With Frenchies through France
Middle of August, straight from the EJC, Toby, Ina, Erik, Jacque and Gaëlle (the two Frenchies who we had joined forces with on the road) and me made it to the border of France on the first day. We spend the night in a tunnel under a train station and were woken up by some train authority who thought we best not miss more of the day! Jacque had explained to us that if we made it to Bordeaux, from there we could drive with his friends to Aurillac where the street performer festival would be. “There's six of us”, I reminded him, but he said it would not be a problem. And so, against our hitchhiker's pride and cheap travel budgets we decided to stick together and go with public transport to Bordeaux. And I must say, I do really enjoy traveling with train, especially when your travel mates are up for silly acrobatic and juggling sessions inside one train coupe after another.
When we arrived in Bordeaux the promised lift showed up. The van pulled over and out of it jumped seven persons, all lovely Frenchies, jugglers and musicians alike. After a short lunch break, waiting for a nearby police patrol to pass and where the Frenchies' roquefort had me bring fourth a jar of my moms honey (mmmh), we filled up the van, three up front and ten in the back and sat off for Aurillac. I was likely to take the price for the most filling with my bags, guitar and my new 1.65 meter long fire staff I had acquired at the EJC.
It was an intense ride, two people lying at the floor at all times and the rest sitting crammed together in the practically furnished back of the van. Though both space and air were short, a guitar, light percussion, a concordian, a harmonica and Erik's mesmerizing Likemba were generously passing hands and I even had the honor of leading various sing along songs with “Bohemian Rapsody” topping the energy outlet. We felt like a big family and had a fun and friendly ride, however at one point after dark fall – my turn on the floor – the crammed together sensation, air shortage and almost complete darkness except for the bit of moonlight that entered, had my thoughts drift to how it must have been like for my refugee boys from the Red Cross camps, to be smuggled, stuffed in trucks through months on end with constant danger of getting caught, separated from their families and towards an unknown future. Thankfully these thoughts did not last long. With these beautiful people hardly only positive vibes could persevere and soon thereafter at some point in the night we arrived safely to Aurillac.
Street performers' festival in Aurillac
The van had driven us to a hillside above the town. Two other cars arrived, some friends of our new friends, and so it was quite the big camp getting ready for some days of all the spectacular arts you could possibly imagine. Among these other cars where an Argentinian brother, Walter (yes, that was his Argentinian given name), an artisan and autodidact mind/body therapist with beautifully kept dreadlocks, seeds and feathers forming necklaces and other decorations on his body, loose colorful clothes, a free spirited and strong willed personality and just about my age. Describing himself as a nomad, he had been traveling the world for seven years and now he was on his way from Germany to the Rainbow in Portugal, but having gotten picked up by some Frenchies he had been convinced to tag along and check out Aurillac for the festival. Practically he shared that bit of Toby, Ina, Erik and my story and we bonded with him immediately.
On our first day when we walked into town we passed a market and I saw my opportunity to buy the hat I had been planing for to protect my Scandinavian skin. I found a simple straw hat with a cowboyhattish shape which appealed to me and I got a good bargain on it. As soon as I returned to camp I decorated it with a feather I had with me, given to me by my dearest friend Steffie before my departure from Denmark. A feather for speed.
The days at the festival passed as such: Every morning (or maybe a bit closer to noon) we would get up and have breakfast. It turned out Walter had a passion for coffee and was indeed skilled in brewing it. We easily passed hours on the hillside overlooking the beautiful old town and the higher mountains in the distance. One day we plucked elderberry and Toby gifted us with an incredible rich boiled down elderberry drink. After these timeless mornings/middays we would head down to town to walk around and enjoy the many skilled and oh so French(!) performers filling up the streets. From mimes to musicians, jugglers to painters, poets, theaters and many kinds of alternative arts. You needed just to open your eyes and ears and there would be someone doing something right there in front of you. The most amazing performance was a fire show one evening--
Three people inside a circle of candles; one young girl recording her singing and looping it into beautiful harmonies while another young girl with blond hair wearing a beautiful white dress and an old man with a big gray beard, long gray hair and dressed completely in black would be weaving in and out of each other, wielding various fire blazing instruments. It was enchanting to behold. Especially when coming from the EJC where tricks and technique are the highlights, this performance centered itself on a spiritual expression for any audience to interpret on his or her own. Truly these were masters of fire and Toby, Erik and me, without a doubt way more technical than these performers, were completely overtaken by this way of connecting and dancing with fire. It was truly inspiring beyond words.
