I called my sister in a panic. Only she would know what to do. “Sammi,” I asked frantically, “What do I talk to hippies about? I need conversation starters.”
I had unknowingly booked three nights at Byron Bay’s hippie haven known as the Arts Factory. Formerly a slaughterhouse, this hostel/restaurant/bar/brewery/movie theater complex is now crawling with harem pants, anklets, dreadlocks, guitars and funny-tasting cookies.
A short drive past the main drag, the first word I thought of to describe this place was “interesting.” There are tents, teepees and standard dorms rooms, but don’t even think about using incense, hair straighteners or smoking inside them. You’ll get slapped with a fine sooner than you can say “peace, love and happiness.”
I didn’t feel earthy enough for a bush walk, didgeridoo lesson or reiki massage, but they were available. After a painful night dancing on tables at the infamous Cheeky Monkey’s, my companions and I went on a Grasshoppers day tour of Nimbin, known as the Amsterdam of Australia.
Much like Woodstock, Nimbin’s legacy dates back to the Aquarius Festival during the Vietnam War. Some festivalgoers never left and will be the first to ask, “Do you smoke? Do you want cookies?” Our authority-hating South African guide advised that you only need half a cookie to feel the effects.
This is the part of the post where I mention that marijuana is illegal in Australia, even in Nimbin, and that I admit to no wrongdoing. But if I had tasted one of these confections, which of course I did not, I would say that while tasty, I felt no effects. Three cookies should cost $15 if you are so inclined.
There’s not much to the town, but the music played on the decked-out tour bus and the cookie effects can make even the most square person feel like a hippie.