A Rainbow experience is truly one of a kind mostly because people don’t join with the same expectations, the same personality, the same reasons to be there. Because my own only belongs to me, this is not the story of the Rainbow. This is the story of my first Rainbow.
I first heard about Rainbow gatherings in a magazine. The photo series I discovered through the world wise known National Geographique pages were truly stunning. They had something so unique that directly intrigued me. If you ever had the chance to use a time machine and go back to the seventies and the glorious days of don’t make war make love, that was it. In a instant, I had gone back in time, in a place that I had only heard off, or seen in films or read about ; where nudity is beautiful and natural and not sexualiszed, where you are what you are and not you pocess. Those people were mesmerizing. Not hidding behind anything, not pretending, they were just there standing in front of that camera. Nature and them. In that moment I knew that one day I would go to a Rainbow.
European summer 2017
A couple years went by. After 5 months on the road I had found myseld comtempling my options for the summer to come. While everything or nothing was possible, I could tell my life could go from one direction to another depending on my choices. Still having the Rainbow desire in the back of my head I went where everyone go these days for informations: online. After a little bit digging, I found answers throught FB groups and websites. But very few ,considering every month there is a Rainbow somewhere on the planet. That said, a decade ago it wouldn’t have been possible at all. To be invited to a Rainbow you had to receive a real letter in you mail box. But with modern age and internet revolution and speed, I could access the informations I needed quickly. Which is, let’s be honest, quite practical! Yet, even nowdays the Rainbow still keeps its mystery. You won’t find too many articles and photos about it and very few people really know what it’s all about, I think they might get missleaded. A Rainbow isn’t a festival like Burning Man. It’s a gathering. The distinction is important at its core. If you are looking for a place to do drugs or dress up Hyppie chic as you would for Coachella and post your photos on Instagram or go to concerts and dance all day this isn’t it at all.
If had to describe what a Rainbow is in three little words, this is what I would say: geniunity, freedom, fraternity.
After a couple of month travelling, I had found myself running out of money in July and therefore running out of options for the luxury fast modern ways of travel that I had used so far since February. It wouldn’t stop me. My plan was clear, I would go on a adventure with two main destinations : The European Rainbow and Porto, where I was expected to paint this huge portrait of Frida on a wall.
How would I do that? I would use the old fashion thumb, hitchiking my way to get there : 4500 km through France, Italy, Spain and finally: Porto in Portugal!
I called it: my Social Experiment. In this crazy world where almost everyday a bomb explode or a truck might run you over in Paris or NY or any other country really, I wanted to show what I truly believed in. Beyond all the fear that the mass media made you feel: kindness, gentleness and generosity still exist, even among strangers. So I would keep track of my whereabouts and write about it in this blog, photographe every person that stoppped their vehicule for me, ask them a few questions and so on.
I started my journey in Limoges and went all the way from there to Lyon, Turin, Florence and Trevis, to finally arrive, after experimenting such wonderfull moments where people took me on their car, truck, offering me good bye coffees, smiles, stories and sharing with me openly a little bit of their big life, to Trevis (close by Venice). From there, I used my first and last jocker. I took a train towards Tramonti di Sopra and a bus because i knew that it would be very though to get there hitchiking on a Sunday morning. My couchersurfer host kindly left me at the station. Unfortunalty it was Sunday and the bus didn’t go until my final destination. No worries! With my superwomen hitchiking powers the last 10 kilometers wouldn’t be a problem. I found a car for the new Rainbow people I had met on the bus and myself. Actually, the real story is different, I went to the first man I saw when I came out of the bus and with my super duper broken Italian I explained our situation. My story must have touched him because this kind Italian man drove all of us in his car to Tremonti di Sopra, even though he had no reason to get there in the first place.