Every night loud and big samba orchestras would be rampaging through the resonating streets with huge crowds of quite the drunk Frenchies dancing and enjoying themselves. I personally chose to settle in rather than joining the rampage. I am simply not entertained by a crowd of heavily alcoholized people anymore. How we get older, eh...
It was a very cool and diffferent festival and we were all very happy we had decided to come there. But after some four days we all agreed it was time to move on, as the Rainbow would not last forever. Walter obviously joined our small group and together him, Toby, Erik, Ina and me packed our things (after another long breakfast/lunch) and walked to what on Toby's map appeared to be the best spot to start from. “Rainbow here we come”.
Magic before the Rainbow
Hitchhiking five people together will rarely succeed. Knowing this we were prepared to split up as soon as the first ride would present itself. Walter and Ina were the first two to go. Before they jumped in the car, Walter gave Toby, Erik and me a rudraksha seed each tied in a leather string. Rudraksha means eye of Shiva and Walter meant for them to bring us luck on our journey. I tied mine around my strawhat, figured Steffie's feather for speed could do with the company.
The next car that stopped had space for only one, and not minding the lone travel I parted with Toby and Erik, wishing them good luck and a “see you at the Rainbow, brothers”. And indeed, whether it were for the seed, the feather or neither, great fortune smiled upon me. I caught ride after ride and not only did these trusting people help with my way, but each and one of them had something to offer. Some gave me bread or pastry, some vegetables, one gave me a small tin can with Finnish licorice and even one gave me three beers to enjoy in the hot sun while waiting where he had dropped me off. Most amazingly though, completely freely, two separate rides offered me money right out of their own purses. I was reluctant to accept it, but both told me they had been inspired by conversing with me and the idea of the Rainbow appealed to them, and so they insisted and I ended up taking the money from them both.
After all these most generous rides I stranded in San Sebastian in Northern Spain the day after I had parted with the group. After about an hour of no luck I decided to check the train prices and found that a ticket all the way to Portugal would cost me 39 Euro. The beautiful woman who had dropped me off in San Sebastian had given me 40 Euro along with the words “these will help you take you to where you need to go”. I could not ignore this coincidence and bought my ticket straight away. Once in Portugal I got off at a small border town somewhere around the middle. I needed to go North and I caught a ride to a bigger city – a kind old man who offered me fruits. I found my way to the right highway entrance, but after two hours with no luck I gave up and took to the bus station. The ticket for Braga, the city where I needed to go, was 18 Euro and again it coincided with one ride I had gotten in France, a Portuguese man who had offered me 20 Euro to aid me in my travels. In total I had received 60 Euro and I had used 57 of it to arrive to Braga. I was sure to send many grateful thoughts to these beautiful and generous people as I sat in the bus, as well as some to Walter and Steffie for the rudraksha seed and feather decorating my hat. Indeed I felt enchanted.
Passing Porto on the way to Braga three peculiar looking men got on the bus. Two white men with long hair, dressed in worn mat yet artistically decorated shirts and an old and fair to say round Indian man, with black beard, warm dark eyes, a turban around his head and a walking stick. I easily recognized these as Rainbow brothers and they had as well noticed a brother might be on the bus from my fire staff and Andean woven guitar cover amongst the luggage. The three men turned out to be yogis, one was from Czechoslovakia the other from Germany and both of them the disciples of their Indian guru, or Baba (father) which he was preferably called.
