By Ryan Child
By 9pm we were back at the Vortex, lying flat in the geodesic dome, listening to Etienne and Jesus playing the gong. It was Christmas Day and the third or fourth wave of Mescaline was upon us like a triangular teddy bear with rainbow tinted Aviators. A final, colourful change in costume for a matinee performance of comedy, drama and astounding beauty.
It all started when I remembered the Crunchy Nut Cornflakes back in my tent, sat in their orange box next to a foil wrapped fist of coffee and two pints of Halib (Milk). With arms full I approached the campsite, which was already full of everyone else, singing “Cereal Killer” lightly. The cactus was ready so I took a beer, shut my eyes and listened to the cracking metal like the sound of familiar voices.
“Looks like Santa brought a North American present,” said Canadian Jack, a North American. He motioned for one of the Danish boys to rip the brown paper from a hamper basket. Inside were jars of peanut butter and jam, along with a couple of loaves of bread and biscuits. We ate some and packed the rest to eat when the sun set on the beach.
For now the sun was still up so we left the camp in twos and threes and headed for the coast, 4km through the city of Mgarr, up onto the cliffs and down into the bay. On the way we stopped by the Church and ate at the local Pastizzi place. The whole town watched from balconies as we sat in the square, eating 30 cent Pastizzi’s and drinking beer. When you eat the St Pedro Cactus on your way to the beach, bread and pastry products help to hide the sandy, bitter taste of Mescaline. A beer helps as well. From the church our procession, ranging in age from 20 to 40 years, moved along gravel roads to the sound of drums echoing from either end. Lizards darted off the hot road into shaded brush, and for once the sound of hunter’s shotguns didn’t ring out in the air. In the North of Malta there are rarely birds in the sky but this year on Christmas they flew above us, floating on the energy, like they knew guns were taking the day off. I looked up, smiled and took a pee next to a dry stone wall.
“This is fucking Awesome,” Jesus said, standing next to me.
“Really?” I said. “I do this at least three times a day.”
He was right, though. And it got even better once we found the beach.
On the map of Malta this bay has no name. It is cut off from Gnejna Bay in the North West of Malta by an outreaching cliff and platform of clay that sits 20 metres into the Mediterranean. Perhaps it has no name because the only way to reach it is down through a corridor of dried mud, a triangular indentation that twists to give you a view of the ocean before turning back into itself before the sandy finish. When your toes hit the sand a deep breath of sea air crosses your face and swirls up and out towards the rest of this little island. We were at the front, facing mother and her sea like kids on Christmas. After an hour of guitars, drums and walking it happened. Looking north, while playing catch with one of the Danish boys, the son of a preacher, the cliff edge fell away and tonnes of rock tumbled to the bottom of the bay, filling the air with a terrible crash and covering the beach below. The power was extraordinary. Then it happened. The sun began to set like melted egg yolk in a purple dress. I watched it on the sand, reflected on a canvas the size of lapping waves, the beauty of the sun re-drawn by the ebb and flow of the moon.
“I finished my cactus,” shouted an American, but I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. The purple of the sky was deeper than the Princess’s mattress, swallowing the orange pea into the horizon. The waves came further onto the beach now and the reflection was more brilliant, fuller somehow. Out of nowhere Jesus came to sit next to me and we talked about political systems and how there is probably not a good way to control more than 100 people. The alternative to capitalism, communism and the rest is localism. To keep things small and simple and just produce what you need.
The water molecule at the top of the biggest wave has been a trickle in a stream, a drop of summer rain and a human’s tear. More than 70 per cent of our molecules are made of water and have been here since the dawn of life. We are so old, and I suppose you just have to decide if you are going to be a tsunami or a puddle. Chances are you will be both. But remember that water was never meant to be the shape of a plastic bottle, or anything else.
It suddenly got cold but luckily Colorado Bill had collected a pile of driftwood so I helped him make a campfire away from the sea, and the music started again. The cliffs are black silhouettes now and I realise that they have all been shaped by the sea. That the world around us is what we make it.
It is around 7pm and feels like time to leave. I follow Jesus back up the twisted cavern. He is holding a drum and using a Didge to balance his other side. The climb is exhilarating because of the darkness and the risk of another mudslide. At the top we decide to stand for 10 minutes and look over the bay. The wind is blowing hard and I stand on my own. Then it happens. The cloud starts to brighten and a star begins to form deep within. The light shines brighter and brighter until it bursts out into the sky. “Did anyone else see that?” I scream into the wind. “Yeah” Nathanial the American replies as he runs up to me.
“That was fucking amazing,” we agree, watching the back of a Ryanair plane coming into land at Malta Airport. If you look with the right eyes you can see the best in anything.
We walk back in twos and threes and we all know the way back. We may have seemed lost to passers-by but that is only because we have a map they do not.
This generation is healthy but we are not interested in the road you are on. We are not lost, in fact, just going a different way.