Down under the influence

As Barge, our CC photographer, lit the first solar bowl under the searing Aussie sun, my wife Donna, our Aussie driver James and myself were about to embark upon a journey of discovery that would cover thousands of kilometers, have us consume over 100 different kinds of pot and test the limits of an otherwise perfectly good Winnebago. Our purpose, if we needed more than that, was to eventually end up at the Mardi Grass Festival in Nimbin. But that would be ten days away, at the other end of New South Wales, and our first stop was to the home of the winner of last year’s Cannabis Cup. Word was that he was gunning to win it again.?
Sunshine turned to dusk, dusk to dark as we hurtled along the highway. The Winnebago whined a bit as James got her up to his usual rock tour speed of flat out. We’d brought bud busters, stocked up on papers, lighters and all of the necessary gear. Yet comfortable as we were sitting in the back smoking joints, our task would be to keep our paraphernalia from becoming dangerous projectiles and killing the lot of us. A moist towel and some lateral thinking later and everything was safely stowed, but with instant access if necessary. If nothing else we want Canadian pot smokers to be thought of as safety conscious.?

Black DominaBlack DominaOur friend Mr Ayers, a pot farmer, winner of last year’s Nimbin Cup and an individual with an admirable lack of respect for authority, would be our perfect host for the next few days. Where he lives I can’t say ? not because it’s a secret, but because I have no idea where we ended up. All I know is that we were met in a small town under the cover of darkness, then continued to drive until the road ran out and turned into red dust. Kangaroos were leaping out at us like we were in some giant pinball game. A clever distraction I thought, as we pulled up to his house.

Seeds from Marc Emery’s catalog and a number from Marc’s personal collection had somehow found their way into the ground around Mr Ayer’s place. The results were absolutely stunning. He would disappear for a moment, only to reappear with a bouquet of forearm sized buds. Over 25 strains were dried, cured and ready to smoke. The hours on the road were instantly washed away with the first tokes of Kali Mist. This was followed by Thai, Stonehedge, AK47, Mikado, Hawaiian x Skunk x Thai, White Widow x AK47, Himalayan Gold, Mr Nice, Durban, Blueberry, KGB x The Black, Early Pearl, Black Domina, Pine Thai, Mighty Mite x Skunk, Jamaican Thai, Kong, Skunk x AK47, Fury Bud, last year’s winner Bushman and a new cross ? Bushman x Blueberry. Each glistening bud was savored for its aroma and flavor, so needless to say we smoked well into the night. Jet lag’s got nothing on a fistful of Sativas.

At some point, our internal clocks all struck a quarter past exhausted and it was time to turn in. As the door to our bedroom opened, there should have been an ethereal light and full soundtrack. The entire room was filled with drying buds! Everywhere I looked?on the floor, on the beds, a rack at one end held big buds? everything was covered with pot. The smell was intoxicating. As I drifted off to sleep, I thought, “If this isn’t a pot smoker’s Heaven, then God take me now.”

Black DominaBlack DominaEvidently we were in Heaven, since when I awoke the next morning I was alive and still surrounded by buds. Ayers’ lovely wife was dragging a huge tarp filled with seeded bud past my room, out to the front porch to dry in the sun. As Kookaburras chattered away in the distance and bright parrots flitted from tree to tree, it took a few minutes to realize that it was absolutely freezing cold, and what I thought was resin all over everything in the distance was actually frost. Frost in Australia? Nobody wants to see that. And when Mr A said “No worries mate, it’ll warm up”, little did I realize he meant about 100 degrees!

A “solar bowl,” if you’ve never heard of it, is the act of lighting your pipe using a magnifying glass and the sun. Popularized in our circle by Barge, who is a staunch advocate of not using butanes and sulfurs to ruin his health and the taste of the pot. It is a fabulous way to smoke and makes a huge difference to the flavor. However, under the Aussie sun, it was all we could do to not set the entire place ablaze! We also learned that one had better be certain to focus the point of light on the bowl, and not on a body part. Yipe!

