“WELCOOOME HOOOME!” The best thing about Rainbows for me is the greeting. We arrive sweaty and exhausted at the top of the mountain. Tents come into view, followed by a beautiful plateau with a small marquee – the kitchen – at one end. Our “brothers and sisters” come over in turn – welcome us, hug us, tell us to put down our bags – “rest, rest…” I try to remember unfamiliar names. One thing about Rainbow people is their eyes – somehow almost everyone has a radiant light shining from them.
A Man and a Gun
“Foooood ciiiiirrrrrclllllle!” I’ve been collecting water – a fifteen minute walk down a path, the opposite side of the plateau to where we climbed up. There’s a road by the track which seldom sees cars, but now hurrying back, I see one. I look down as four men get out and walk in my direction. Back at camp everyone is already sitting in a circle, the servers dishing up. “Just to let everyone know – some guys are coming up here now and they look like locals”. “Ah well, hoş geldiniz! – welcome,” says the Moroccan Clown in the top hat and red felt tunic. I go to the kitchen marquee to get my bowl, just as the men appear over the ridge. One has a shotgun. Someone has already gone to meet them and they’re speaking in Turkish. Another man is Irish and chats with me while the Turkish debate continues. He asks who we are and I ask if he’s heard of Rainbow Gatherings – he has. He smiles slowly in recognition. I tell him it’s the ‘Peace in the Middle-East’ Gathering – “God knows we need it,” he tells me.
Something has been decided. The man with a shotgun, the owner of the land, addresses us all – “ok, we know who you are now. Enjoy yourselves. In a while we will be going up to the water source to drink rakı and play music. If any of you want to join us you are welcome.” The men leave and the rest of us have a talking circle about what happened – passing the talking stick around. Talking sticks are a great idea in theory, but many people seemingly can’t control themselves and blurt things out when the stick is elsewhere. Others hold onto it for several minutes, trying to think of more to say. This is a good exercise for me: how not to blurt out – “you selfish fucking bastard! Pass the fucking stick!”
It seems he first wanted us to leave, then demanded money – 5,000 lira (about £2,000. Eventually this was brought down to 2,000 lira – 3,000 if we become more than thirty. Right now we’re around twenty. It’s decided that some of us will go up to the source – the best musicians, some women… “we will pirate him!” says a dread-locked pixie. “He will not ask for money once we are his friends!” Gradually the talking circle dissipates as people drift off or head uphill to drink rakı. I follow. The two older men are already drunk and firing a shotgun for fun. The Moroccan Clown is also drunk and has seemingly fallen in love with the oldest man, father of the land-owner – “look at his eyes! Wowowow! I could sit by this man forever!” I speak with the Irish guy some more. He’s close friends with the landowner and doesn’t understand why he would charge us money. He has an openness and sparkle to him. He tells me he can see energy – what he calls souls; he says he can see badness in people. He understands what we’re doing and supports it, but says it’s not for him – he wouldn’t suit this kind of life. “Well, you’re doing it now,” I point out, smiling. He tells me the older man that Moroccan Clown is in love with has the cleanest soul he’s ever seen – like pure love.
The rakı finished, the men stagger back to their car – with hugs all around between hippies and landowners. We stagger back to camp, the drunken antithesis of Rainbow energy. Alcohol is banned at these gatherings.
Gradually the gathering picks up as more people arrive. Two food circles per day and music at night by the fire are the only certainties. The time inbetween seems to somehow disintegrate – a quick cup of tea can take three hours from your day.
One of my favourite places to hang out is Yani Café. This is where the gentlest man I ever met sleeps in shade of a tree on a folded quilt. He has a small fire at the foot of his bed and serves tea and coffee to those who visit – gently coaxing and fanning the flames with his hands. “This man has the energy of the earth,” said the Irish man when they met, “he’s in touch with the elements”. We call it Yani Cafe because of the way he speaks… “yani, it is good, yani…” The English equivalent would perhaps be the tendency to say the word “like” in every sentence – “like, y’know, like?” – only this sounds better. When people are sick they go to him. I’ve seen him rub fire-ash on mosquito bites, fresh mud on sunburn.
The antithesis to this man is The Arrogant American. He knows How Things Should Be Done and chastises people accordingly. There are no rules at the Rainbow – only guidelines, traditions – but these haven’t been explained to the newcomers. The Arrogant American arranges a session for people to share their Rainbow experiences and tell of these traditions. I arrive with my cup of tea and am subjected to an hour long monologue about his own shamanic practise.Others are complaining this is more like a picnic than a Rainbow – no workshops, no healing circles… Often after eating the same people stand up and shout “FOCUS! FOCUUUUSSSS! FOCUS POCUS!” A “Focus” is an indication somebody wants to speak to the group, that they have something important to say. Again and again we hear these complaints, but why not do something about it? One Rainbow principle is “if you see a job, it’s yours.”
