I am writing this blog entry at 4am. I am camping on the side of a mountain in southern Spain and I am sick. Very sick.
When I made plans to come to Spain, I imagined lazy days of swimming in the sea and climbing rocks, and sunny hikes on the Camino de Santiago. Maybe I would learn Spanish and maybe I would finally learn organic farming. The next few months were sure to be wonderful……
Reality has proved very different and for some reason, Spain and I don’t get on at all. Since crossing the French border, I have hiked in torrential downpours on the Camino and I have had to go to hospital with achilles tendonitis, where I was unable to walk for a week.
Because of this bad luck, I hobble over to Portugal and recover. I visit my friends Karina and Andre and together we decide upon a roadtrip to the Iberic Rainbow Gathering in southern Spain. We drive in Andre’s campervan in monsoon-type weather to Ojen, close to Marbella.
Sure enough, on my first day back in Spain, the country shows me that I am not welcome here. Whilst walking at night in a storm I fall down a hole, landing on my back. I scream with pain as my spine and shoulder blades bear the brunt of the fall. Karina and Andre want to take me to the hospital, but I refuse, having only been in a Spanish hospital a week before! So I soldier on to the hippie gathering, where I am writing this.
My bad luck continues, and along with the back pain, I get diarrhea and stomach cramps. Over the course of two weeks, my diarrhea turns to blood. My friend Marije thinks I have dysentery (she has had it before). Memories of my friend Jo getting dysentery last year at the Turkish Rainbow come flooding back to me. On top of this, the weather is unbelievably bad – like Glastonbury festival but with crazy winds as well as the rain.
People always get diarrhea at Rainbow Gatherings, and this particular meet-up has terrible hygiene. It is difficult to educate 150 people how to be clean without the use of soaps or bathrooms. There are many reasons why I (and a lot of other people) could be sick: maybe it’s my own poor hygiene, or maybe it’s because the shitpit (which is a pit where people shit!) is far too close to the main eating area. Or maybe it’s because the relentless rain is washing the shit to places that it really shouldn’t go. Or maybe the people preparing the food don’t wash their hands properly…..
Despite all this, this is my favourite Rainbow Gathering. I feel lucky to meet so many really incredible people with beautiful hearts (yeah, I sound like a hippie!)….and Rainbow Gatherings are good for me. They teach me to think beyond ego and physical appearance: something that I really need to learn. Everyone hugs everyone at a Rainbow Gathering. The hugs feel genuine and pure – full of compassion and love. My favourite part of the Rainbow is the food circle, where everyone gathers around a fire, holds hands and sings before eating. Oh, if only my anarchist friends could see me singing at the top of my voice, “we are one in harmony, singing in love…”!!!
The town of Ojen has to cope with 150 hippies descending on it, and because of the weather and the mud at camp, we live up to the stereotype of “dirty hippies”. The local internet cafe even announces that we need to be more clean if we want to use their computers!
All of the hippies are heading to either Morocco or the Canaries, and I decide that my next move will also be to visit Morocco, which is just an 11 euro hop over the water.
It’s now a few days later and I have scrapped my Morocco plans in favour of returning to the exotic, mysterious land of…..France! I don’t know why I have turned my back on north Africa, but it feels good not to be on the hippie trail, literally. I leave the Rainbow on a roadtrip with my friends Julien, Mark and Carmen, travelling 1000km north. During our roadtrip it is Mark’s turn to be struck with the Rainbow curse, and he spends the journey vomiting and needing the toilet.
It feels strange to stop off in Barcelona, where I am suddenly thrown back into my “normal” lifestyle. I join the thousands of protesters on the streets for the biggest European strike ever. Despite the huge turnout, the protest feels futile to me: people wave flags and shout and then go home. We need to do something more than this.