Aussie greenhouseAussie greenhouseThe greenhouse

Long before you reached the greenhouse, you could tell by the smell what was in it. As you drew nearer, the distinct aroma of blueberries filled the air. Inside the smell was intense and the source was in full view. Four Blueberry plants, one over 12 feet tall, towered above us. The top cola was as long as my arm and several others were almost as big. We had to fight through the fruity tangle of branches, becoming human hash collectors, to make our way to the back of the greenhouse. A most pleasurable experience to say the least, and we all looked forward to the later scraping.

But in a heartbeat, that giddiness turned to silence. As we turned around, a massive Black Domina plant dwarfed the giants we just walked through. Our eyes locked onto the huge stalk that emerged from the soft red earth and followed the buds up to the sky. There atop this beauty was a bud as big as my head. I resolved at that instant to find a way to make my head bigger? I wouldn’t have time to figure that out as the cry, “It’s time to feed the chooks everyone,” was sounded. I knew from my previous visit to this land that a chook was a chicken, or at least tasted like one, but with everyone going, I wondered just how many chickens they must have? and would there be any danger?

BlueberryBlueberryOnly four or five little chickens scratched around the pen, so I wondered if perhaps we were to catch and feed each individually, but instead we were invited to get on our hands and knees and crawl through a small hole into the shed. Our eyes barely adjusting to the darkness, we were led through the coop. A bale of wire was tossed aside and a tin panel removed as we slipped through another hole. When our pupils had again dilated to pinholes we found ourselves in the middle of what was once a magnificent outdoor garden. Most of the 40 or so plants had already been picked ? they’d been our roommates last night. Four Jack Herers, about six feet tall, and a couple of luscious Thai #5’s where the only plants that remained amidst the skeletons of the harvested stalks. The rest were destined for the Nimbin Cup and were currently in the freezer. So that’s where we headed!

The freezer was packed with 25 or so of the top buds from the garden. Each was unwrapped, photographed and admired. The real beauty of the experience was to be able to smoke right along with the parade in front of us. Favorites were beginning to emerge as we worked. Thai #5 and the Bushman were battling it out, with Thai taking an early lead. Mighty Mite x Skunk has a great full skunk smell and taste, and Mikado was stunning it was so full-flavored. Bushman x Blueberry, Pine Thai and Blueberry remained right up there at the top of the list. We knew that if something was to beat this stuff up in Nimbin, we’d better fasten our seat belts. But first ? we make hash!

BlueberryBlueberryOur host had a huge bag of small buds and we trimmed up the cup winners to use for making water hash. We’d brought a number of “bubble bags” with us and quickly set about preparing the buds and freezing water. Everything was done over a large screen and we collected a good sized pile of kif, along with generous chunks of finger hash to be smoked right away. So while the pot was chillin’, we were getting baked with more solar bongs in the sun.

The hash turned out magnificently. It was full flavored and bubbled instantly under the magnifying glass. The invigorating Sativa high gave us both the courage and stamina to smoke more and stay in the sun way longer than pasty white Canadians should. Undaunted we slapped on sunscreen bought directly from the Australian Cancer Society and basked in the beauty of the countryside, enjoying bong after bong. Giddy from the smoke and feeling quite at home, the fact had not gone unnoticed that we’d only been on this continent for three days! The next day would see us off to another of Mr A’s secret gardens, to learn the lesson of what “a short drive” means in Australia.

Barge lights a solar bowlBarge lights a solar bowlPain for pot

I’m not sure how they do it, but everything in Australia is located a great distance from everything else. So it would seem that driving is not so much a necessity as it is a part time job. Our short drive turned into four hours one way, stretching well into the aforementioned 100 degree heat. The relief of arriving and getting out of the car was short lived, as we were instructed to dress like it was winter and head into the bush. A short distance later, the reason for sweating like a pig was revealed. The trail ended at a bank of blackberry bushes, except for an area Mr A points out that seems to have about nine less thorns in it than the rest. This is where were headed.

So, onto our hands? ouch, and knees? ouch, we struggle like flies in a web, snagged on thorns in every direction. Not a short trail either, giving me plenty of time to consider that this country has just about every poisonous snake and spider known to the Discovery Channel. Time enough too to curse my grade seven science teacher for informing me that if I don’t go crawling around in the underbrush, I probably won’t ever see one. About the only thing that was going to comfort me at this point would be to see a snake wearing several layers of clothing.

