Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Hashish Trail - Chapter 9 - Freaks in Greece

In Thessaloniki at the American Express office where we picked up our mail, we ran into our friends Tom, Jim, Murray and 3 new friends of theirs. They wanted to take a short side-trip, by train, up to Istanbul in Turkey, so we decided to join them. At that point we didn't know we would later have a second visit to that famed city. We were cautioned to wear long pants (no shorts) and modest dress or else we would invite trouble. We felt such sympathy for the Muslim women who had to hide under their veils and robes in the sweltering heat! But we did enjoy Istanbul. Our campground was about 10 km. out of town, and since we had travelled by train, we had to find rides into town. I remember bouncing down the road in the back of a truck with about 10 other hippies the day we went to see the Blue Mosque. It is so spectacularly beautiful with it's millions of little blue tiles worked in the most artistic designs. It's tiled minarets and the obelisk rise far above, I suppose in an effort to direct your thoughts toward God, and I thought that with all those faithful worshippers there surely must be some upon whom God smiles! On a very hot day in July we visited Istanbul's Grand Bazaar, which featured miles and miles of market stalls selling everything imaginable for a very good price if you were good at bargaining. The vendors preferred a little bargaining to make the transaction more interesting. It was a fun trip, but the culture was a shock - we soon learned that women are of little value in a Muslim country. We realized that our jeans and t-shirts would not be a wise wardrobe choice in Turkey! In fact, by the time we were done with our Istanbul tour, we just wanted to be like those Muslim women and hide under a substantial amount of clothing no matter how hot that was! We were shown little respect when we dressed in our usual clothing. As usual, the most fun was around the campfire in the campground where it was ok to be ourselves and where the men were North Americans! There will be more about Turkey in a later chapter.
On the bleached sands of Mikonos, that exotic island off the coast of Greece, and on Plati Gialos, also known as the nude beach, we first heard about The Hashish Trail. Over the weeks we spent there we got to know some seasoned travelers of the trail named Bobby, a New York stockbroker and Miguel, his brother,  a Las Vegas gambler. As we gathered on the beach each evening with some 150 “freaks” (I'm not sure whether the hippies invented this title or whether it was one bestowed on us by society) for the hippie brand of evensong, we pieced together this exclusive route to India, shared only by word of mouth from traveler to traveler. Bobby and Miguel acted as our travel agents, recommending each city and hotel in which we should stay to derive maximum enlightenment on the journey.
Bobby and Miguel had been travelling The Hashish Trail for a couple of years, buying beads, jewels, wonderful clothing from India and Nepal, and other marketables, then travelling overland to Greece, selling their wares, then journeying back to India for more enlightenment! As they told us stories of holy men, yogic enlightenment, Government hashish stores, and Christmas in Goa with hundreds of other travelers from around the world, our hearts were re-awakened to our goal - go to India and find God. The delight in the eyes of these young men as they shared with us was irresistible and contagious. It was obvious that there were volumes they simply could not describe, though they tried. We had to go there!

Also on Mykonos we met Paul, an 18 year old boy from South Florida, who had just graduated from Catholic boys high school. Paul would travel with us from time to time on our journey to India. We loved Paul and he loved us. After one of our drunken parties with the fishermen, it was Paul's tent that I fell into and slept the deep sleep that only alcohol brings!
Sorting and weeding out our belongings, we began to prepare for the long trail ahead of us, overland, of course.
Up until now we had had an impressive wardrobe, including evening wear, shoes and purses for every occasion, great jewellry – the works! We now needed a new wardrobe, suitable for travelling through some very remote and primitive territory. We travelled to Athens, where we hooked up with Gidonia who had opted to remain in Athens rather than go to Mykonos. We packed up those luscious clothes and shipped them back to Eva, our writer girlfriend with whom we had spent some weeks in Spain. Next we bought four U.S. military issue backpacks at the U.S. Army Surplus store , in which we would carry everything we needed for the next year! We also went to a spectacular wine festival in Delphi, where we sampled wine from huge vats and danced and sang with the Greeks. I was impressed by the fun-loving attitude of the parents with their children. Everyone played and everyone laughed. I saw no tears there that day. Of course there was that wonderful Greek food available at booths set up around the park and so no one got drunk, or if they did they handled it with aplomb. The inclusiveness of children everywhere we went in Greece was in such contrast to the culture in North America, where adults get babysitters when they go out to drink. It was the norm for children to be playing on the floor in pubs while their parents had a drink with friends.
Before setting out on The Hashish Trail we lingered on Mykonos, where we acquired many friends with whom we would meet up from time to time as we journeyed to the East. When we had first arrived on Mykonos, we shunned the hotels in town and went looking for a place to pitch our tents on the beach. Upon cresting a hill between two of the beaches, we gazed on a colony of dwellings such as we had never before even imagined. There were cave homes, tucked into the sun-bleached cliffs overlooking the blue Mediterranean. There were driftwood dwellings, creatively assembled to provide some privacy for the occupants. And everyone was nude! It was just too much of a leap for us that first night, and we decided to move on to the next beach. But throughout the evening we were intrigued by all the sounds of merriment wafting over to us from the nude beach. There were guitars and flutes, drums and tambourines, saxophones and clarinets, shakers and whistles – and the players were making some wonderful music, showcasing a number of remarkable singers. And so the next day we just had to check it out. I moved into a rock house with a rock patio facing the blue expanse of the Mediterranean. Many people slept on the beach in tents or out under the stars. The people were all hippies and immediately made us welcome, helped us find a place to live and made us aware of how this casual community worked.
The weather was predictably perfect – each day blistering hot, chasing us to the ocean for relief. Each night was balmy under clear skies studded with stars you thought you could touch! The contrast between the land and the water was astonishing – dry-as-bone white sand and bleached rocks contrasted with lush, cool, stunningly colorful undersea gardens graced with tropical fish of every hue and description. Soon we had million dollar tans which turned to bronze in the setting sun, and no tan lines! (I was surprised how little difference nudity makes once you get over the initial shyness). This was paradise. And so we stayed for some weeks.
Occasionally we would put on our finest silks and foray into town for some fabulous seafood and to drink Ouzo with the fishermen. These Greeks were so much fun. They taught us the right way to eat shrimp, shared sumptuous feasts with us and whirled us around the seaside restaurant to their lively Greek tunes. We slammed our glasses down to the shouts of “Yachara!” At least that’s what it sounded like – I assumed it meant “cheers” or “down the hatch” or whatever! They laughed a lot, and we were still laughing as we staggered first down the beach and then over the rock cliffs (about two miles) to our hippie haven. The evenings we spent with these funny, kind fishermen are among my fondest memories.
Finally we dragged ourselves away from Mykonos, which is forever beloved in my heart. We resumed our quest for God – for that elusive aspect of God which somehow links you inextricably to the Grand Order Divine, that something which melts the heart and overwhelms the spirit with adoration and goodness. We set out to follow The Hashish Trail.


  1. Yet another amazing chapter in your story! I love reading them. Thanks for sharing. I would love to go to Greece some day, and your story is yet one more confirmation that it would be well worth it. :)

  2. those rock houses sound like heaven. Would so love to go to Greece one day.