If Lagos is where Brits go to blackout and enjoy their youth, Silves is where Brits go to blackout and enjoy their twilight years.
Since Sarah and I are not retired Brits or Portuguese mountain men, we really had no business being in Silves and we never would have got there if it weren’t for 1957 hippie truck house calling our name. Actually it called Sarah’s name. When I saw the weird bus with a weird picture of a weird woman sitting in its weird “dining room” I said, "nope," and continued my airbnb search.
Yet Sarah insisted we stay there, so we made a reservation, they accepted, I was kinda pissed. My faux-hippiness has a hard limit, and hippie buses on a hippy commune are way past that limit.
After a drive through a winding mountain road, we arrived and were greeted by the hippy kingdom owners: a pair of British ex-pats Jason and Kaye. Jason was a stocky, soul-patched bloke and Kaye wore a tapestry as she just finished skinny dipping in their lagoon.
We were shown our “home,” the hippie bus named Shambhala (after the mythical Tibetan kingdom of pure Buddhist land). Upon trying to open the house-truck door, Jason accidentally ripped the door knob off. Once we got in, we looked at three barely single size beds that were just behind a narrow, non-operational kitchen. We lied, “These look great...” before Jason told us those were his childrens' beds, and pointed us toward the “master bedroom.” In the family room there was a tree-trunk table, surrounded by a bench. The table doubled as a step up to the “ master bedroom” which was positioned over the truck cab. It really was a beautiful creature and our first set of accommodations that didn't require house keys, due to the fact that it was situated in the middle of nowhere and there was no keyhole in the door.
|Shambhala interior. Pics of ATVs and their specs provided by Jason's son when he was 5|
I’d like to say that everything got Fucking. Crazy. Man. as I chased Jason through the hills on a road bordered with steep drop offs that made me feel like I was on an insane roller coaster. But really I death-gripped the steering wheel at 10 and 2 as I tried to shadow his late 80s Ford Fiesta as he burned through the mountains while I rode my brakes.
After we all survived and made it to the bar, Jason made his royal entrance, strutted up to the bar and asked for a “extremely large gin and tonic.”
Curious how one comes about owning a 1957 gypsy bus, I asked Jason how the Shambhala came into his life.
“It’s quite an interesting story actually,” he said.
Well. I imagined it would be.
“I knew I wanted something different in my life, but I wasn’t sure what it was. I was looking online and I stumbled upon the listing for the Shambhala which at the time was called ‘The Ritz’ and was being sold by a fellow named Rob Romaine.
“I told my wife we were flying to New Zealand to get it. While I was there I happened upon a gypsy fair in New Zealand. I saw this guy selling tickets for children to enter a mini matchstick mansion where kids can step in to see rats running around. The matchstick mansion owner wore a bowler’s hat with three mice running circles around the brim (note: maybe my favorite character detail of all time). I had a feeling it was him, so I said ‘Rob Romaine?’ He confirmed it was him. I told him I wanted to buy The Ritz.
“He said you don’t want The Ritz, you want this one, referring to another custom-made bus-home with a crankshaft that opened a cocktail bar.” (note #2: in my head I’m picturing some kind of hippy-alcoholic transformer.)
Jason insisted he wanted The Ritz and shortly there after it was his.
The rest of the night was spent talking to Jason’ gang of retired British ex-pats, many of whom told me the bought their house based on how accessible it was to roads that didn’t have DUI checkpoints.
Once you’ve retired, your house's location really should be predicated on drinking-and-driving accessibility.
Every Brit in attendance was wildly liberal and conversations ranged from hate on Bush, to hate Blair, to hate on Halliburton. Jason was like a newly-converted liberal who just discovered the internet as he kept citing YouTube videos and “things he read in an email” for his sources.
Somehow I swung the conversation to Concorde jets, and Thom (I’m not sure if that’s how he spelled it, but let’s assume he had a proper ‘h’ in there), the most talkative Brit in attendance gave me a lengthy rundown of his experience riding in the supersonic airliner.
His explanation included a reenactment of the afterburners firing, in which he got all the sagging skin on his body to jolt back, while he sat in a patio lounge chair. Clearly this was not his first time delivering this reenactment.
It was also at this point that Jason’s butter cracker kicked in, so Thom’s tale of riding a Concorde was the most fascinating thing ever.
The guy who ran the bar was named Kev, a half-Irish-half-Tanzanian former Hell’s Angel, who Jason described as looking as if he’d been chewed up and spit out. Jason’s description was rather apt.
Although he had the body of a 140-year-old, I’d guess Kev is somewhere in his 60s. Somehow his wife is a cute looking girl that appeared to be in her 20s.
I never got her back-story, but I really would love to know the home Kev's wife came from.
A Far From Death Experience
The next day Sarah and I hiked through the surrounding hills. After three hours we realized we had little clue where we were as each hill looked identical and they were all just tall enough that you couldn’t see more than two hills away.
We’d stayed on trails, but switched trails many times over. Because I’m a huge pussy who is far from being an outdoorsman, I began to freak out a bit in my head.
In case you're not convinced that I was a pussy, here's what was in my backpack while my mind was starting to race:
- A working cell phone
- Cherries and almonds
In case you're still not convinced I was/am a pussy, consider this fact:
- We had seen the house in the distance from a hilltop 40 minutes prior to my worries.
Despite knowing all that, my anxiety increased after I ascended another hill only to not be able to see any semblance of our homebase.
I began to do that whole “God, if you let me live, I’ll…” but I quickly realized the situations weren’t that dire at all.
Twenty minutes later we found the correct trail back and within the hour we were back in Shambhala. Best of all I didn't owe God shit.
Back at home after my not-so-near death experience, I talked to Jason about life, drugs, and travels. Jason told me that all you need is enough money for food, drink, and travel, and seeing how happy he was, he sold his point well.
When the subject of financial savings came up, Jason shook his head and contorted his face into the physical definition of bewilderment, “Pfff. Savings?! Why would you?!”
|Just hiding, not hunting|
It took me a bit to realize that we were staying at a summer camp, except we were the only campers. He had a pedal-power go kart, a concert venue, outdoor kitchen, roundhouse, saunas, fire-burning baths, teepees, fiji style hut.
At night the stars were so close it looked like you could reach up and grab the little dipper.
Our airbnb guest review from Jason and Kaye reads:
"Lovely guests.who totally "get" what its about to stay here.They actually turned up on my birthday and were able to come and celebrate with me.They left Shambhala spotless.like they had never been in there.Really hope to see you again soon"I think my parents would be proud.
Jason and Kaye's kids grew up living in Shambala and attending any festival they could navigate the bus to. Having been to 1.5 festivals in my life, I was always fascinated by the little kids surrounded by the weirdest (and arguably lowest) form of humanity. One day I'd like to make a documentary on festival-raised kids – and by that I mean I'd like to watch that documentary since I will never make a documentary in my life.
Unfortunately I never got to talk to any of Jason’s three kids, which is exactly why I need someone else to make this documentary for me.
Jason said that at the festivals, Kaye would sell arts and clothes, while Jason would juggle fire. That got me thinking about Jason's résumé and how truly awesome it must be.
He also told stories about the mini-festivals they’ve hosted at their own house, which featured an anecdote about one hippy losing her pair of dentures.
Jason then segued to a conundrum he’s having with his 13-year-old daughter, who like most teenagers – and first-world humans – is becoming interested in clothes and material items. In order to get his daughter's values back in focus, Jason is moving the whole family to Sri Lanka for the next six months.
What's going to happen to their property while their gone?
Don't worry, Jason already has plans for a spiritual dance troupe to watch the house.