If Glastonbury has become too commercial for your liking and you yearn for the decade when it was ok to wander around barefoot, adorned with daisy chains and humming Joni Mitchel classics, then perhaps you ought to take a trip back in time to Nimbin in New South Wales, Australia.
Here, padding along the streets, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d fallen into a time warp. The shop facades are brightly painted in a heady mixture of 60’s psychedelia and aboriginal dreamtime imagery. Here the rainbow serpent writhes across every surface, bold and beautiful, and marijuana is more readily available than a cup of tea. Black toothed young men in mucky brown bomber jackets linger around doorways to offer you their wares and gummy old ladies wrapped in shawls beckon with wizened fingers to win your business. If you weren’t expecting it, most aspects of Nimbin could come as quite a shock.
When we were tired of the nag of the street sellers, we delved into the shade of a few trinket shops, tiny new age book stores, and dipped in and out of the clothes stalls pedalling tie-die fancies and Indian embroidery. There was even an antique hat shop with some battered looking black top hats from a further bygone age or perhaps a more recent stage performance. Walking along Nimbin high street feels something like a dream, and a little like stumbling onto centre stage in an oddly proportioned theatre.
We visited the hemp embassy, whose aim is to legalise the use of cannabis, and also the Nimbin museum, whose swirling artwork leaps off the walls at you in a colourful assault on the senses. Inside the exhilarating little museum is some history of the local area, an awful lot of handmade papier-mâché wall decoration, a whole vehicle (how did that get in there?!), and a blanket of warming quotations from the likes of Gandhi. The museum may be small but a visit is certainly worthwhile.
We wandered through the exhibits, admiring the visions splashed across the walls and emerged into the cafe, where we ordered chai tea and eyed our complementary brownies with suspicion. After a game of chess and one last look around the museum at its streamer filled cave of colour (look- you just have to go there), we spilled back onto the hot pavement and into the blinding sunlight.
Of course Nimbin isn’t just known for its hemp infatuation. It also makes an excellent cheese, which as far as I’m aware is a totally disconnected industry, although it is very moreish… Nimbin is also home to the Rainbow Power Company which educates visitors on sustainable energy production, more alternative therapy centres than you can shake a magic stick at, and it forms the gateway to some dramatic and beautiful scenery. There are rainforests, creeks and mountain ranges stretching away from the little Nimbin hub, and it’s also an excellent word. A trip to Nimbin may be pretty far out but it’s well worth the journey.