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"Prohibition will work great injury to the cause of temperance. It is a species of intemperance within itself, for it goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man's appetite by legislation, and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes. A Prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded."

Abraham Lincoln - Former U.S. President

Early History in Oz

My Visit to Nimbin

Here is a modern generation youth's view of the counter-culture capital of Australia, Nimbin.


Nimbin Valley

Nimbin is a small country town inland of Byron Bay in Northern New South Wales, Australia. A bit over twenty-five years ago, an iconic festival was held there, called the Aquarius Festival, and lots of so-called 'hippies' went there. They never left.

Nimbin is approached by a windy sealed road, meandering through rich cattle pasture. You turn a corner, and suddenly you're there. It's a strange town, with an over-abundance of craft shops and cafes, lots of people in caftans, and a green haze over the whole area. The most action- packed place in town is the footpath outside the museum, where people sit by the "Legalize Marijuana" stall and watch the world go by.

You may be familiar with "No Smoking" signs on retail premises. Nimbin is the kind of place you'll see "No Dealing" signs instead. Even in the newsagents.

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If you stand on the street in Nimbin for more than five minutes, and you're not wearing a police uniform, you will be offered drugs. Don't bother buying them... if you wait a bit longer or hang out in the right places people will give them to you for free.

The only place to get money in Nimbin (unless you're dealing) is from the newsagents, who will let you withdraw money by EFT (electronic funds transfer) as long as you spend $5 there. Remember this, as you may need it.

Nimbin Hemp Embassy

The best place I found to stay in Nimbin was the backpackers' hostel, for about $12 Australian per night. Be prepared to be sociable (i.e., smoke drugs with the other residents), and keep your food locked away, or it will be stolen on a 'munchie' raid. The hostel also has a lovely swimming pool, with a pebble interior and salt water. Be careful how you behave though. Nimbin backpackers is the only place I've ever known that kicked people out for "bad vibes."

There is also a hairdresser in Nimbin. I mention this only because I had a haircut when I was there, and was a little concerned about having my hair cut by someone who, in all probability, was going to see little green men crawling out of my hair. Actually she was quite safe, and surprisingly straight. And the haircut was only $10. She can be found on the left side of the road as you head towards the school from the centre of town.

There is a bus once or twice a day from Nimbin to Murwillumbah, and somewhat more often to Lismore. Don't mention computers to the driver -- he's a drop-out programmer and will tell you all about it. Also, don't be concerned by the hoards of screaming school children that will crowd the bus -- they all disembark long before Murwillumbah.

If you are going to visit Nimbin, be sure to take with you:

  • sunscreen (it's hot up there)
  • drugs
  • money (for drugs, or for food which will be stolen)
  • tie-dyed clothes (to blend in with the natives)
  • a towel (for swimming, sleeping on in the middle of the main road, trading for drugs, etc)

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Another straight journo's superficial take on Nimbin

NIMBIN, Australia, Apr 20 (Reuters)

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The pungent smell of marijuana fills the air outside The Rainbow Cafe in Australia's hippy capital Nimbin as a shopkeeper smokes a joint during a coffee break.

Across the road the Hemp Embassy is busy with shoppers inspecting bongs and pipes, as well as hemp T-shirts and hats, while a few enjoy a joint of marijuana in a side room.

''Hey mister, want some weed,'' says a voice in a dark corner of the Nimbin Museum, a cave-like labyrinth which tells of the hippy birth of Nimbin following the Aquarius Festival in 1973.

Selling and smoking marijuana may be illegal in Australia, but in Nimbin on Australia's fertile northeast coast authorities unofficially ignore the pot smoking.

Nimbin's marijuana smoking reputation is global and busloads of young foreign tourists, too young to ever have encountered a real hippy, arrive each day to get high or just wander through the village's shops which still promote the hippy way of life.

''Nimbin is a pot town,'' says Andrew Kavasilas, president of the Nimbin Chamber of Commerce, as he draws on a reefer of marijuana inside his Nimbin Cafe.

Nimbin's hippies are gathering for a wake at his cafe and a couple of grey haired women in kaftan tops and cotton pants chat and smoke marijuana, while two men playing chess roll a joint.

''Its a relaxed, alternate town. If you fit in, you fit in,'' says Kavasilas, who inspects the Reuters business card on the table and declares it would make good filters for his joints.

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NIMBIN'S BIRTH Nimbin was originally a dairy town, perched on a ridge surrounded by lush valleys. In 1973 the town was on the verge of closing when a group of university students held the Aquarius hippy festival in a nearby paddock.

An abundance of cheap land and buildings, and the prospect of growing potent marijuana in fertile cow paddocks, saw many hippies put down roots and build an alternate culture.

In its early years Nimbin struggled to survive with hippies constantly clashing with authorities over issues such as drugs, unauthorised communal housing and the environment.

Today Nimbin's rainbow-coloured shops, such as Bringabong, the Hemp Embassy and the Rainbow Cafe, are heritage listed.

Nimbin's communes, one of which is 2,000 acres, now boast state-of-the-art ecological houses. The village's Rainbow Power Company exports alternative energy generating technology.

''Nimbin has changed from an isolated alternate culture to this village which is mainly tourism,'' says Michael Balderstone, a former stockbroker who arrived in Nimbin 20 years ago and now runs the Hemp Embassy and lobbies for marijuana to be legalised.

Even ageing hippies like Wavy Gravy, the master of ceremonies at the 1969 U.S. Woodstock festival, pilgrimage to Nimbin.

Shuffling down the street with walking stick in hand and wearing a ban the bomb T-shirt, Gravy says he admires the communal vibe.