Grahamstown was okay. It is more or less a really big university with houses and streets in it. They made good toasted sandwiches and we spent a fortune. Personally, I find students a little bit repugnant. I would hate to have been a frat member in America. Or go to a frat party! Grahamstown was full of fraternities doing fratty stuff. My soul mate, who goes by the name of Adam, revealed to me how he had concocted a plan of grand poetic terrorism while forced to complete his English degree in Grahamstown.
His idea was to crush tons of Malpitte (like natural acid except that it’s much crazier) and dump it into the reservoir during a celebration. Then, just when everyone was raving around the streets like lunatics, he wanted to ride into town on horseback with two Uzi’s and rob the local bank. This town would do that to a person I reckon. We wondered if the cute girl was still here and eventually figured that if she were still here, she was pretty dumb after all and wouldn’t know a happening place if it landed on her.
On the way out of town we stopped at this stunning little esoteric bookshop. It was really out of the way and in this queer little house, covering the entire top floor. It was filled with priceless literary artefacts. It was the sort of place where if the conspiracy theories about the government covertly controlling esoteric knowledge were true, this might be a place for them to come and close down real quick. I guess that the Grahamstown happening crowd were all pretty into intellectual spiritualism of one sort or another and this place was therefore really quite important. Actually I am an intellectual myself, contrary perhaps to the evidence of this writing. I love the process of meta-cognition and the use of language to rewire the brain.
I got onto a profound esoteric trip in there and was filled to bursting with knowledge of vast conspiracies and secret societies so secret that not even the members knew about them but if you got the handshake or whatever, you knew that that was the code. The books were old too; from the early part of this century many of them. I nicked a few and decided there and then to study all these matters very seriously while I lived in the woods by the little pond.
The next place we did time was at a big city called Port Elizabeth. Horrible place. As near as I can make out, they are famous for manufacturing cars and Satanism; Seems that every Satanist worth his salt comes from Port Elizabeth. It’s in all the schools; really weird. Nobody knows why but if there is a cat being sacrificed anywhere, it’s there. Port Elizabeth was stale to us from the outset.
We came into town in a really industrial area and we couldn’t get a lift from anyone. Suddenly we were in dangerous territory, wandering through the dark back streets of criminals and beggars, fires burning in dustbins and leaping upward to dark, still, concrete buildings. I grew really afraid as the sun started to set and this fear was compounded by the large reefer we had just smoked, turning harmless shadows into shifty slivers of potential danger and foreboding.
We saw a hill in the distance and decided to, well… head for the hill. The hill was a little way out of the inner city toward the coast. It took us until nightfall before we reached its foot. We smoked a joint as we considered our predicament. The city was a big black beast that would surely assassinate us if we attempted to sleep in its dark streets. We had to remain out here, in the foothills, like bandits. Unfortunately it was a pretty dismal looking hill, with not much cover before the peak. It wasn’t like nestling into a virgin forest. It was more like sleeping next to a dustbin in a grubby little park in Soweto.
I was still really nervous about being taken out while I slept. We decided to climb and by and by found this old ruined house. It was a little spooky but we sort of sat around speaking as cheerily as possible and smoked a little nip. It was only when I was actually quite stoned that I noticed some pretty harsh graffiti on the one wall, graffiti shaped very much like a goats head. It was only then that I looked over into the little garden below us and realised that the shattered and tortured remains behind us was an old church and the field before me a grave-yard.
Gospel truth. That’s what it was. We ran out of there with a terrible feeling pursuing us. Luckily George was a little more level-headed than me and also less inclined to panic. As soon as we were well away and cresting the hill he started to act a bit more tough and made jokes about the whole thing. I joined in with my own pirate laugh and soon felt better. We also found a rather large empty building. I had had enough of ruined buildings and didn’t want to know, but George was dead keen to explore. Reluctantly, I followed him into the building through an open door. It was three stories high and quite long, like an old school building. For the next hour, not a sound was made as we painstakingly tip-toed from room to room and checked them out with our little key-ring torch. We were like real ninjas in there. I imagine not even the rats knew we were there. I could not rest until we had made absolutely sure the place was empty.
Later, things relaxed and we found a room downstairs which had a secure door and was pretty clean. We put our mats and sleeping bags down and George took out his little camping lantern. Finally he produced a walkman and speakers and – believe it or not – a tape of Karen Carpenter of the Carpenters. I have to say, that was one of the most precious moments ever. We created this little secure cocoon of light in a dark and dangerous land and Karen Carpenter was singing to us like she had written every song for this occasion.
It was wild. I love her voice. It was something we always tripped too because the soothing tones and romantic imagery created the nicest dream like hallucinations. We still had a couple hits of good acid but we knew that the big trip was ahead of us, somewhere out there in the wilderness of the soul. It was waiting for us, part of the whole and fundamental purpose of this journey. This was just a resting place, a hide-away for robbers on the run.
We slept well and woke up feeling a little startled. The place looked pretty grubby in the sunlight but we were really cheerful and ran upstairs. We put together some rough grub for breakfast and smoked a beautiful joint. After that, we spent hours running around the place and sliding down the long, polished corridors with loud shouts of crazy joy. We were all about taking the place over permanently and making a sort of fortress. If we could just find a way of earning some dough, we could easily live up here and travel down into the city for food.
By nightfall we weren’t so sure. It had been a good day but the place didn’t feel like home and just down the drag lay the possessed graveyard, which gave me the creeps. I figured this place had once been an insane asylum or home for terribly old people. The grave-yard was where they had been buried. For all we knew, this place was riddled with the ghosts of cantankerous old farts dribbling away into the dark hours. One more night would be enough for me.
