AROUND 2 PM we made it to the unsealed road. From there we rattled along nonstop through a cloud of dust kicked-up by those in front.
We could see how far we'd climbed when hills were revealed low on our left, sporting fangs of rock or clipped olive afros. Beyond and lower, the Tasman Sea, smiling, covered by a careless spray of clouds.
We knew we’d reached The Gathering when a man abruptly appeared in the middle of the road and directed us to swing right into a pasture.
On a slow pan across the windscreen, it bristled with tents and vehicles strewn to middle distance trees, and was mobbed by a confusion of colourful humans moving in all directions like confetti caught high in the wind.
Excited, we cheered our first sight of an orange-doored Portaloo, the camper stereo playing Placebo, the lyrics entirely in keeping with our mood: A friend in need’s a friend indeed, a friend with weed is better . . .
The Gathering was an alcohol-free event - no mention made of other substances - which really meant, as everybody knew, bring what you want but keep it hidden, otherwise we'll confiscate it for one hell of a tear-down party after you've all gone home.
To scrounge for this yellow-jacketed security guards searched vehicles. We bounced along to one. He stepped up to the driver's window, took one rueful look in at us packed like a Peruvian bus in the back, and waved us on, inspection done.
Next was a long line of tables where the ticketers waited. Here we got armbands and unloaded, and here we said good-bye to our benefactors, who drove off to our many thanks and waves.
They left us at the head of the main camping area: a large tract of open grass, hourglass in shape. It was hedged in on all sides by hillocks covered with ancient beech trees and some other topiary: squat and cauliflower like, with a muddy green foliage.
Their unshaped concentrations cloaked the downs in prehistory, as if at any moment a Moa might come crashing out of the brush, its splayed three-toed feet flying, and I found myself on a slow spin, with deep breaths, vibrating to the savagery like a tuning fork struck.
A state near hysteria, fed further by the impress of lime fields, blue sky, bright light, warm sun; by the din of distant music and the hundreds of vehicles and thousands of people in free-flow in front.
"Oi, Izzy! Come on, bro."
I snapped out of my trance. I saw my friends had set off. I hastened to follow, picking up my suitcases - yes, suitcases. It was time to find a camp spot and get ourselves baked.
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