Coming out of the car a few little drops of rain came down on us. Quite a few people were in the area and seemed to be waiting for something. It looked odd to me. I went towards them and asked what was going on. Apparently a storm was on its way. Hard to believe at that point but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
We listened to the advices of the local authority on the matter. A communal center was at our disposal in case things got worse. The Civial Guard was so kind and helpfull. At this point we were about 20 to 30 people or so. As the time went by, the weather rapidly changed into a huge storm, wind blowing, emptying all neighours trash everywhere. Rain pouring like hell on earth. People kept arriving and the Civial Guard car kept on looking for Rainbow people that were hitchiking there way to the bottom of the mountain where we were and bring them back. By night fall, the place was packed. People from all over the world were getting to know each other, singing, playing music, either meeting up with old friends or making new ones. As the storm went away, a bright rainbow shined its colors through the grey cloudy sky like a sign. Helicopters came down and went away. The rumor of a a tree falling over someone’s tente went around. I felt very lucky to be there, safe.
The amount of us increasing made the locals open a second location. From the beginning to the end, they only showed kindness and generosity. We had shelter, water and electricity and most of all: warmth. It came from each single individual acting like one. Togetherness. That night I got a taste of what Rainbow meant.
I made my first friends that night. Pierre, Alina and Lorys, whom I shared dinner and breakfast with. We went our seperate ways to sleep but met in the morning to hike our way to the gathering. We were blessed with a clear blue sky and a bright shiny light.
At the beginning the foot path we met the lovely Julieta. With my heavy bags Pierre walked along with me on my rythm, the perefect time to get to know each other.
We had been told that the hike was hard and long so we knew what to expect. It was. My bags felt heavier the more I went but I wasn’t alone. People cared, waited and helped me. First Welcome seemed so far but we finally got there. What is called « First Welcome » is a camp where people can rest along the way to the gathering. Between the bottom and the top, two « Welcome » camps had been set for us. A couple of plastic tarp were a home for some and a Oasis for us. People coming and going, up and down the mountain. Meeting, embracing, sharing. A fire was burning where coffee was brewing. A place where I would, on the way back a week later, make chocolat chapati for everyone. This time I was slowly getting familiar with this new environnement and I felt more like a guest passing by. Everything was new to me.
By the river below the trees I saw the first naked people. And I though: I doubt I’ll end up naked mysel. My spirit I was still formatted on a normal scale. I could see people free of society codes and rules. I could see standards and norms shading /fading away. I wasn’t yet there myself. It was beautiful. No jugdements, a simplicity that was beyond words. It felt like i could have stayed there forever. In between worlds. But I was so eager to get to the Rainbow that I found the strengh to keep on going.
I remember « Second Welcome » has a massage break. I gave Alina a back massage, sore like mine. She massaged me as well. Simple. Beautiful. Kind.
When we all arrived we were not one but many. May I introduce you to my Rainbow family. Through effort and beauty we arrived together. Those humans are so beautiful. There was such tenderness already.
Pierre, Alessandra by the river where we bathed
Julieta drawing on Irene.
Maté Connection became our rally words to find one another through the whole camp. If you don’t know what is Maté it’s simple, it’s just tea but not any kind of tea.
« Billions of people start the day with a hot cup of coffee or tea.
But in some parts of the world, people wake up with a drink you may not be familiar with — yerba mate.
Yerba mate is a traditional South American brew that’s been said to offer the “strength of coffee, the health benefits of tea, and the euphoria of chocolate” all in one beverage.
It was called “the drink of the gods” by many indigenous South Americans and later “the green gold of the Indios” by European settlers. «
What »s funny about mate is that you drink it alone with everyone. Once you get the cup it’s all yours until you finish it and then you pass it on. Not hald way through it. Just like in life, you can be part of something but stay an individual.
The day after we arrived we sat together around the fire, each one finding its place. I love to cook so I cooked. Others were playing music, singing, talking, it was joyfull, it was magical. We stayed there all day getting to know one another.
If you wonder how the Rainbow works when it comes to food, it’s quite simple. There are two meals during the day, one around lunchtime, and a second one for dinner. That said, it’s hard to tell precisely when, considering there is no electricty and therefore no phones at the rainbow. Over there, you lose track of time itself, I never knew which day it was or which time. It didn’t matter anyway. When the kitchen is ready they yell the first: « food circle », and like a wave in a stadium, people repeats it through the whole camp. A second « food circle » is yelled and finally a third and last: « food circle now! ». It probably will take about an hour after the last wave to have the food served by volunteers. Everyone will then gather in the main area in circles and wait, more or less quietly.
