Want to go somewhere different? Perhaps a colourful, country based, peace loving and Earth friendly destination? Go to Nimbin, Australia!
Nimbin and the surrounding region tells a unique and hopeful story. Needless to say it leaves an impression as soon as you step into the village. My first impression? It’s like a jar of mixed lollies. Dip your hand in and you might pick up a red raspberry, a black jellybean or maybe a cookie? In short it’s a world of all-sorts. Naturally, a place like this attracts people from all walks of life and from all colours of the rainbow.
Nimbin has been noted as the ‘drug capital of Australia’ but don’t be fooled by this description. Like I said, you get all-sorts. What Nimbin really stands for is environmentalism. Eco-friendly initiatives within Nimbin are permaculture projects, an interest in deep ecology, sustainability, renewable energy and of course the cannabis counterculture.
The region once was filled with red cedar forests but by the 1900′s most of that was cleared. It was replaced with banana plantations and the dairy farming industry which collapsed due to recession in the 1960´s. It was not until 1973 that the village of Nimbin was put on the map by a group of university students and ‘hippies’ who held the Aquarius Festival, which is a counter-cultural arts and music festival celebrating alternative thinking and sustainable lifestyle.
The Aquarius Festival
It was also the first event in Australia that sought permission for the use of land from its Traditional Owners, the Indigenous Bundjalung people. After the festival, hundreds of people settled in Nimbin, many of which formed alternative lifestyle communities. Since the festival and a new wave of community the region has attracted backpackers, writers, artists, dreamers, musicians, environmentalists and people interested in permaculture and living the ‘off-the-grid’ lifestyle.
“The only limitation on reality is our imagination. It is up to us to choose whether the dream is to be lost until a more courageous generation is ready for it, or whether we ourselves can participate in the dream.”
“Festivals are about dreaming”
– Johnny Allen, Director, Aquarius Foundation (Australian Union of Students, 1973)
The Rainbow Region
The name Nimbin comes from the local native Whiyabul (Widgibal) clan, whose Dreamtime tradition speaks of the Nimbinjee Spirit people protecting the area. The area is known as the Rainbow Region and it is known to be a place of healing and is said to be the resting place of Warrajum, the Rainbow Serpent. See this short film below to see the myth of the creation of the Rainbow Serpent.
[vimeo id=”4088835″ width=”700″ height=”340″ position=”left”]
Along the main street is the Nimbin Museum. It looks like, well, something else…
“Don’t be put off by the feral rabble often outside, this is the end of the road, the last bus stop – the plug hole. And they are the search party that we send in after you if you haven’t reappeared in a couple of hours!”
– Museum attendant
You may find the oldest thing you ever threw away, there to haunt you. It is a bit spooky and full of old artefacts, boots, ties, tins, wires, sticks, stuff, paintings, drawings, stories, bits n bobs and everything which seems a little dusty but it is so much more than that.
The Nimbin Museum was created by local artists who each decorated one of the 8 rooms of Magic in an effort to show what the village of Nimbin is all about. It’s a kaleidoscope of art, words and images stuck to every surface available and all led by the Rainbow Serpent. The Nimbin Museum is a journey through eight rooms all detailing the local Aboriginal, pioneer and hippy eras as you follow the rainbow serpent path.
The River Story Bundjalung Lore
This is what happened.
One time an old Weeyan man (seer) was walking through the bush with two young men when he fell down as if dead. The young men became frightened and ran back to tell the camp. Two older men were sent out to perform the burial ritual, but, as they approached, the old man sat up. He told them that he had been asleep and had gone up into the sky but wasn’t to tell them what he saw until the whole camp was present. Back at the camp this is the story he told;
The sky opened up. I went into it and came upon a river, a huge wide river, the biggest I’ve ever seen, that never runs dry. There were people on the banks of the river, doing things that people do, playing, talking and so on. There was a white man with long hair walking by the river. I approached him and he told me his name was Birrigan (the Southern Cross) and that he had three laws for me to take back to my people for the hard times that were to come.
The three laws are:
- Wana bomalay (Don’t kill)
- Wana wergahly (Don’t steal)
- Wana gubanunu (Don’t be greedy)
– Eric Walker, Bundjalung elder, Tabulam, New South Wales (Excerpt above taken from www.rainbowdreaming.org)
My experience at the museum was intense. First, my eyes hungrily took it all in as my ego mind tried to make sense of the visual information. The story sank directly into my psyche bypassing the conscious mind and I left the place, changed and it’s not from the smoke that dutched the cafe. Rather from the conscious shift/ scramble/ download/ sync that good art is meant to bring. In essence I have just experienced the dream from the point of creation, then to the ‘original’ people, to the Christian pioneer days, the hippies and back to the beginning again. Similar to rebirthing and that’s powerful stuff!
The randoms, the lost souls and the dealers might distract you initially as everyone is attracted to the light (especially the shady characters) but to get the most out of this place one must look deeper and allow curiosity to lead rather than the judgemental mind. The idea is to let that all go and just ride the rainbow.
If you ever make it down to the Nimbin Museum please leave a donation to help out the locals who keep it going. It’s quite remarkable and it would be a shame for it to ever close down.
What a place!