Beautiful outdoor budBeautiful outdoor budAt the center of this torture chamber, Mr A had hacked out an area perhaps 25 feet square. He had planted clones late in the season as a test to see which strains survived the wetter conditions in this area. As we pulled, scratched, yanked and screamed our way into the clearing, ten or so plants came first to our nostrils and then into view. Several Thai #5, Durban Poison and Bushman had more than survived, they had blossomed into five foot beauties, dripping with resin and ready to be picked. Many buds had turned dark purple from the cold nights.

The smell in the air was like standing in a candy factory, which of course it was, and we set about photographing and generally frolicking with our favorite plant. We then stripped every branch and loaded the buds into one of our shirts, to be dragged back to the house for? you guessed it, making hash.

Bud drying in the sunBud drying in the sunA few feet of Thai

As the next morning’s frost was turning into steam, it was time for us to leave this paradise and turn our van North to the Festival. Now dubbed “The Weedebago”, our stalwart charge was jammed to the rafters with pot. There were plants hanging to dry in the bathroom and every cupboard was filled with sweet sticky buds. To top that off, Mr A presented us with a magnificent Thai #5 bud that was over 3 feet long. A gift we will be forever grateful for, since it was not only amazing smoke, it gave us a new way to measure time ? twelve inches of Thai equals one day.

Our trip up the coast was a ton of fun. Everywhere we stopped was a magnificent beach with plenty of locals to be educated about the evils of prohibition. We brought along video equipment, and sometimes Marijuana Man bursting out of the Weedebago with a big spliff in hand, yelling “High everybody! You’re watching Pot-TV, and we’re in Australia smoking joints!” was a little more than our neighbors could bear. On the other hand, it meant we always had lots of space in the trailer parks.

Marijuana Man in pot heavenMarijuana Man in pot heavenThere was never a dull moment for James either, who would, wherever we stopped, run off only to return with another big bag or handful of buds. We were running out of places to stuff it all and it looked like we might have to let some air out of the tires.

Byron Bay is an idyllic place with several miles of white beach, and pounding waves dotted with suntanned surfers. With the Weedebago backed up to the beach it was our last stop before heading into Nimbin, so we kicked back here for a couple of feet of Thai.

We were mostly humbled by the waves, caught plenty of rays and generally soaked up the atmosphere of this party town. The magic of the World Wide Web brought a friend to our door with a sack full of Mullumbimby Madness buds to share. This is a long time Sativa strain grown in those parts. It was earthy and sticky with a full up and energetic high. He showed us photos of one of his outdoor plants that grew 12 feet tall and 18 feet wide, yielding six pounds of this Madness.

As soon as Barge heard this, there was little that could be done but make hash. James of course had disappeared.

Crawling through the blackberry bushes has its rewards:...Crawling through the blackberry bushes has its rewards:…The pot party

Regrouping Thursday morning, we readied the Weedebago for departure. At the last moment a call came in from Nimbin that police had set up a roadblock with sniffer dogs on the only road into town. Now we were pretty sure that if a sniffer dog were to come into the Weedebago, his nose would explode. We didn’t want any innocent animals injured, so we thought we’d better wait it out. Besides, nightfall seemed like a more plausible time to sneak this bright white, 30 foot stash box along a narrow jungle road right past the cops. On the other hand, a little insurance might be needed.

Lismore is about 30 km from Nimbin. This is the last stop, no turning back now. James arranged for a friend to drive another vehicle ahead of us. Bait if you will, whose taillights will signal any roadblock ahead. If one is encountered, the bait would be stopped and we would just bust through and let them chase us all the way to Nimbin. Presumably it was decided that we should get to the roadblock as fast as possible.

an amazing selection amazing selection of…With only one kilometre to go, there were no cops in sight, we lit our celebratory joints and cruised victoriously into town without incident. But the cops must have been right behind us, because when our friend headed back home, the road was now shut down tight. We breathed a sigh of relief and took comfort in the knowledge that another senseless animal death had been averted.

The Mardi Grass Festival is a blast. Several thousand people descend on this tiny town nestled in the jungle for three days of celebrating the marijuana harvest and to protest prohibition. The Hemp Embassy, with a 20 foot joint over its door, is at the center of it all. The festival was well organized and the multitude of events went off without a hitch. There’s a nice mix of playing and protest.

