Beneficio: How I Might Have Smoked Opium in a Spanish Hippie Commune

In the summer of 2015, I moved to Spain to gather my thoughts and put my plans for travelling the world and working online into action. Shortly after my move, a good friend of mine came to visit me from Finland. As soon as he arrived, we rented a car and set off on a small road trip around the southern state of Andalusia. We didn’t have much of a plan, but we had a vague idea of the places that we wanted to visit. One of these places was Beneficio, a secluded hippie commune that was first settled over 30 years ago.

Beneficio is located in a valley in the Alpujarra mountain range, about an hour away from Granada. To get there, you have to drive in direction Orgiva, a very traditional Spanish town in the mountains. Once you reach Orgiva, you follow the road towards Cañar until you see dirt road with a few old RVs and cars on your left. The dirt road leads to Beneficio.

From what I had heard, Beneficio was the real deal when it comes to hippie communes. Located in a valley with two natural water streams, Beneficio has a real community of about 200 inhabitants, many of whom grow their own food and are completely self-sufficient. Some of the people living there have been there for decades and have even raised families there; others stay for a shorter period of time.

We arrived in Granada in the early afternoon and immediately made our way to Plaza Nueva to see if we could talk to some hippies and get some information about Beneficio. Granada has its own big hippie community that largely lives in caves in an area known as Sacramonte. In the evenings, the hippies walk down to the centre and gather to drink, smoke weed and share in each other’s company.

The first hippie I spoke to was Austrian and had come to Granada in 2008 and lived in a cave on the mountain ever since. He passed his joint around, explaining that the world is “going to shit” and that he’d rather stay away from it all. When I asked him about Beneficio, he went on a rant about how it used to be ‘legit’ but has since become much too popular and full of “wannabe pseudo-hippies”. Another hippie, a guy from the US who had overstayed his European visa by 3 years, disagreed and told us that we should definitely go and check Beneficio out.

We spent some time hanging out with the hippies, talking about Beneficio and how to get there. After a few joints and some very strange conversations, we finally decided that we should head to Beneficio before it gets dark. We headed back to the car and drove off in direction Orgiva. After a few wrong turns and getting lost in Orgiva, we finally found our way back and followed the road towards Cañar. Just like the hippies said, there was a dirt track on the left with a broken down RV. We followed the path to a parking area where more RVs were parked.

By the time we parked our car, it had gotten pretty dark, making it near impossible to find a place to set up camp. We decided that we’d sleep in the car and set out to discover what we could of the hippie commune. The first thing you see when you arrive in Beneficio is a huge teepee. We had been told that this was a meeting point for the commune, but it didn’t look like anyone was going to meet there that night. There was also a large board that displayed important information and a list of rules. Drinking alcohol is forbidden in Beneficio, but we had heard that drugs, especially weed, were very common.

We followed a path between some trees that led up into the valley. We were in the middle of the mountains, it was pitch black and all you could see were flickering lights coming from people’s makeshift homes. As we cautiously walked along the path, we could hear music coming from the distance. We continued on the path until we came upon a group of people sitting in a circle on the ground. At the head of the circle sat a guy with the longest dreadlocks I have ever seen. He gently strummed on his guitar, singing soft tunes as the others sat silently, listening. He turned to us and told us to take of our shoes and have a seat.

We sat and chilled by the fire, listening to the dreadlocked man play and sing. With dreadlocks down to the ground and a Jamaican twang in his accent, I wondered where he was from. I overheard two French girls say that he was German and had been Beneficio for more then 20 years. After an hour, the hippie in the dreadlocks pulled out what looked like a bong and starting filling it. Everyone in the circle started passing around snacks and the odd joint. Soon enough, the bong had made its way to me. Unlike usual bongs, this one was thin and long and didn’t need to be relit as it made the rounds. I hesitated for a moment, but then decided to just go with and took a puff. As I inhaled through the glass tube, two older men carrying a strange looking guitar sat down and asked the dreadlocked hippie whether they can play. The hippie nodded and the two men began strumming and Mongolian throat singing. The entire situation seemed surreal and I could feel my head getting lighter. The bong made another round and I took a couple more puffs. This time it hit me properly and my head started spinning. The darkness, the flickering candles and the Mongolian music made it feel like I was part of some cultish exorcism rather than a happy hippie commune. My mind tripping like crazy, I turned to the dreadlocked hippie:

“Man, where the hell did you get this weed from? This stuff is pretty intense.” 

The hippie looked at me and laughed.

“Brother, that wasn’t weed. That was Opium! Some of the best shit you can get around here”.

He packed up his guitar, stood up, wished me a good trip and walked off into the darkness.

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