I’ve been fortunate enough to travel quite a lot. Not so much in recent years as I’ve started a family. But when I was younger I’d think nothing of spending weeks and months in some far-flung country.
I’ve also had an uncanny knack of befriending people in foreign countries who smoke (and sometimes even supply) weed.
Cannabis has undoubtedly been something that has enhanced my travelling experiences. Not just because I enjoy getting high. It’s also been something of a ritual when visiting a special place (especially natural places like waterfalls, beaches, mountain summits).
And it’s so often been a wonderful social glue, linking me to other people across cultures.
What follows is a list of three especially fun experiences I’ve had with cannabis, all of them related to the outdoors.
I sometimes can’t believe this is a real place. It’s a mountain that’s been on fire for over 2,500 years! I swear to you…! Totally. Nuts.
Known locally as Yanartaş, the hillside has been venting “abiotic methane” almost forever. It self-ignites (I know because I blew some of the flames out) and is just one of the most amazing natural wonders.
Back in the day, it was so big that sailors would navigate by it. These days the flames are smaller and fewer, but it doesn’t make it any less dramatic.
A group of us climbed the mountain around dusk one evening with some beers and some weed. We cooked kebabs over one of the open flames.
Sitting on a hillside on a balmy evening with a full belly and a bottle of beer is never going to be unpleasant. Add to that some excellent company with a spliff going doing the rounds and you have the recipe for a perfect evenings’ entertainment.
But to sit and watch as the earth around you belches flames into the night while happy and high makes it truly unforgettable!
My buddy and I had hitch-hiked in a “rastabus” across the island to one of the beaches on the east coast. These days it’s quite developed but back then there was virtually nothing except for sand and sea.
Our fellow travellers filled the bus with sweet-smelling ganja while the speakers blared out roots-rock reggae. I vividly remember stopping to fill up with gas.
I watched in absolute horror as the driver lifted up the front passenger seat to access the gas tank and, with a massive dooby lit between his teeth, proceeded to fill the tank from a jerry can, peering over the open tank to check he didn’t overfill it!
Nothing went wrong (Jah Bless) but I can tell you the fear was strong in this one as I watched the scene unfold!
When we arrived at the coast my buddy and I dumped our gear on the sand, stripped down to our undies and sat cross-legged in the surf sharing a reefer.
Someone (I don’t know who) took a photograph and sent it to us months later. To this day, whenever I see it, if fills me with a happy nostalgia. Two kids being ridiculous; a shared spliff, a shared adventure, our whole adult lives ahead of us…
Lake Bosumtwe, Ghana
On a writing assignment in Ghana I heard of a witchdoctor at Lake Bosumtwe who might be willing to talk to me. I travelled there on spec hoping to find him. My instructions were literally “after the bus drops you off, walk clockwise around the lake until you reach the 8th village”.
I wasn’t the only person walking that route. I was joined by a fellow passenger from the bus who insisted we stopped at every village on the way to drink a glass of local moonshine. Thankfully, his home was in the 4th village. I carried on alone, feeling more than a little woozy.
When the 8th village came into view, I started having doubts. How on earth would I find this guy!? Is he even there? Why would he talk to me, a complete stranger?
But, as I walked into the village, there he was… Standing on a rock just off the side of the road… Huge dredlocks tumbling down his back… Looking for all the world like he was expecting me.
I told him who I was trying to find, just in case, it wasn’t him. He nodded and gestured for me to follow him.
He rolled me a cigar-sized spliff of bushweed. And as we sat beneath a tarp looking out over the lake, he introduced me to animism; which is the idea that every rock, plant and animal around us contain the spirits of our ancestors.