24 Hour Om
It’s decided we will have a twenty-four hour Om, beginning at sunrise the following day. As people wake up they can join the Om and those who began can rest. I get up late and go to the kitchen to help. Jammin is in there, chopping food and Ommming continuously. “Are you the only Om?” He nods and rolls his eyes. “How long?” He holds up four fingers, thinks, wobbles one of them up and down. “Three or four hours?!” Later I find Rooz, the half-Iranian, half-Mexican Californian guy who’s fast becoming one of my favourites. It seems Rooz was the only one awake at sunrise, sitting huddled and freezing, Ommming at the rising sun. Eventually Jammin came and took over. Nobody else came.
A girl has brought aerial silks and hung them from a tree. The problem: rather than a nice soft crash-mat, they’re hanging above an enormous rock. There’s nowhere else suitable – we decide to shift the rock. We are all women. As we’re pick-axing and digging around the edges with our hands, many men come over and make helpful comments such as – “you’ll never shift that!” “Are you sure that’s not the mountain itself?”, etc. The Israeli who looks like a Persian Prince comes over and speaks to Rooz who’s standing nearby – “what do you think, shall we help these girls and shift this rock for them?” Rooz looks at him – “God, you’re such a man! This is their project, why don’t you let them do it?” Rooz sits down against a tree and begins painting his fingernails. I want to hug him.
I’m returning to the Rainbow after a visa run to a Greek island. It’s a smooth journey in comparison to the first time I came up, on the back of a trailer with nine other hippies. We’re dropped on the road that runs up past the water, a ten minute walk from site. I’m happy to see everyone again – and one in particular. Sietse has been squatting my tent while I’ve been away. He lost his own tent in a shipwreck – long story – while hitching a boat from New Zealand, so I said he could use mine while I was away. Now I’m back he’s afraid he’ll have to move out – but actually, I don’t want him to… It’s strange how people are brought together – shipwrecks and rainstorms.
A few days later I’m leaving again, this time for romantic reasons. Sietse and I walk down the mountain chased by rain-clouds, which quicken their pace along with us and are soon upon us. Finally a car comes and a Turkish family take us to the crossroads, where we find the bags another car took for us waiting in the pide restaurant. The guys who work there are used to babysitting backpacks for hippies by now.
Once more I’m returning to the Rainbow, this time in thirty-eight degree heat, alone and with a marginally heavier heart. I have the sunglasses Sietse gave me as a goodbye present and my umbrella to protect me from the all-consuming sun. I stop in the village to splash my face with water, perching the glasses on a rock. I get a lift on a moped and then – joy of joys – a dolmuş going all the way up to site to collect people who are leaving. Only when I arrive do I remember my sunglasses…
Back at the Rainbow for the third time – everything’s the same, but different. Many people have left and others arrived – now I know under half. Lisa is here now and I’m curious as to how someone who describes me as “full-hippy” is finding this super-hippy gathering, but actually she’s doing fine – “trying to embrace the hippyness.”
Fasting and Silence
I’ve returned in time for a day of fasting and silence, organised in a typically flakey way with disagreements about whether the main area should be in silence and food-free or not. For me, a day of silence is exactly what I need – space to digest these past days. Occasional voices drift over and mingle with music, clatter of teapot, clunk of wood. At sunset the silence is broken. A few hippies gather at the last place light falls. Most seem stoned, some talk quietly. One guy plays a drum, unrhythmically. A guy in wacky glasses offers me a sniff of incense, laughing. Mango would hate it here, I think.
I break my fast at the evening food circle, along with most of the others. I distinctly remember enjoying the beans, but it’s the image of these that flashes into mind with my first bout of diarrhoea the following day. I’ve made it to the water and am halfway back when a sudden all-consuming weakness overcomes me. I struggle back with the water I’ve been carrying for the kitchen and collapse in my tent for twenty-four hours, passing in and out of delirious consciousness. Lisa and others come and talk near my tent – I hear them but the sound is distorted. Have you ever taken ketamine? Like that.
Celil brings food in the evening, but I can only manage a few mouthfuls of carrot. Apparently many people are sick. I leave my tent only to go and shit, but this is a frequent occurrence. Each time I bump into somebody they give me a medicine: a Russian woodland faerie gives coal capsules and sea salt; a tall slender Iranian gives seeds and spiced mint tea. Near the end of the second day, The Gentle One finds me – “You are sick?” I nod. “Yani, look around, maybe some medicine here…” He floats off. I see him a few minutes later sniffing and tasting some nearby plants. He returns to my tent with something in his hand. “What is it?” “Yani, it is coffee grounds, with milk of a plant.” I hold out my hand and he pours the mixture in. “It is good to keep it in your mouth.” I put it in, as directed. It feels strange in there, but not altogether unpleasant as I thought it would be. “Now, yani, repeat some words…” I repeat strange syllables as best I can after him. This goes on for some minutes. I have no idea what I’m saying, but I’m certain he is healing me.
In the morning, my strength is returning. I go to the water and bathe under the waterfall. Many people have left in the time I’ve been huddled in my tent.
Two days later I walk again to the water and back, shitting twice on the way. Clearly I’m still sick, but somehow, minutes later I’m in a dolmuş heading down the mountain with fifteen other survivors. I found out the sickness is DYSENTRY no less! No idea where I’m going – back to Kemer crossroads, and then…?
Epilogue – please don’t worry, I am fine now!