In Braga we found that the last bus to the mountain village where we needed to go had left already and there would be no more until next day. After some discussion we decided to share a taxi to take us up the mountains. Not very Rainbow like, but it was still light and we all wanted to get there and spend the night with the family. We drove for about an hour when we arrived at the mountain village, five kilometers from the Rainbow. In the mean time it had gotten dark and what was a small rain when we left Braga had turned into a heavy shower and lightning storm. The driver said he feared he could not take us further as the roads would be too muddy for the car to handle. With the sky literally falling down on us we easily saw his point and Baba asked him to drop us off at the local church. We found shelter under an outdoor roof just outside the entrance door. And now my friends, hold on to your pants for this is where the magic truly starts!
Upon arriving at the church, first thing I did was to see if the big wooden door was locked. It was, but at the very moment I pulled down the door handle, lights under the roof turned on. “Convenient” I thought to myself, wondering if I had triggered some mechanism. We settled down, prepared our humble beds when suddenly a lightning struck nearby and all the light of the town went out. That is, all but the light that was under the roof. “It must be a divine light”, I joked at the time, but after what happened next I was ready to believe it.
We got comfortable in a circle and I started to gently play my guitar. Baba asked if any of us had some hot chai to drink, but we did not and so instead he prayed for some chai. Shortly thereafter a car drove up through the still heavy rain. It was a Galician couple with their dog, also on the way to the Rainbow, but like us they would have to spend the night under the church roof sheltered from the storm. We helped them unload what they needed from the car and what do you know, they brought with them a thermal can with hot chai which they immediately shared with us.
“Wonderful” Baba said and with my Spanish I translated and thanked the couple for him. “Do any of you have any food?” Baba asked next. No one had and so he started praying again. About five minutes after a local man came up to us through the rain. It was no one less than the mayor of the village, and with him he brought a crate full of crackers, bread, cheese, cacao milk and butter. I was amazed. Spanish somewhat resembling Portuguese I translated for Baba again and thanked the mayor for his kindness.
Then Baba wanted to know if there was a toilet we could use. I asked the mayor and he showed us one behind a nearby building. Its last visitor had not been too thoughtful and some shit was stuck on the inside. The mayor himself fetched a toilet brush and cleaned it for us. He left, came back with some more blankets and bid us a good night. I told Baba how kind a man I thought the mayor had been, and Baba told me with a glimpse in his eye that it was because of the little man inside the mayor, that it was Jesus inside him. Beautiful words to take to bed and with the sound of the rain, now but a drizzle, chai and food in my stomach, breathing fresh mountain air and being amongst my Rainbow family, I had a very good night's sleep.
The following day the Galician couple helped Baba up the mountain along with one of the yogis in their car. I had had some time to talk with them the night before, and their names were Dani, Kati and the dog Kana. They were reiki healers and tailors, cutting up and stitching together old clothes to make new for selling and wearing. I had them take most of my bags up with them as well, as I figured it would be too hard walking five kilometers up mountain with all my stuff. The other yogi met an acquainted in the town so I decided to walk up on my own. I walked about halfway when I was picked up by some family and driven the last bit.
It was still raining when we arrived and I was without my things as the Galician couple had them in their car. After about half an hour break at the welcome point, with hugs, chapati bread, coffee and “welcome home” salutations from the family sitting around the sheltered bonfire there, I sat out to search for Dani and Kati. It took me about an hour before I very luckily, given the big mountainous forest that was the Rainbow land, bumped into Dani and got my things.
I waited till the rain stopped and put up my tent next to a small river running through the forest. Right after finishing I jumped over the river to explore the other side, but after just a few paces I instinctively raised my hand to check for the rudraksha seed and I realized it had fallen off my hat. I searched thoroughly on both sides of the river but did not find it. “It must have fallen into the river during the jump” I thought. I wondered if it would mean for my good fortune to end, but decided against it. I had arrived safely, my tent was up, and now the seed was flowing down the river to some others in need. It was near the end of August and I was finally at the Rainbow.
~~~ To be continued. Love and light everyone ~~~