July Recap

Well, my humble notion of regularly updating you with interesting vignettes of life on the road collapsed quicker than even I might have anticipated. Rest assured, there are at least four half-finished drafts of travel stories (of exceptional potential) in my journal and on my laptop just waiting for a leisurely afternoon to be finished. But, would you believe: in six weeks of travel, there has hardly been a single day to spare.

So in lieu of those writings, I thought I’d furnish my poor, neglected blog with a chronology of photos and brief summaries, just to give you a taste of the hopefully-soon-to-be-published adventures…

June 16 – 21: Northern Israel

Coming to Israel, I was immediately and continuously overwhelmed by the generous welcome and hospitality shown to me everywhere I went. In two and a half weeks of travel, I didn’t pay for a single night’s accommodation. Instead, I was hosted by friends and friends of friends all throughout the country’s north.

The little cabin pictured above perches on the grazing land of one such friend, in the far-northern kibbutz of Malkiya, right on the border with Lebanon. I spent a night in the cabin, tending a wood stove and looking out across the Golan Heights to the east. I would later travel to the Heights for a little party on the Jordan River – coincidentally organised by a group of Israelis recently returned from Australia.

June 21-24: Jerusalem

I spent a few days getting lost in the maze of streets and the labyrinth of time that is Old Jerusalem, where cultures and civilisations layer one on top of the other as tall as a carpet seller’s stack in a cobbled market street. I have been to few places where so much history has felt so immediate. Thousands of years, palpable in the air all around you and half the good earth passing before your eyes.

The first image shows the interior of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, on the supposed site of Jesus’ crucifixion and tomb. The second image shows the Dome of the Rock, one of Islam’s holiest sites, which is built atop the ruins of Solomon’s Temple of the Jews.

July 1-4: Barcelona

After successfully losing my passport within days of arriving in Barcelona, I found my way to a grand old house in the hills overlooking the city. Built a half-century ago by a scientist to perform experiments, the house became a science museum and was later abandoned. Almost ten years ago, the empty, dilapidated house was occupied by squatters, who have since then transformed it into an experimental community focussing on art, nature, education and performance. Thus, L’Experimental was born.

July 4-11: Nowhere

In the tradition of Burning Man, Nowhere is renowned as Europe’s biggest (and raunchiest) Burn. Conditions in the little patch of desert where the festival takes place were often gruelling. The second picture shows the view from the welfare tent, where I volunteered as an assistant, taking care of burners suffering from the heat and other maladies. I also took a turn staffing the info centre and as a ranger on patrol, enjoying the open, participatory nature of an event that is organised and run entirely by volunteers on a not-for-profit basis.

July 13-16: Rainbow Gathering, France

After Nowhere, I headed off with some new friends to a Rainbow Gathering nestled high in the French-Catalan Pyrenees Mountains. Taking photos at a Rainbow is generally discouraged, so all I’ve got for you is a shot of the track on the way up, but I’m sure you can imagine the scene: three or four hundred hippies from all over Europe, lazing in the sun of a pristine mountain glade in various states of undress, swimming in an ice-cold stream, praying by a sacred fire, singing and dancing and doing all those things hippies do. It was a restful, if rushed, little stop, that left me looking forward to spending a more substantial period of time at the next gathering in Bulgaria (I’ll be there in two weeks).

July 16-20: From France to Portugal

I gave myself a full weekend to hitch-hike from the Rainbow Gathering to Lisbon. When I ran aground outside a tiny French mountain village, I hopped a tourist train 30 kilometres to the next village, alighting at the highest train station in the Pyrenees. The rest of the journey turned out to be some kind of odyssey in and of itself, which I’ve detailed in all its glory in another (half-finished) post. Stay tuned…

I was headed to Portugal to attend Boom Festival. But first, I managed to catch one of my oldest, dearest friends, Tasman, fresh out of a Zen Buddhist Monastery in Japan. I’d not seen him in three years, and, as he is planning to return to the monastery, I’ll likely not see him again for a few years yet, so the 48 hours we spent together in a small beach town an hour south of Lisbon was especially sentimental.

July 22-29: Boom

You’ll forgive me for not taking any photos at Boom. Between the 40,000 other attendees (including friends old and new from all over the world), the biggest stages and sound systems I’ve ever seen, the life-saving lake on the above 35-degree days, and all of the madness, beauty and spectacle of one of the world’s premier festivals, there always seemed something else to do than go tourist-snapping.

Despite the many effusive posts of friends who attended that I’ve seen across social media, I have to say my experience of the festival was mixed. I might put together a more comprehensive post discussing in detail the different aspects of the festival (a subject on which I might claim to be something of a minor connoisseur), but, suffice to say, I have decided in general that I prefer smaller festivals for now.

July 29-31: South-East France

After Boom, I hitched a ride to the village of Crest, 90 minutes south of Lyon. Here I’ve been enjoying some much-needed downtime after a busy six weeks, spending the time catching up on some writing and calling home.

Next, I will be off to Eastern Europe. First, to Croatia for Mo:Dem Festival. Then, to spend the second half of August at another Rainbow Gathering in Bulgaria. By September, I hope to be back in France, where I’m planning to settle down for a while and (hopefully) get around to telling some more detailed stories of all the adventures.

Until then!

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