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The Cape Of Good Dope

Smokin Moose

Fallen Cannabis Warrior
South Africa's Homegrowers' Cup

A short time ago in a land far, far away, some people got together for the important business of finding out who among them grew the best weed.

One of the great blessings of living in South Africa has always been the abundance of good, natural grass. Weed--or "dagga," as it is commonly known in this country--is widely used by many members of our diverse population and numerous varieties are available on most street corners in nearly every city. It is undeniably intertwined with the lives of millions of our people.

The strains are often named after the region they are grown in, such as the world-renowned Durban Poison, Swazi, and Malawi Gold. South Africa surpassed Mexico a few years ago as the world's biggest producer of marijuana. The sheer quantities in circulation make buying by weight a non-issue for those copping less than a kilo. The smallest quantity usually sold is a "stoppe," a wrapped square of paper holding 1 to 3 grams and costing 1 or 2 rand (10 to 20 cents US). A weekend probably calls for a "bankie," which is a plastic zip-lock bag containing about an ounce. For this we pay R50 (US$5). If the green is for cooking, a party or a weeklong surf trip up the coast, we would more than likely buy a "parcel," which is usually about 100 grams wrapped in a sheet of newspaper and costs about R150 (US$15).

When buying for resale, one kilo of export-quality herb should not cost you more than R1,500 (US$150). These are city prices. If you make the mission to the Transkei or Swaziland during harvest time, it is not unusual to buy a 5-kilo sack of fresh juicy heads for R1,000 (US$100)!

How you get it out of there is your problem, however. Dagga is a massive industry in our country and puts food in the bellies of many otherwise poverty-stricken families. Our police force generally has more serious crimes to deal with, and as a result it is a fairly free, uncontrolled society in which we have to play. As long as one remembers that weed is still illegal, and does not sell or transport large quantities--or fall victim to bad luck--this has got to be one of the easier countries to be a toker in.

So, until the influx of uber-grade skunk seeds that were brought or sent home by our countrymen traveling in Europe, there wasn't really any reason for us to grow our own weed. It is only over the past three or four years that I began to notice plants in the back yards of friends. I know of very few indoor set-ups; why grow indoors when you have eight months of solid sunshine a year?

Those that are trying to grow are having amazing results. Have you ever seen what happens when you put a skunk seed, designed to go full cycle in 2-3 months, into the rich, fertile African soil in November, and then harvest it in May? The results are truly awe-inspiring. The most successful are those strains that have been hybridized with an African variety. One friend managed to get 5-6 kilos of superior-grade skunk off just one tree! I have seen pictures of him having a picnic in its shade, and when he finally cut it down, it had a stalk as thick as your leg. My growing partner managed to get 1.3 kilos of donkey-cock-sized heads of Northern Lights from a plant put in the ground in December and harvested in April.

This truly is the land of plenty.

It was this environment that spawned the idea for the first annual Cape Homegrowers' Cup. The seed was planted at the beginning of the season, November of last year, and the competition to see who could grow the nicest herb was officially on.

When the time arrived we had 10 entrants, with 18 different strains to test. Among them were three different Northern Lights strains, Hawaiian x Malawi, Durban Poison, Swazi Skunk, Fijian, Purple Haze, California Blueberry and White Dog.

We left Cape Town on a Friday afternoon during one of the first big storms of the winter. The venue for the event had remained secret until the night before, and then only released to a trusted few, who led about three different convoys. Each had a lead car, which was clean and in cell-phone contact in order to minimize the chances of having a run-in with the men in blue. As we got past the mountains that border Cape Town on the one side (the ocean borders the other) the weather lifted, and a full rainbow appeared across our path. I took this as an omen of us being in for an awesome weekend, and immediately got down to rolling a fat spliff of my own entrant, cranking up Bob Marley on the stereo and letting the irie feelings of anticipation flow. The drive wound its way through ever-changing and intriguing countryside, and we landed at our destination a couple of hours after leaving the city. We touched down well and truly toasted.

The setting which hovered in front of our eyes was perfect: a bush camp of bamboo and thatch huts set on the banks of a swollen river. The main area had an indoor fire and a warm, inviting feeling. We were among the first devotees to arrive, and immediately noticed the baskets full of weed on each table, with Rizlas, grinders and lighters begging for the creation of spliffs to begin. Needless to say, we wasted no time in getting right down to it, and soon felt right at home.

As people arrived, their entrants were logged, put into plastic bags and numbered, the identity of the grower remaining secret to ensure fairness. There were, of course, a couple of latecomers (when is this not the case when ganja is involved?), so we ate supper and then set up the judging table. By 11 PM everyone had arrived, about 35 people. The diversity of the group was awesome; we had surfers, actuaries, information-technology specialists, journalists, advertising execs, traders, artists, professional stoners, bankers, young and old, all here for the same reason: The love of the herb and the appreciation for what it is brought to their life.

Judging that first night was tough, as we had to "weed" out at least half the strains. The 18 strains were laid out in numbered bags along one long table at the front of the room.


We had four pools, with the winning two strains in each pool going through to the semi-(conscious)-finals on Saturday. The criteria for judging were: appearance, smell, taste, curing, strength and clarity of high. Each were rated on a scale from 1 to 10. Obviously it was damn near impossible to rate the last two categories (strength and clarity of high) when so high already, but the judges did their best. This stage definitely had more to do with the physical attributes of the strains than the metaphysical ones. The evening was a blast, and we soon realized that the level of competition was going to be very high indeed!