...Thai, Durban and Bushman,...…Thai, Durban and Bushman,…The Hemp Olympix features the bong toss and the grower’s iron person competition. There’s also joint rolling for speed and creativity which were both won by Bob, the same guy who won them last year. He shaved 5 seconds off his speed record by rolling a 3 paper joint with filter in 22 seconds and his Muir Space Station joint easily won the creative side. What astounds me is that he’s done this for the past several years in a row. Along with this, there’s music, food and forums about the industrial, legal and medicinal aspect of this plant. No one got busted (until after the festival), nobody died and no babies were born to my knowledge.

Suffice it to say that much marijuana was consumed, old friends were visited and new ones made. Thanks once again to Michael Balderstone, Lisa Yeates, Andrew and Teena, Gerald, Cheebo, Andy, the Ganja Fairies and everyone who made our stay so magical. These are dedicated people, fighting a righteous fight.

Go to Nimbin, have a blast and show your support. We wish them continued Peace on Pot!

...dripping with resin…dripping with resinPicking Australia’s best buds

Judging pot at a competition is not a particularly difficult thing to do. All I have to do is show up, smoke a bunch of joints and pick my favorite. Simple, I’ve participated in it successfully many times all over the world.

Whether or not I’ve smoked the best there is would be another bowl of mull completely. But I am pretty sure I could say I’ve smoked the best there was on that given occasion. And so it was one humid autumn night in the jungles of New South Wales.

The Nimbin Cup is a wonderfully laid back affair. Shrouded in secrecy, thirty of us are driven into the hills to a lodge donated for the evening by a local community. 52 buds, 15 grams each, would be entered in the competition. As the sun slipped away, a magnificent thunderhead rolled across the sky, entertaining us with lightning bolts while the entries were being prepared.

Organizer Andrew from the Nimbin Caf? did a great job pulling it together again this year. It is no easy task to collect and keep all the entries safe ? not to mention trying to keep us away from the table with all those juicy buds. Each bud was assigned a number and at the sound of the starting bong, we were invited to visually and nasally inspect them all, and then choose the three that we liked the best. Each choice was awarded a point, and we then set about smoking those three. At the end of that we then picked our favorite.

Last year, our friend Mr Ayers showed up with 11 different strains and won the Cup hands down with a strain called Bushman. This year he wasn’t taking any chances and brought 27 strains of some of the nicest pot we’ve ever seen, including Bushman and a new cross ? Bushman x Blueberry. So it seemed a tad unusual that when Tony, an old friend of Ayers showed up, that Ayers became a bit nervous. Seems Tony had heard the news of Mr A’s win and decided he too would grow something and bring it up to Nimbin. The fact that this concerned Mr A could only mean good things for us.

52 strains, 15 grams each, to choose from!52 strains, 15 grams each, to choose from!No pot smoking competition I’ve ever attended could be a true test of potency. You smoke too much to be able tell which one is the strongest. It ends up more like a wine tasting, where the quality is not measured by how drunk you get, but by the nuances of the appearance, flavors and aroma of each example. But you would think that out of 52 buds to choose from, there would be a wide range of choices on the first round of picks. Not so. Everyone zeroed in on three buds, of which we could take a pinch of each to smoke to determine the winner.

When the votes were all tallied, there were three buds only whose stalks had been picked clean. Bushman came in third, Bushman x Blueberry was second and the winner is? Bubbleberry! Grown by none other than Tony.

Needless to say we were thrilled by the outcome. Mr Ayers donated his second place prize of a beautiful hand blown glass plate to Marc Emery, and we proudly have it displayed in the Pot TV studios along with last year’s First Place cup. Ayers then good naturedly threatened Tony with physical violence. Tony, true champion that he is, offered a similar prophecy. One can instantly see the ramifications of this on next year’s competition? should either of them survive.

Of course we did smoke the other 49 that night. Whether any better emerged, I can’t remember. But for the record, I chose Mr A’s Bushman x Blueberry, while the rest of the CC crew went with Tony. So in the event that we get to return next year I’d still like to stay with Mr A. However, I do have Tony’s number!52 strains, 15 grams each, to choose from!