Amsterdam, Netherlands • July 2015 • Length of Read: 8 Minutes
“You know that old cliché about falling in love with a stripper?” mumbled Jake as we awoke, sweating in the bunks of our houseboat cabin.
“Yes,” I replied ominously.
“Well, it’s not like that, but I think Nikki genuinely liked me.”
“Bullshit,” chimed Dave.
“No, seriously guys. Why don’t we go back today and I’ll prove it?”
“For two reasons,” I interjected. “One – she won’t even recognise you. Two – I don’t have another €60 to splash, and neither do you.”
“Fair enough,” he reasoned, coming to some sense.
Climbing up the flimsy staircase, and onto the deck, we could tell it was going to be a scorcher. Despite the sun yet to reach its highest point in the sky, the temperature was already well above 30 degrees Celsius. What better a day to lounge around and sample some of the city’s culinary delicacies then?
Hopping on a tram, we stole a ride to Vondelpark. Situated to the South-West of the city, this is the Dutch capital’s largest expanse of open space, and 10 million visitors per year use it to play sports, walk their animals around the nature trails, and relax on the grass next to grandiose water features. This chilled-out environment also makes it the ideal place to take a trip of the psychedelic variety as well.
Entering a nearby Smart Shop we were welcomed by a stereotypical Dutch guy, tall with slicked-back hair. The pristine white décor and sanitised smell gave the aura of a pharmacy, but we knew that most of the inventory on sale in this particular branch would likely lead to disciplinary action were they to be prescribed by a medical practitioner back home. Beneath the glass casing of the counter which the man stood behind were a plethora of hallucinogenic and psychedelic substances. A jubilee of drugs which would make any stoner think they had died and gone to stoner heaven.
“We are looking to get some magic truffles please,” requested Jake.
“Have you had a trip before?” asked the gentleman.
“Okay. For you guys, I would recommend the Mexicana variety. This is known in South America as Flesh of the Gods and, although the mildest, still gives the user a vivid colour perception and intense laughter.”
Noticing that the next strength up was called Dragon Slayer, we nodded in agreement. I didn’t feel quite up for attempting to tame a mythical beast and save the princess just quite yet.
“Perfect. We’ll have three packets please.”
“No problem. Now, I always suggest that users eat them on an empty stomach and avoid alcohol consumption for the duration of their trip. Most will start to feel the effects within one hour of consuming the truffles, and an average trip lasts from four to six hours. If you do start to have a bad trip at any point, then just take some sugar. This will neutralise the effects and bring you back down.”
“Thanks, man,” we chimed in unison. Wandering out the air-conditioned shop, and back into the sun, it felt like we’d just gone through the process of purchasing a new phone than of a substance marked as illegal by the British Government.
Locating a supermarket, we stocked up on yoghurts, chewy candy, and electrolyte sports drinks, before heading through the park gates. Nearly every blade of grass was covered by picnic blankets and rugs, as every person and their dog (literally) seemed to have had the same idea as how best to take advantage of the glorious weather. We meandered along the crisscrossing pathways and around the park’s two main ponds, before eventually finding a secluded shady spot under a large oak tree. Taking in the surroundings, and making ourselves comfortable, the distinct smell of weed drifted across the breeze. Dave put on his holiday playlist, cracked open the packets of truffles, and we eyed them up with disgust.
I hadn’t had anything to eat since biting into a nuclear hot slice of pizza the prior night, but the tiny, hairy, brown roots in my hand were doing nothing to fulfil my appetite. I stirred them into the yoghurt, scooped up a large spoonful, shoved it in my mouth, and immediately started to gag.
It was what I imagine chewing mouldy tree bark to be like, mixed with the taste of raw cabbage. After just three mouthfuls Dave was vomiting into a nearby hedge, but by some miracle Jake and I managed to swallow them; grimaced expressions glued on our faces the entire process. Once each packet had eventually been consumed we chatted away in nervous anticipation, the intermittent gulps of water doing little to wash away the taste.
