Saturday, Feb. 20, 2010. 6:58 PM
Dunedin, New Zealand
Whoooooooooosh! That’s how my weeks have been lately. What have I been up to? It all started back in December, when I got to Christchurch, bought the van, rendezvoused with an acquaintance Noah Fox that I briefly met in Cambodia but who had a similar New Zealand schedule, we decided to carpool to the World Rainbow Gathering together, picked up a couple more Japanese hitchers, Shingou and Sanae, at the hostel (Noah is 50% too), and off we went, into the magical bush.
We hiked-in carrying so many kilos of supplies and gear on our backs, fording streams and scouting for good camping. We became like a little gypsy family, not quite camping together but close enough. And this was just the beginning of the family I would come to know, see again and again all over the country, and which continues to grow almost every day. The Rainbow Gathering absolutely blew me away, along with any expectations I had going in, many of my inhibitions, and uprooted and replanted my understanding of community.
It’s a strange task to tackle explaining what it is I’ve learned. Like Burning Man, it’s kind of too big to boil down, and odd to talk about with an outside audience. Some of the basics align with living in harmony with the planet, leaving no trace, not using chemicals which can disturb the eco-system, being decidedly low-tech, which means No chainsaws, fuel, electricity, processed goods, drugs or alcohol, and also no meat. It’s very Tribal, working together, playing roles, bartering, gifting, playing, sharing knowledge and energy, healing. Spiritual awakening and tuning, self-improvement, learning, teepees, bonfires, chanting, love, chai, mud pits, moon-worshiping, star-gazing, theater, talent shows, drag parties, little shops with free services, trading circles, music, team-work, a bakery, waterfalls, swimming, nudism, Circles, missions, connections, Rain, yoga, exploring, building, talking, singing, hugging, napping, crafting, laughing, playing, living. Workshops and conversations on entering the next age according to the Mayan Calendar. Enough to make my head spin and keep my days happy and full.
After a couple weeks of rainbow camping, through the Christmas and New Years holidays (which were amazing in the woods), and heaps of rain, Telah and I traveled far and wide around the South Island in the camper van, taking in the most unbelievable countryside. Always on the move, we ‘camped’ out of the van, our biggest tasks of the day to eat well (which was so delightful and easy as we cooked for ourselves) and to find a sweet camping spot to ‘freedom camp’, preferably remote, scenic, ridiculously beautiful, near a water source, sometimes with firewood to burn and cook with, and even better with nearby sheep bleating. Out in the wild we hardly ran into any of the ‘family’, as we sort of avoided big towns and the other few tourists as best we could. We carried with us the principles of low-tech living, using little resources as we could, being green, keeping life simple, consuming little (besides tons of great home-cooking), neither sampling or desiring the fruits of civilization, save for the occasional grocery run or winery tasting, Nature being the main attraction.
Three weeks later, it was time for another festival called Luminate. Saving the North coast of the South Island for last, with it’s rumored consistent warm and sunshiney weather. We roll into Motueka, and it was true: gorgeous weather and hippies everywhere! And we recognized 1/2 the town. So nice, just parked the van and right there, family practically planted to give us welcoming hugs. Unbelievable. A few days early for the event, we shot up to the very top of the island, through Abel Tasman National Park, and Takaka… sweet beaches and hippies everywhere. A few days later when Luminate was set to kick-off, which btw is also a kid-friendly, no-alcohol, eco-minded event, we arrive and the booze police make us go bury our wine in the forest to pick-up later. It was awesome: finding a decomposing tree trunk, we simply buried it inside the thick rich compost within (and rode out on my bike one night for a little sunset party in the woods). Inside the event, we found a cool space in the woods to make our own for the 5 days to come, surrounded with much of the family we already knew, plus so many more.
Luminate was a music event with a heavy emphasis on workshops, with a cool little market of all hand-made goods, created with love. All the event stages, stalls, bathrooms, and even showers were made of natural and recycled materials. The main Main Stage, an Electronic Zone, a Tribal Zone all had all-day (and all night) music, there was a a Healing area for well-being, a Chill-out tent to lounge and drink Chai, a movie tent screening informative and alternative films. Taking place in a mountainous corner of the famous Abel Tasman Park, it had a variety of fantastic natural features. Situated on a site of limestone and quartz, it had a powerful energy anyway, but it had some great hikes, like the one through a forest most certainly from Lord of the Rings to Howard’s Hole, the deepest hole in New Zealand, and then up to a ridiculous lookout that words and photos (I took no pics @ Luminate) can do any justice. In the woods there were light sculptures, one angel in a tree resembling the tree of life from Avatar, and one of my favorite productions was a giant puppet show by firelight with a cast of nearly 100, with singing, dancing, a skeleton serpent, mermaid, a full band, and hauntingly beautiful performances, all taking place within a giant sink hole (underground limestone caverns abound).
I can’t attribute this magic to any group or nationality, but my impression of the whole thing is that Hippies, Kiwis, and the Rainbow family are ALL wonderful people capable of creating magic, and they do. It certainly helps that New Zealand is arrestingly beautiful and so fun to play in, but all I’m certain of is that I’m going to stick with this family and see where the rainbow trail leads next.
(editor’s note: I’ll try not to cram so many weeks into a single bloated post next time!)