I'm not a big party-goer, so the last place I thought I would find myself spending the final few days of the year was at a music festival notorious for binge-drinking and riots. However, my freakishly persuasive best friend Tayla managed to wheedle me into joining her for a crazy four day bender. She was only back from studying in Abu Dhabi for a whirlwind 10 days, so I captured our road-trip adventures on film as a little memento of our mini summer together.
Tayla and I reunited in the parking lot of her apartment building, quickly scurrying upstairs to soak in the view and discuss our new, somewhat 'adult' lives in new cities over sparkling gin and tonics. She presented me with so many lovely Middle-Eastern gifts - foil-wrapped dates, stuffed with almonds and coated in dark chocolate; a small bottle of authentic Arabic perfume with a shimmery golden lid; a thin, white cotton dress with a tie around the middle; a small golden lamp on an intricate dish reminiscent of that which a genie would reside in; and two jars of assorted dates from the markets in Abu Dhabi. After this photograph was taken we headed out to dinner at a Japanese restaurant called Mr Miyagi, where we shared the most delicious pumpkin tempura sushi and crispy seaweed salad.
On our way to Gisborne we stocked up on the essentials - a cheap airbed at a dollar store that smelt of warm plastic, followed by a flask of gin at the bottle store next door (Tayla's drink of choice), and some old $5 blankets and something warm for her to wear from a musty thrift store. At the supermarket I filled my basket with peaches, plums, and other summer fruits, as well as bag of floury ciabatta buns, some bottled water, and a flimsy plastic bag of raw nuts, while Tayla armed herself with apricots, lemons, pears, an assortment of drinks (tonic water and a gleaming bottle of wine), and a bag of peanut brownies.
We wove through changing landscapes for over three hours - from rugged coastline highways shaded by outstretched tree canopies, to weaving bush-lined gorges. After a few wrong-turns and a thrice-repeated playlist, we parked up in the converted paddock alongside hundreds of other cars, and set about making some avocado ciabatta rolls in the boot of the car. Nothing tastes as good as camping food!
We arrived just in time for sunset. I watched crazy revellers dance atop their cars and swig from an assortment of coloured glasses, while I myself threw on some gold glitter to get in the festival spirit. That evening Yung Lean, Peking Duck, and RL Grime were playing, so I spent four hours in the mosh pit, somehow managing to get front and centre. I emerged at midnight with bruised ribs and aching legs, but beaming having had the best seat in the house!
The next day we rose with the sun, having had an incredibly broken sleep thanks to the revellers next door and their booming voices carrying on throughout the night. Of course, this was to be expected, but there's nothing quite as irksome as the cause of your sleeplessness. Nevertheless, after a quick snooze in the car and a breakfast of avocado-stuffed ciabatta and fudgy cookie pies, we set out to find a decent cup of joe. Our endeavour was a success - we found the most lovely cafe tucked away on the second floor of a bookstore, complete with a creaky staircase and shelf upon shelf of science books (my favourite).
While aimlessly driving around we stumbled upon this gem of a beach called Sponge Bay, just south-east of Gisborne itself. We were looking for somewhere to swim, but instead decided to sit on a log and admire the towering cliffs and foamy surf. The ocean was a sparkly cyan - we could barely believe our eyes. Among other treasures, and a bed of egg-shaped stones, I found a perfectly sliced rock. It was a magical place.
Blue skies days turned into beautiful pink, still dusks, which bathed the sea of tents and rubble in a speckled golden glow. The campsite we stayed in was absolutely crazy! It was a storm of crushed beer cans, plastic water bottles, half-torn tents, and soggy towels. I made sure I kept all of my belongings locked up in the car the entire time, as I knew once I lost something in the sea of shrapnel there was no getting it back.
The music began in the early evening, set amongst rows of food stalls and crowds of psychedelically-costumed revellers. My favourite sets were right on sunset, when the stage would be illuminated in natural light and things weren't too hectic.
In the mornings, we spent many hours sat in laundromats; reading books and watching the rain fall outside while waiting for the timer on the machine to read 'zero'. My jeans were well and truly destroyed from the mosh pit, and needed a good ol' rinse on more than one occasion! We sat in the warm room, Tayla nibbling on a mango, for quite some time.
The gloominess outside was calling for something a little more substantial than the peanut brownie cookies and endless amounts of chocolate-covered dates, so we stopped into a little seaside diner on New Year's Eve. Tayla ordered a scoop of chips and a banana fritter for us both. The woman at the counter was cheery, and the room was full of others tucking into paper platters piled high with an assortment of fried food.
Something about that afternoon felt very Brighton-esque to me - knitted jumpers, drizzle grey beaches, and mounds of greasy food straight from the bubbling frier. I love the misty horizon and the shards of driftwood peppering the beach, and Tayla wearing her $8 thrifted ski-resort jumper. You'd never guess it was the middle of summer!
I spent the last afternoon of the year driving the girls around. Tayla hacked into her suspiciously heavy and gelatinous watermelon, which they devoured within a few hours, while I purchased a swirly iceblock at the service station as a small thanks for the attendant allowing us to use their bathrooms. When we returned to the festival, I spent most of the evening sat on the hill in front of the main stage, watching Angus and Julia Stone perform and the drunken crowd ambling about.
I didn't actually make it till midnight on New Year's Eve - my impending cold made my head feel stuffy, and after losing Tayla in the crowd and being jostled by drunken people waddling around for a good hour, I decided to call it a day. I returned to the car, downed a bottle of water, curled up in my sleeping bag, read by wind-up torchlight, then dozed off for an hour. I awoke at 12am to a rainbow of firecrackers washing the car in squealing colour. I certainly didn't indulge in any typical partying behaviour, that's for sure! Regardless, it was a wonderful way to see out the year, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
All images in this set were captured on a Olympus Mju Zoom film camera.
Rhythm and Vines - a three day music festival set amongst a sprawling vineyard.
Just out of Gisborne, New Zealand's eastern-most 'city', and apparently the first place in the world to see the sun on New Year's Day.
From the 29th of December until New Year's Day, although you can arrive and set up your campsite the day before.
The line-up was apparently 'down-sized' from previous years, but still included some amazing international acts such as Angus and Julia Stone, Sticky Fingers, Yung Lean, and RL Grime. In previous years acts such as Tame Impala and Calvin Harris have played.
- Bring a car charger -you'll need it! It's a whole lot easier than lining up for the charging stations in the festival, or having to sneakily plug-in at a cafe.
- Prepare some good music, particularly if there's just two of you. That way when the passenger wants a nap, the driver will still have something to keep them entertained.
- Paper towels - they will never let you down. Whether it be mopping up spilt watermelon juice, or dabbing gold glitter from the dashboard of your car, they are an essential!
- Stop frequently. Whether it be at a gas station, cafe, or even a beach, take breaks and enjoy the scenery.
- Bring sunglasses - just do it! Trust me!