The first thing that struck me was the leaves on the trees bursting out in density and colour, zooming straight into focus like someone had just flicked on a ‘high definition’ switch in my retinas. My gaze then shifted upwards as the fluffy clouds puffed out like white paint bursting on a baby blue canvas. The grass under my body spiked up on its end, trying hopelessly to lift me up into the art show above, as the trees waved and clapped on their brave effort.
“Look at that,” Dave elated, pointing into the sky. “A lion’s face and mane.”
Sure enough, like daylight star-gazers, I too saw it formed by the clouds, until its roar was drowned out by a plane tearing through the misty mass and leaving nothing but a rippled jet-stream in its wake.
“How cool is it to think there are 300 or so people sat up there travelling at hundreds of miles an hour and heading thousands of miles away?” mused Jackie. He’d turned into a true modern day philosopher.
“Sick man. Holy shit, though, look at that pigeon.”
I had been lying flat on my back, but in re-adjusting my position I’d lifted up my head slightly and locked eyes with a suspicious looking bird. It glared back and refused to break the gaze as if it were saying ‘I know what you’re up to, and I approve.’ I immediately burst out into hysterics, the tears rolling down my face hidden behind my sunglasses. The ‘laughter’ trigger of the truffles had clearly been pulled. Whilst I attempted to subdue this uncontrollable laughter streak an old man walked his dog past and a grin rose on his face. A second round of the giggles started. “He knows what’s up,” I whispered indiscreetly to my pals. “He definitely knows.”
Around the time we were reaching our maximum highs, a group of stacked 6ft+ Dutch guys used their T-shirts to set up goal posts on the grassy clearing we were overlooking and challenged some other dudes to a game of football. With a large number of female on-lookers, the testosterone was running almost as high as we were. Bare-backed slaps were dished out for each well-timed tackle or pass, and group hugs were the norm every time there was a score.
“That guy is so built,” blurted out Jake. “I mean, just look. He’s massive. I’m going to start going to the gym again. That’s certainly some end goals right there.”
Dave and I looked at each other with genuine concern. Was Jake about to come out?
Before we could take this line of thought any further though we were again distracted. This time however so was everyone else in our part of the park, high or not. A woman came by walking the fattest dog imaginable. Its stomach hung so low that you couldn’t even see its legs, and she was pulling a stroller behind her. The dog was so heavy that it had to be wheeled to and from the park before and after its exercise. Satisfactorily amused we turned back to the game of football, and in the time it took them to play the whole second half the dog had still not waddled from sight.
Glancing at my phone I realised that three hours had elapsed since we’d first swallowed the truffles, and I was starting to need the toilet. There were some portable toilets only 100m away, but when I suggested to the boys that I was going to venture off they looked at me like I’d said I was about to attempt a summit of Mount Everest.
“There’s no way you are going to make it man,” said Jake. “Look how far away that tree is.”
“What, the tree right next to the toilet?”
“Yeah,” said Dave, pausing Don McLean’s American Pie, which had been on repeat since we sat down.
“God, you’re right actually,” I found myself agreeing. “That tree is pretty far away. I’m never going to make it.”
In the fear of wetting myself for the first time as a grown adult, however, try I did. I made it across no bother at all, and whilst taking a piss began to wonder what all the initial concern was about. Wanting to get back to our little haven under the tree as quickly as possible, I’d sprinted across the grass like I'd been racing against Usain Bolt. As I began my return journey, however, I became consciously aware of how high I actually was. Feeling like I was floating across the ground like a ghost, and anxious to act normal, I decided to copy the movements of the man next to me who was walking in the same direction. I mirrored his hasty footsteps until I reached the boys, delighted at how I managed to complete the journey with no issues.
“Please tell me you were doing that deliberately?” guffawed Jake through fits of laughter.
“Doing what?” I said, genuinely confused.
“Walking as slowly as possible and taking the piss out of that guy beside you who was clearly as high as a kite.”
“Shut up! I thought he was walking normally so I was matching his steps.”
Four and a half hours after we first felt the effects, the truffle magic eventually wore off and we returned back to reality, with its greying skies and dim foliage. The entire experience was absolutely brilliant and provided me with a host of new perspectives and ideas. They say money can’t buy happiness. Well, for €12.50 I was the happiest person in the world on that Friday afternoon.