The next day we bailed and finally managed to get a lift out of the city and many miles down the coast. Our driver was a very stocky looking coloured man who was friendly but spoke in clipped, professional tones. He didn’t so much enquire as lightly interrogate us about everything we were doing and we were both a little nervous that he had been sent to check on us or something. Turns out he was a police officer in plain clothes and was on his way down to Cape Town to escort a prisoner back to Johannesburg.
I nearly died when I heard that. We were both not only stoned but loaded down with drugs. He seemed pretty committed to taking us all the way down to Cape Town and we had a moment of real panic. Somehow the enemy had found us and was trying to thwart us before we got to our destination. We crossed over a canyon easily as deep as the grand one, plummeting down a thousand feet into the most beautiful, lush valley. Later, this would become one of the world’s highest bungee jumps.
This I guess was where things started to really get interesting. We were on a highway which ran through the depths of the Tsitsikama forest. It is the biggest forest, I reckon, in South Africa. It is like a baby Amazon. You cannot know how that appeals to me. Next to this, the Hog’s Back was a park. Feel this with me. A billion trees standing still for hundreds of years and whispering to each other in their slow, silvery language. My theory is this. Consciousness is stretched over time. Everything lives the same life-span. Everything. Your perception shapes reality. Trees move. Mostly upward but also a little bit sideways. They are growing but we can’t see it because they move so slowly; stands to reason then that if a tree could think – if they were capable of perception – they probably wouldn’t notice us. Think about it. Everything happens at different speeds. They made a very good toasted sandwich at this little restaurant and we spent a ton of money.
Later in the day we left the stop and began walking down the road. We didn’t get a lift and after about an hour we were deep in the forest. It was radical. We hadn’t thought to bring any extra food or water with us. After the first joint, I began to get seriously hungry. Most of you who are familiar with the varied effects of marijuana will know that the food thing – what we call the munchies – is a big part of the experience. It is brought into rather sharp poignancy by the lack of food, because then the visual mind is totally consumed with fantastic tasting meals.
We steadily became more and more hungry, more hungry than I can ever remember being. Cars flashed past us without so much as slowing down. Suddenly George had a flash of inspiration and with a cry of discovery began ripping his back-pack apart to eventually draw forth the packet of dope cookies! We had totally forgotten about them. We sat there on the side of the road – grinning – and must have eaten half that damn packet.
Which, as it turns out, was a really, really bad idea. For one thing, eating a dope cookie is like playing Russian roulette. You never know how much cannabis is actually going into your system. One cookie can be as strong as or stronger than an entire joint and, if you’re hungry, you never stop there. By the time it comes on, it sneaks up on you and smacks you in the back of the head like a bear hunting salmon. The other reason it was a bad idea was because we had no water or means to get any. Our mouths became so dry that our tongues swelled up and we could not even talk. We stumbled along that road into the darkness of coming evening and tried to avoid dying from dehydration.
As night came on, we found a gate, followed by a side road, which ran deep into the forest. Since there was no relief to be gained on the highway, we jumped over the gate and followed the path. Within minutes, we saw a settlement and ran along the outskirts like madmen, trying to find a tap. That first sip of water was pretty good, let me tell you. Now we could talk and we were told by the locals that we could find a hotel, not far off from there. We arrived at the hotel just as the sun set and was in the forest finally diluted into deep indigo shadows.
I was still so stoned that I could barely string sentences together and since George could barely string sentences together anyway, it was I who had to ask for a room. My speech, coupled with the state of our clothing, was just too much for the manager. She wouldn’t even give us a basement to sleep in and we had very little money left. Eventually we convinced her to make us some dinner and we used almost the last of our money to buy the biggest pile of toasted chicken mayonnaise sandwiches that a body ever laid eyes on.
After that we went for a walk to try and find a place to sleep and ended running slap bang into a police man! My heart almost stopped and I immediately blurted out our predicament, trying to cover my blood-shot eyes with darkness. He turned out to be pretty friendly and offered us a room for the night. We couldn’t refuse without it seeming suspicious so we followed him as he took us straight to the police station! With a friendly grin, he pointed to an empty cell and said we could sleep there for the night.
Can you handle the irony? Two drugs addled youths, fugitives from justice, making our base in the heart of the enemy’s encampment. A police dog trotted into the room and it was at that point that I remembered we still had half a packet of dope cookies and a pile of weed in George’s satchel! Stoned as I was, I became almost uncontrollably paranoid, since these dogs are the spawn of the enemy and are bred with an instinctive ability to sniff out dope. It was a very shattering experience and again I thought of the enemy, the institution, the dark cosmic pantheon that would stop at nothing to destroy our mission and to hold back the secrets that we were to discover, secrets that could very well change the world!
Our psychic defences must have been pretty tight, because the next morning they released us and we scampered off into the protective shadows of the forest, delighted at our mighty powers. The mission was progressing well. We sat there in the quiet, rosy, dawn of day and smoked a lovely reefer as we considered our next step. It seemed plain to me that civilisation was arranged against us and would provide no refuge. Therefore, we must head deep into the wilderness to find that place where we would have the Big Trip.
That decided, we went to the local store and used the very last of our money to buy a few things. Matches, cigarettes, loaf of bread; that sort of thing. We carefully packed our bags and tried to cushion the back of George’s pack, as the wire was now actually cutting into his back and leaving terrible swollen ridges of enflamed skin. We walked along the path until we were out of site of the settlement and then headed straight into the bush.