Let’s say that with only the food from the Food Cirles you’ll be starving after a couple of days. It’s highly recommanded to bring you own food and cook it back at your camp. And stating the obvious: pots and pans, bowls and forks. I heard some people complaining about the lack of quantity of the food but the Rainbow works on volunteer labor, no volunteer on food mission or kitchen missions = no/less food = les to eat.
Welcoming people passing by.
After the meals: the workshops. You can attend to any workshop you feel like, from acroyoga, to tantra classes, food mission, making your own beauty products from plants, making bread or chapati,…etc Anf you can also suggest and teach your own specialty, any knowledge you would like to share with others.
The lovely Martin who I met during acroyoga.
Playing around in the main circle.
Irene and Julieta, all smiles.
Togetherness back at our camp.
When the outside world meets the Rainbow it’s like a buble bath that bursts. Someone who was sick before going to the Rainbow was too weak to go down the mountain through the quite difficult path so an helicopther came. This is a reality. If you go to a Rainbow hygiene is a priority number one, if you don’t wash you hands after you go take a dumb in the shit pit (as they call it), or before you eat or your plate, they are chances you might get sick. You can be free spirit and clean. A Rainbow is always located near a river stream. While being responsable of yourself you are responsable of others too and their health. A few cases of typhus happened because of the lack of hygiene. A few dogs run around and the risks of diseases increase.
I don’t want to sound moralistic but it’s important to mention it. The Rainbow can be all rainbow and butterflies, joy, and togetherness but health is a huge part of the whole process.
Circles of life and death occurs everywhere. When I was at the bottom of the mountain a storm came, a tree fell in the Rainbow camp, someone died in a tent. The sick person person that the helicopter picked up past away as well so I’ve heard. But then, a few babies were born during that month in the camp. This is life. Where things ends there are new beginnings. Anywhere without exceptions.
During dinner we ate next to each others in the dark, sitting on the floor waiting for the food to come our way. Food first time! say the kitchen staff and everyone raised their pots in the air, impatient to be served. Sometimes we sang, sometimes we chatted or stayed in silence close to each other to share our warmth. It was cold up there at night.
Affection, nudity, sexuality
At the Rainbow affection is not like usual. It’s not sexualized. It doesn’t mean there is no sexe at the Rainbow, because theres is when the heart desires, it means you can share affection with anyone without wanting something sexual from them, or them from you. This is what I miss the most. This physical and emotional connection without boundaries. In our society, we put such distance between each other, for our own protection, especially women. Simply because genuine affection as we show it as a child, isn’t very genuine when we grow up. As we lose that innocence we expect something. The unconditionnel love becomes with conditions. In the more NORMal world, affection can be misunderstood. If I took the hand of a stranger in Paris, or even an acountaince it will lead somewhere or mislead the person. Not at the Rainbow.
This is the reason why nudity is normal there, people may look, may appreciate a naked body but it’s quite ommon to see nudity, so it’s not sexualized. I have seen countless gorgeous bodies and countless gorgeous souls over there. You just appreciate beauty for what it really is: beauty. Just like you would with a flower or a sunset, you admire it, enjoy it.
Making chapati in the kitchen.
The beautiful Alina as she wakes up, no make up.
The camp was located in the belly of the mountains. They surrounded us in a as far as the eyes could see.
At night we gathered, danced around the fire, nurished by its warmth.
Music for our ears, splendours for our eyes, love for our hearts, connections for our souls.
This is how i experienced my first Rainbow.
I will, for sure, somewhere on the planet, go to another Rainbow one day…soon.
I took only a few photos during my Rainbow, cameras aren’t always accepted, because of the nudity, because of the secrety, because it’s a safe place for people to be who they are. So every single person I took a photo of knew I did. And most of them where my Rainbow family.
Here you can find the Portrait of Alina.
Little Iphone memories