Saturday morning arrived, and we awoke to the call for the morning spliff, which set the pace for the day very nicely. Over a wonderful breakfast, the totals from the night before were tallied, and the eight strains that made it through displayed. After everyone had eaten, a judges' meeting was called.

The semifinals were now underway. There were eight appointed judges, divided into two teams of four. Each team had to test four strains over the course of the day. Armed with a magnifying glass and microscope, each team had one designated roller to ensure consistency. The 10 strains that had not made it through the first stage of judging were now public property, meaning the rest of the attendees were free to help themselves. And they did.

The gluttonous non-judges devoured a delicious ganja cake, and the farm was filled with groups of super-stoned and happy adventurers wandering around wondering. For extra stimulation there was a petting zoo with goats, an ostrich and a nursery of a few-day-old calves to interact with, as well as an unbelievably frightening adrenaline swing. This had everyone shrieking with fear and exhilaration. At base camp, the two teams of judges were taking their task very seriously, scrutinizing every aspect of each plant. The weather was fine and mild, causing a few brave souls to catapult their stoned bodies into the river from purpose-built swings with the hope of clearing the head. A joint-rolling competition was announced, and people began work on their creations.

In the evening there was a screening of the Cheech & Chong classic Up in Smoke, which still managed to bring on ridiculous laughter even after being watched hundreds of times. After a delicious dinner of traditional South African potjie, which is basically a stew cooked slowly in a big cast-iron pot on the fire, we were entertained by Mantis, Cape Town's most renowned graffiti artist and a brilliant musician, performing a set on his acoustic guitar.

The score sheets for the day's judging were then collected, and four finalists announced. The losing four were again set free among the throng to be smoked and appreciated. A huge bonfire was made, and we sat around under the full moon listening to great reggae and the sounds of nature. By this time those left standing were as high as they could possibly get. Another shitty day in Africa!

Sunday morning and into the finals we went. The four finalists were all marvelous and had made it this far for quite different reasons. We had a Hawaiian x Malawi with tight, well-cured heads, very smooth on the throat, which gave a nice clear high. Then there was the Durban Poison, which was very impressive to look at, especially under the microscope. It was covered in a thick frosting of crystals and was super-potent; it kind of kicked you in the side of the head as soon as you inhaled. There was also a very sexy Northern Lights strain with nice thick heads, looking very healthy with its solid layer of dark-orange hairs. Delicious is the only way to describe her taste, and she gave a wonderful uplifting high. The fourth finalist originated from a seed brought home from a surf trip to Fiji. It had tight, compact heads covered with sticky resin, and possessed an amazing minty aroma.

All eight judges judged each strain, but remained in small groups so they would not be able to influence each other. It was down to fine-tuning and extreme scrutiny. It became apparent very quickly that there were two firm favorites that were neck-and-neck in the race to take honors.

The weather was sweet, so final judging took place at the tables next to the river. The natural light really brought out the beauty of the plants; crystals shone and sparkled in the bright morning sun. The judges were feeling the pressure, and had to put all their concentration into this final, tense stage.

As soon as they were finished, score sheets were collected and taken for counting. Between themselves, some of the judges had even called a draw.

Everyone gathered for the prize-giving, but first, various other awards were handed out for such things as: "Caner of the Cup," "The Hungry-Lungs Award," "I Love My Job Award" (for the most eager judge), as well as prizes for the caterers, music-makers and logo designers. Everyone who attended the event received a Cape Homegrowers Cup T-shirt. The winners of the joint-rolling competition were divided by categories such as engineering, artistry, club, ladies, "thanks for trying," and of course, best-smoking. All prizes were weed-related and included pipes, grinders, incense, hemp bags, CDs and more.

The prize for the "Most-Desired Herb," which was another awesome NL variety, was a one-year subscription to HIGH TIMES.

The moment we had all been waiting for was now upon us--the announcement of the winner of the first annual Cape Homegrowers' Cup. In fourth place was the wonderful-tasting herb from Fiji, scoring an average of 48 out of a possible 60 points. In third, and voted nicest smoke, was the Hawaiian x Malawi, scoring 50.5. The grower received a soapstone chillum from India with "CHC 2002" inscribed into it. The gap between first and second was incredibly close, with one scoring 52.75 points and the other 53.95.

And the winner is... (drum-roll please)... Dave's No6, the crème de la crème Northern Lights strain that he had been cultivating for the past three seasons. The potent Durban Poison came a close second. Second prize was a beautiful glass bong in a presentation case with "CHC 2002" engraved on it, a chillum and a CD donated by African Dope Records. First prize was a truly unique trophy of a bud, carved out of soapstone, a green jacket with the CHC logo and a "Master Grower" badge on the front pocket, and a copy of Howard Marks' book Dope Stories, autographed: "To the winner of the first Cape Homegrowers Cup--Howard Marks."

Our master grower, Dave, was beaming from ear to ear with pride as he stepped up to receive his prizes and don the green jacket.

Finally there was a raffle, the prize being a mixed bag of samples of all the entrants, with Dave pulling the name out of a hat. The winner was stoked, and stashed the swollen bag tightly away in his pocket. He has not been seen since.

After the ceremony people floated around, blissfully enjoying the afterglow of the weekend and the high THC content of their blood. All in all, the first annual Cape Homegrowers' Cup was a resounding success, and I personally cannot wait for the next one

Story by Tony Bud
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