On Friday I finished up my work early and headed out, all my gear in tow. I thought I had packed pretty well - light and smart. Only some thick tights, shorts, tank tops, a hoodie, and my snowboarding jacket to wear all weekend plus my wellies (rainboots) as last year the entire festival had to be canceled due to rains.
Summary of what happened last year: overnight the equivalent of one month's worth of rain fell, completely flooding the campsites and literally washing tons of mud into people's tents, cars, and well, everywhere. Stages sank. People swam to get to places. People lost possessions forever. The third day of music never happened. It was such a catastrophe that people were actually given partial refunds (this never happens in festivals of this size - we're talking 20,000+ people in one spot...that's a lot of money to be made).
Luckily my friends British C and Ozzie L had been there many years in a row and had camped smartly, so their stuff was not only saved from the torrential downpour, but due to Ozzie L's hangover, they actually slept through most of the rain as well (they were in their tent when the downpour happened and then left before the festival was officially canceled). Fortunately their car was spared and they were three spots from the temporary roadway in the parking lot (which is really just a field) so they just drove slowly and carefully and were on their way. Here are some pics of devastation:
Notice the man swimming to the tents on the bottom right picture. Yes, swimming. Btw it's highly likely that he got sick after such a thing because not only did it rain last year it was also fairly cold (got almost into the single digits at night) and well...people are dirty. I'll get to that near the end of the documentation of this camping experience though.
Anyway, we were in much better luck this year. The forecast said only light drizzle for the Saturday morning we were pulling in and the rest was overcast with slight sun and no rain! Whoo! And strangely, for Britain, the forecast actually held.
It was unfortunately drizzling when we got there and had to make camp (a good two kilometer walk through mud, in other words), but we had been warned ahead of time that this trek would be arduous and awful, so it actually wasn't as painful as it had been described. In the end it's all about expectation. And we were expecting it to be a lot worse. British C and Ozzie L had definitely planned well - sleds had been bought (versus something with wheels) to deal with the muddy conditions and we skated to our campsite with ease in comparison to the less experienced teenaged fools who brought things like rolley suitcases (I'm sorry, but that's just not going to cut it when you're in 6 inches of mud).
Once again the decision of wellies was most wise. I've not had to wear mine on too many real occasions (once for when my back patio flooded in San Diego and I had to pail out the water for several hours...maybe a few other times in legitimate rain) and it felt like glory wearing them for a realistic reason. Everyone had wellies. The variety of styles was overwhelming - never before had I seen so many colors and patterns of wellies before...and it was glorious. I thought mine (strangely Indian-patterned...I got them cheap at Payless back in the States for $15 when I was feeling cheeky back in uni...San Diego literally gets one week of rain a year...oddly most girls I know in San Diego still own a pair...something about the novelty of it all...) would be out of place but I was wrong. They ranged from matte blacks and greens to fantastic clear glitter, bubblegum pink with sailboats, even some with rubber embellishments like bows. They even came in different lengths! Ankle-highs and mid-calf. Lovely variations of the traditional. Most people had obviously brought their cheap pairs though, not wanting to bring their all-classy Hunters or otherwise brand-name wellies. Fair enough; basically anything that was brought to this place would later be burned or otherwise thrown away so it only seemed appropriate.
But I digress.
We walked to one of the farthest camps from the arena/festival entrance, the Blue camp. British C and Ozzie L stressed to us the importance of camping away from the festival areas, citing years of experience. Also the advantages of camping upon a hill and not in the valleys. And away from porta-lous (porta-potties, in other words). And away from main pathways. We would soon learn the wisdom of their ways. Time learned lessons.
We soon found our camping spot of choice and set up camp. Nice hilly grassy area, one of the furthest camps from the entrance. The rain had stopped and after camp was set up we got about getting some food and getting about to what festivals are really about: incredible amounts of day drinking and planning which artists we wanted to see and when. Not to mention glow paint and diamantes. What is this you ask?
Glow paint is paint that is reactive under black light conditions. Somehow this had gotten popular in the years I'd been out of the scene. Delightfully creative, British C was all into painting our faces and getting into the festival spirit. She's rather excellent at getting us jazzed up, and actually convinced everyone in the group (two guys and four ladies total, including herself) to get their faces painted. The battle was hard, but eventually won.
Diamantes are wonderful plastic jewels that are applied with similar festiveness. I absolutely loved these, and plan to incorporate them more into my party going as time goes on. Little bit of fake eyelash glue and you're golden (or in this case, sparkly). The effect is fantastic when paired with the glow paint and we were festival ready after some rather creative thinking and patient applying by the crafty hands of British C.
The fun was just about to start.