after crossing the Artic Circle we arrived to Bodo, an industrial harbour in a big and scenic fiord. Mohammed, the norwegian musician that I had met in Christiania. You can check their cool ethnic music out at . With Josefina (the band’s singer) and him we drove to a cliff at 23:45 to see the midnight sun. The sun went down to the horizon line, attempted to sink, and rised again. “Good morning!” –said Mohammed- It won’t get dark until next september. Welcome to the North” . Mohammed also informed me that the clip was a norwegian invention…. Their house was great, with a big carpet with a Buda on the wall, bongos, vinilos and lots of vegi food, and of course..them!! I will stay in Bodo for another “night”, I need to do washing, write this report and get ready to march to north of the north.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

The Mercedes of the turkish shoe maker goes off the motorway. Christiania: fatherland of those emigrating from the system.

My entry to Denmark was untidy, it started as a ballet movment but dropped out as bowling strike. In fact, I entered in the Mercedes of a drunkmen turkish man who had just had 25 beers, with the predictable consequence of almost rolling over and ending off the road (I was quick enough to get the wheel myself). As compensation he payed the dinner and that night and camped in a park in Odense.
The following morning my stomach took me to the supermarket rather than to the road. Denmark is not yet in the eurozone, which accidently made me discover how to shop for free. The method implies asking a random person if he could change you a 2 euro coin into local currency. Normally people wants to help so they give you some coins but don’t accept the 2 euros, and the same coin can survive several breakfast and lunches.
In that way I arrived to Copenague. My plan was to stay there just a couple of days. But I discovered Christiania, a section of Copenhaguen that, after funtioning for centuries as militar barracks, it was derelict and subsequently occupied by pacifist, unemployed, junkies and hippies in 1972. All people in genuine search of an alternative social space. The following day a left wing newspaper comes out with the headline “Emigrate with bus number 8”. Against all odds (everyone seemed to be quite sure that the area was gonna be just a shelter for shoplifters and junkies) and after surviving several police raids, Christiania gained its right to exist as a social experiment and now counts 1000 inhabitants which are highly organized into a free town with its own currency and so on. Danish government present atittude towards the Christiania issue is to kick them out: 85 acres in downtown Copenhaguen are a real estate temptation. So slowly measures are being taking, as forcing the inhabitants to take a legal address (so from now on Christiania as an entity doesn’t exist anymore and we can understand what individual rights were always intended for…)
The first thing you see when you ger in is a sign that when you look at it from the back it says: “You are entering the EU” (in reference to Copenahaguen. Another signs says: “Say no to hard drugs”. Saying that in Chrstiania everybody smokes hash without, even in front of their children, without moral dilemas, is to reduce things to a single dimension. The point is for me that it’s a space design to live and not to consume. All the town is pedetrian area, people move around in bicycles, and trash is recycled. A big factory whose chimney has been covered by vegetation (what a metaphor!) houses several flats as well as a café. Opposite it there’sa tibetan stupa and a large parke where corwds sit to read a book, eat out salads (everybody seems to be vegetarians), smoke, jaggle, etc. When police is around people’s attitude rasumes their philosophy: they do “om” all together to keep the off…
Christiania is by force a meeting point for people in spiritual trips. We all look for a way out and we try all sort of keys. I could prove it, I stayed all week in the house that a group of people were inhabiting near the lake. They were Kir, blonde rasta danish girl, pacifist and owner of the VW van, she spends several months a year volunteering in Cambodia; her friend Maya, danish, taoist, with whom we shared the idea of letting the flow of the universe determine our steps, Helga (only Christiania citizen of the group), Lisa and Nina, to whom I helped to build a metal ostrige for a circcus event I will never see.. And there was also Mikkel, from Sri Lanka, who also thought someday to start a self sufficient community. And many other norwegians, spanish, dreamers, lost ones, they all promise to leave and next day they are meeting in the park and saying to each other: “still here?”. The place is sticky.
In the evennings we would go dumpster diving, that here throw away packed and safe food, God knows why. Parasiting the system we complain about doesn’t seem to be very coherent, but it’s good for my budget and all those bananas and apples and vegetables don’t have the fault and should be eaten, it’a matter of respect for the food. At night we would grill everything collected and it was hard to believe that all that delicious food was basically from the bin. Little did I get out of Christiania during the week, and one of the times it was to print my book, that finally is ready. I finished it in Claudio’s house, an argentinean exiled in Denmark in the early 80s, who never came back. He lives from social security, in haooy loneliness. Lot of people that fought for liberty in our countries are here. That’s why when we attend a concert in Southamerica we only see under 40s. Where are the missing ones?
Christiania shows the world two things, that rebelion is not generational determined, and that the hippie movement didn’t collapse, it is just suffering a low tide. So I exited Denmark, without having ever changed a single danish crown but with cash, thanks to the books and to the providential finding of 400 DKR in the street.

