Tuesday, September 21, 2010

“People have to find out there is life before you die,” Paul in beach commune.

San Pedro Cove, Costa Blanca. Spain---At first it looked like a camp site on the beach of the cove we had just anchored in. But looking closer, the tents blended in with the lean-to shacks and shantys. Looking up the mountain, the “ruins” sited in the sailing pilot book, had a solar panel permanently affixed to a stone window frame. In the morning I was determined to find out more.

I swam the close distance to the beach with flip flops and a wrap in a zip lock bag attached to the bottoms of my swim suit. After a nice conversation with three Frenchman who had swum in from one of only four boats that had anchored there last night, I headed up the hill towards the castle-looking ruins.

I passed sleepy residents crawling out of their “homes” and glanced into one open-aired shanty sparsely covered with dried palm fronds and saw a naked man casually sitting Indian-style, with a clothed women enjoying their morning cup of coffee and chatting.

Others were milling about, some naked, some clothed.

Through the dense brush, a path lead higher and shanties that could not be seen from the beach unveiled themselves along the way. It felt hippie and very homie-comfortable. Beach wraps decorated several seating areas giving view to the gorgeous bay where our boat bobbed gently in the clear blue sea.

Reaching the Castle, I rounded the side we could not see from our vantage point and briefly saw someone standing on the cliff looking over the sea. So I called out “Hello, Hola” in case I was invading someone’s private space. He turned and greeted me with a big smile.

“Hablo Ingles?” I said poorly.

“Huh” he responded.

“Do you speak English?

“Oh yes, yes,” he nodded.

Oh good.

His name was Paul. He was very slim and had brown stained teeth. I've learned enough on this adventure and in this environment to know you can't ever judge anyone by their appearence. It wasn’t until I asked him to take my picture with the cove in the background that I realized he had no right hand. A stub that was mid forearm was evidence of a hard past. Paul explained that this was indeed a commune called appropriately; San Pedro. He said I could google it and find much information of its history and existence. He spoke great English and was very friendly.

 Paul had been in San Pedro for seven years. But the longest resident had been there living this hippie-ish lifestyle for 16 years! He explained that it had everything that one could want.

A fresh water stream came down from the mountain and they had gardens, bananas, oranges and lemons. Anything else could be purchased in the village around the mountain. There were no roads but a dinghy would bring campers on and off and an hour hike along the mountain would get you to the village.

In the middle of our chat, a gruff looking naked man appeared from a room behind the lean-to and passed us with a mutter and headed to the marked “WC” (bathroom) or an area that was designated as such. Paul explained that the man was just not awake yet and that he was the commune’s “Baker”; making bread every day for residents. I'm glad I had been in the Med for six months and that having him walk by did not shock me, or as I recall, even phase me...I might have been here too long.

I asked if there were public areas or common areas to meet and he said “everything here is public”…in fact, we were standing in the Bar. I looked around and yes, there were three picnic tables and a dart board. A speaker was in the corner powered no less, by a wind generator above our heads or one of the numerous solar panels!

Everyone got along, he told me, and the rules were posted in several areas in several languages. They were simple. Use designated “WC” areas (bathroom spots) and bury that waste, and bury all other food waste, don't use Chemical products. That’s it.

Paul was from Holland and explained that he had spent four years sailing on Rainbow Warrior with Green Peace. It wasn’t until later that I realized the significance. I’m sad that I missed the powerful meaning of that, asked him more questions and that my reaction were not what they should have been.

NOTE: The Rainbow Warrior was sabotaged and sunk just before midnight on July 10, 1985 by two explosive devices attached to the hull by operatives of the French intelligence service. One person was killed. The revelations of French involvement caused a political scandal. After facing international pressure France agreed to pay compensation to Greenpeace, and later admissions from the former head of the French inteligence service revealed that three teams had carried out the bombings. ---Wikipedia

A face built into the side of the rocks by the fountian

Paul lead me to the fountain where a couple other men were gathered getting their daily jugs of water. I tasted the water and it was as delicious as any Colorado Rockies Spring found on the several backpacking trips I’ve done. One man stood up and looked down on the long stem of dried buds he was carrying. I teasingly said “what’s that?!” and everyone laughed even though the other two didn’t speak English. Marijuana seems to be an international hippie, free-lifestyle, anti-society, past time.

I said goodbye to Paul and told him he had a wonderful home, like being on vacation all the time and he said,“People have to find out there is life before you die.”

Returning to the beach I talked to two others. Sitting in front of a tent surrounded by a three sided structure designed with several woven rugs as the roof was a Spanish young man with dreadlocks pulled back into a ponytail. He had been there for 2 months but was running out of money and needed to go get work so that he could return. The other, a man from Sicily, sitting naked on a surrong cloth, had discovered San Padro last summer and spent 2 months there. This time, he was only here for a visit. “I love it here,” he said quietly, peacefully, staring at the sea.

I swam back to Juno over a school of needle nose fish, tiny back fish and the cobalt blue and white fish that we’d seen thoughout the Mediterranean. The boat was anchored in 15 feet of crystal clear water.

Watching the commune disappear as we motored away, getting closer to Gibralter each day, I had to wonder if people in the commune were doing what I was doing. Changing courses from a life they had grown tired of. Searching for options and discovering new possibilities.

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