We slept in the van outside the front gates the night before the festival opened. Our keenness paid off, we were the first in line when the morning started to whir to life, engines rolling as the cars queued. We travelled down the winding road that descended itself into Glenworth Valley, phone reception and reality left at the top. 10000 people flocked to Lost Paradise this year, armed with their deadliest dress-ups and river floating devices to bring in the New Year.
In the mornings we played lounging lizards, lying by the edge of the river that rose and fell with the oceanic tides. The river snaked its way through the festival, its banks lined with campers and their sites. Surfboards, blow up boats, pool noodles; if it floated, it was in the river with a human or two attached. The three days that the festival ran, the tides worked so that the river was full in the mornings. By the afternoons it had lowered its level, leaving its sandy banks exposed, along with the odd straggler who was still holding onto the dream, sunburnt, drunk and definitely drunk perched upon a beached blown up swan.
A hammock was hung in the shade of the trees, and we smoked joints and painted the shells of cicadas that we pulled from the branches above us. We ate fruit for most meals, our modest budget complimenting the sweltering temperature nicely. We did splurge and have one meal at the Lost Feast, a pop-up fine dining tent set to replicate a restaurant experience. People dressed up to enjoy their three-course meal, serenaded by live music playing in the background.
Kate and I had volunteer tickets, our festival experience swapped for our time spent in the Shambala Yoga Tent. Day times were spent practicing yoga, the breeze welcomed as it lazed its way through the white fabric that hung from the perimeter of the tent. The quality of the teachers was amazing, and the variety of classes on offer meant that there was something for everyone. Laughing yoga, ecstatic dance, cacao ceremonies, you name it, if yoga was your jam or even if it wasn’t, there was plenty going on.
We camped next to a lady in her car and tent called Alison. She drove down solo from a town past Brisbane. Every morning we would get debriefed on her evening as she shared her cigarette papers with us, telling of nights spent at the very front of the crowd, scoring set lists band after band. She was probably one of the most stoked people I met that festival.
Night times found us at one of the three stages, an abundance of live acts filling our ears with music and our shoes with dancing feet. A pleasant surprise for me was No Zu, a band I hadn’t heard of before but made a mental note to add to my playlist once back in the real world. An eight piece from Melbourne, they absolutely killed it, combining funky vocals with synths, horns and a chunky baseline that left no body not boogying. Sticky Fingers put on an impressive last show, playing to a crowd that hung on every sound emitted from the speakers.
If the festival wasn’t a wonderland of fun as it was, New Years Eve amplified the whole experience tenfold. While costumes had peppered the festival in the previous days, New Years tipped the whole saltshaker upside down, a plethora of weird and wonderful outfits emptied over the whole site. Everywhere you looked there were elephants or wings or glitter or some sort of fun. A girl dressed in red with tampons hanging from her ears proclaimed, “I’m menstrual blood!” as she passed on by.
Fat Freddy’s Drop blew my mushroom mind, I’ve never seen them live before and I was not disappointed. They lived up to the rave reviews I had heard about their live performance, merging song with song and just jamming so hard to an infectiously fun set. I was solo for most of the set, having lost my sister a couple of hours earlier. The crowd seemed daunting at one point, so I took myself to the river bank and lay on my back, looking up at a tree that faded in and out of colour with the electric lights.
I wandered back into the crowd and came across the mascot for our group, an extremely disconcerting crying baby face, stuck to the back of a painted stick. We boogied down to the freestyle jams, before Flight Facilities came on to finish 2016 with a party. “Let’s make this crowd double decker!” they laughed as people started climbing the shoulders of those around them. In true Flight Facilities form, the vibes were high and the times were good. We counted backwards the last minute of 2016, watching the seconds tick closer as the year folded in on itself. A cheer went up, hugs and kisses were shared, and we launched into 2017 with the highest of spirits.
We woke early on the first and made a beeline for the exit to beat the mass exodus. Our bodies needed salt water and we headed towards Seal Rocks for our recovery. We stopped in at Newcastle on the way where we visited Kate’s boyfriends mum. “Come inside!” She welcomed us warmly at the door, before feeding us solid foods and giving an open invitation to use any of her beauty products in the shower. The water that washed through my hair and travelled down the drain had a definite river-y hue to it (brown), and my fingernails took two rounds of scrubbing before they were clean. “New Year New Me!” I emerged giving my best diva impersonation from the shower and high fived Kate, passing on the bathroom baton, “You’re going to come out feeling like a new person”.
We hit the road feeling fresh, heading north, next stop the ocean. An extremely successful end to the year, and an even more successful introduction to 2017. Lost Paradise was found.