this is part II
It´s maybe a rather personal memory but I decided to write about Beneficio because it is so full of crazy people, of “different” people. And craziness is a good thing, I want to share. It´s a unique place, different from most places, even most hippie places. Like Kerouad once wrote “the only people for me are the mad ones,…” I agree, I love to have “crazy” friends and think about what makes them extraordinary. I wanted to share the experience I made there. Of course people come and go, places change, needless to say, it’s very subjective report.
The first morning, I confirmed with relief that I had not died of cold, up there on the hill with just a cheap tent. I slept the whole night until at eight a donkey called his good morning, and I heard someone shout the worst insults from his soul, this was frantic, wild, he shouted in english, with an accent which was maybe irish. At first I thought someone was about to kill someone else, so much anger, desperation. Later I learnt that this is a poor fellow who just needs to shout, he shouts every morning. In the city he would probably get locked away, but there he can just be and live in peace. people are used to him and he to the people. I finished my book (lonesome traveller, short stories by Jack Kerouac) and then got up and decided to go down the village to provide myself with food.
Walking across the parking, I saw some children of maximum 3 years, playing with lighters and burning down plastic pine tree – how ever a plastic tree happens to come to a forest – this place is really a bit weird!
I walked to Órgiva, the capital of Alpujarra, and I saw local children on ponies chase through the streets. There were also some 3 and 4 star hotels, sports gear and souvenir shops. The houses in the village had pretty white walls, the sun was shining, I don’t know why, but somehow it reminded me of Bolivia or the north of Argentina. It’s the climate, everything dry, the cacti, the nicely folded mountains on the horizon. And the simple people, shepherds, people riding mules.
When I came to the spot to hitchhike back up the mountain I finally managed to talk to someone. I saw a man standing by the road sticking out his thumb. El Buscador was waiting for a ride and I asked him if he lived in Beneficio. He wore a cowboy hat and spoke english to me, I told him my spanish was better than my english, (his even more so) I would prefer to speak spanish and answered in spanish, he from then changed languages several times in every sentence. He explained to me, that he just came from dumper deving or divster dove or something like that. Took me a while to get it. Then he explained to me how it worked. I told him that I, too, was trying to live as much as possible from “recycled” or skipped or dumpstered food and asked him if he was successful. He explained again that he was eating what people throw away and looking at the bins, etc etc, because people throw away so many useful things and then when they see him eating it, they feel ashamed, I then understood, that it was his manner of talking, he just always explained everything minimum twice and with a big smile. Also he raised his voice with the end of every sentence, making it sound like a question. I was happy to have someone to talk to. We got a ride by an old man, living in Beneficio, in a van that was maybe 30 years old or more. The man had dreadlocks and no teeth left what made him difficult to understand, but he talked to me! he was really nice to us. My second day was starting good.
When we came to the parking ground my new friend told me: – “People down here are crazy. Be careful. They smoke drugs.” It sounded really funny. I told him I was smoking too, sometimes, and wondered if I already was about to lose my new friend again. “They are crazy, because down here, they have shadow the whole day long”. He invited me to go to his place, on the top of the hill, a 15 minute hike. I happily accepted, we went up and along the way he introduced me to all the people he knew.
People there were nice and open, they invited me to stay as long as I wanted and we made salad with herbs from the garden, and then tea and then we lit the fire, smoked and continued eating and by the evening we were close friends. I learned that up there they didn´t really consider themselves part of Beneficio. They called the common Tipi, called the big lodge, “biglost”, or bIglu because it was winter. My friend El Buscador was living even higher up, “you can see Africa from up there”, he explained.
Going down that mountain in the middle of night and climbing the hill on the other side to find my tent was a challenge! The next morning I moved from the mountain of shadow to the mountain of sun (who is so stupid to pitch the tent in a place with almost whole day shade?). People up there had self made houses out of clay, wood and stones, a big terrace, a hammock, a garden and lots of cats.
The next days we spent together, we had much fun, it was like a (hitchhikers/rainbow?)- family, cooking, sitting by the fire, sunbathing, meditating. Smoking with el buscador and neighbours. (I don’t know why he had made that comment about the people down in the valley). They lent me some books I left my read ones there.
One day El buscador found 2 kilos if deepfrozen prawn and lots of chocolate milk, so we invited people and made a feast sitting 9 persons by the wooden stove in the small hobbit hut.
Without doubt, it’s very special. For example all the people I met, when referring to taking a shower or bath, they said: I was thinking, maybe next week I could go to Santa Fe. (There are some nice hotsprings, but it´s like 60 kilómeters away). I heard this sentence so often, from different people, so that it made me laugh a lot.
These people were magical. I don´t know how to describe that feeling.
I had time to think. I noticed that the mountains give me much energy. My new years resolution was to go hiking more often. One day I went up the mountain into the national park Sierra Nevada, being alone for the whole day, walking towards the snow cap in the distance, seeing not Africa, but the sea on the other side. Another day I walked through the valley of Órgiva, along the river between olive trees and oranges. From all the thinking I learned that the cold (around cero at night in the tent) is a lot less important or disturbing for me than for example stress or noise.
In the end it has been very different from what I had thought. Last but not least, in my time there I also saw the biggest cacti I saw in my life! We exchanged emails. I went away hitchhiking, got a direct ride from Granada to Valencia.
Here you can find more pictures: http://www.vice.com/es/read/beneficio-comunidad-alpujarra- granadina