To Nimbin and Back

From Wikipedia (the only reputable information source on the internet): “Nimbin has been described in literature and mainstream media as ‘the drug capital of Australia’, ‘a social experiment‘ and ‘an escapist sub-culture’. Nimbin has become an icon in Australian cultural history”

So we had to visit. Shaun and I locked our bikes at the hostel, boarded a bus, and wound our way up the narrow mountain roads to the “center of Australian counterculture”. We chatted to the girl in the seat in front of us, Sireta, laughing as the driver sped around sharp corners, making snarky comments about the “rockin tunes” the bus company promised on their rainbow brochure, and pointing out quaint buildings as we sped past small towns.

The rainbow bus deposited us at the edge of town after a warning from the driver ‘not to do anything stupid – like light up a fatty J in front of a copper!’. Sireta, Shaun, and I turned our backs to town and walked up a huge hill to The Rainbow Youth Hostel. All three of us were shown to the dorm: a giant white teepee. Nice.

The shops and daytime life of Nimbin didn’t overly overwhelm us with awe. It seemed like a little Eugene that capitalized on tourism and selling tourists bad weed. After daily bus bore away the 50 odd day tourists the town became a bit more genuine, I think. The lady selling weed cookies disappeared, the cafés uncrowded, and drug alley unpopulated. Now we walked a normal town with lots of rainbow and 60′s-esque signs.

Only 10 tourists stayed for the night, including our trio. We all departed to watch the sunset and the wallabies at the hostel.

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After darkness fell we walked back to town, got some massive burgers at the pub, and watched across the street as people slowly gathered. I ran into a lady in a monkey suit in the bathroom. We got smiled at by a lady with a straw hat missing the hat part; just the straw brim remained. A quiet tink-tink-tink of something on a closed cymbal came from the other side of the street. Then a hand smacked a drum, sending a resounding boom through the town. Little disjointed sounds continued to assemble the characters of the town until one man on a djembe set up a single cohesive beat. Now the characters really gathered! We played our part as well, first sitting across the street on a protected curb, then standing in the background, and moving later to sit on the rock wall just behind the drummers (and dancers by this point). The lady monkey offered us her drum. Trombone toots and guitar chords accompanied the usual drum beats. A shirtless man danced an incredibly active dance in the middle of everything. A lady wearing a loose orange top pounced on the dancing space, wiggling and waggling everywhere. Another lady wearing grass-stained overalls flowed onto the dance floor, waving her arms and jiiving her hips. and then everybody joined. One lady used her fur coat as a boa, all sexy around her shoulders. A guy with a headlamp and red corduroy pants violently bent in half at the waist to the beat, eyes closed, totally engrossed in his dancing. Groovy old ladies ruled the place, dancing everywhere and pulling everybody in. Shaun and I danced a bit, reminding ourselves of the Lorax dancing drum parties, wholeheartedly enjoying ourselves. Little kids ran though the street. Hardly any cars passed. The whole town danced and drummed until midnight, until, with a final smack of the djembe and a final toot from the trombone, the town dispersed quietly. We walked happily back to our teepee in the light of the huge moon.

So, people say Nimbin is a tourist trap. I think it could be, but we got trapped in the best way.

Nimbin candle factory

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The famous museum

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