Friday, July 01, 2005

The argentinean virus in Holland. “Mate” in The Hague. BBQ in the squathause at Delft. Walking over the water in the North Sea.

Considering the size of Holland, its people has done many tricks. When thinkinf of Holland some conjure up the famous wind mills or colourful tulips. The postcards have the fault for that, but these guys also founded New York (under the name of New Amsterdam, before being elbowed out by the British) and Big Brother (yes, Dutch idea). Other things were not invented but improved, as bicycles (not only each street has a parallel bike path but also cities are linked by them). Other Dutch delikatessen is legalizing everthing that has been forbidden for centuries by Roman right: private property finds a nice stop in the right to squat houses whose owners cannot keep in inhabitable conditions. And legalized marijuana deserves a separate essay. Enough with saying that half of the drivers were smoking and driving without worries. What an irony that with all this legal relax it’s to Holland where you go if you behave really bad (ask Milosevic).
Mi friend Stephen lived in Delft, a small managable, and old nice city, with it’s mandatory channels crossing it, it’s burg houses in flemish style and a couple of 13th century churches/ The first hing I saw when I entered his house was a pack of yerba (Stephen has Dutch passport but blue and white heart) and a cat making unreturned caresses to a beer box. The first day was for nostalgy, we remembered the time we both walked to the town of Crotto (in Argentinean Pampas)… The wines are just like wines, they get better with pass of time.
On Sunday we rode our bicycles to The Hague, where there was a free muscic festival which was attended by 100,000 people. There, wuth perverse pleasure, Stephen took the “mate” out of his backpack and started it. In land of free marihuana the old yerba caused a magnific interest and a prportional deception. They would get close tiptoeing to see what our strange pipe was, asked if you could get high and went back to their places. Big news during the concert: Maxima, the argentinean born Dutch princess has had a new son. People clap… but it’s not mine!!! I swear!!!
The conspiracy’s agenda said on Tuesday we were to do an asado (large argentinean BBQ with steaks and stuff). This was carried on in the squat house at Nieuweelaan. It was the first asado I did in the shadows of the law, since dutch law banns fire… But the steaks coocked well anyway. While we eat we talk. Stephen is tired of working in Holland. As an hidraulic engineer his job is to calculate the impact of a 5mm water level rise in 2114…. And he feels his job is useless to the rest of mankind, so he is evaluating accepting a job for the UN in Chad. That’s why you worked in Argentina? “Yes – he answers- but there the more expensive my project was the merrier for the government”
Two days were used in getting a new italian passport in Amsterdam. I went and came back in train using Stephen’s month pass and smiling without saying a sinlge word to the inspector. My italian passport went missing in a letter from Dublin to Milan. When the new one is ready Stephwn will post it to wherever I’ll be. So far the “blue” (the argentinean one) goes unscatched, with the syrian visa and a rather lost looking swiss entry stamp. The italian ID is used as ajoker sometimes should I prove my tecnnich europeanhood… That’s what I call “selective invocation of grandparents”
The week ended with an attempt to walk to one of the islands in the North Sea during low tide. Something like the dream of all hidraulic engineer… to feel like Moses as the watera give way. We moved to Gronningen for that. The driver that took me there pick his girlfriend up in a sort of transitory camp with many old circus wagons used as houses. More people looking for a way out of this system. I loved it. So we finally started our water trekking, with maps and GPS, but half an hour later we had the water in the neck so we went back. As you see I carried the cross in Dysseldorf but failed to walk over the waters. I am sorry to upset those who saw in me some kind of mesihas. But multiplying bread I do it quite well. My original budget was 5 euros and thanks to everybodys hospitality I couls reduce it to 2,60. The disaster of the week: the toothpaste opened in the backpack… I set off for Denmark