This is a tale that I absolutely love to tell. But don’t be fooled, it is a true story. A true story of how crazy 20-year-olds can be. I bet that when I become a mother I will be freaking out about my kid.
After three weeks in Sydney, we went to Melbourne. I was happy to move on, but the fact that Melbourne doesn’t quite have great beaches was bothering me. The heat was really intense that summer of 2007. So, after checking out the nearby St Kilda Beach – and not being satisfied, as my beach standards are very high and St Kilda had dark sand, was too crowded and too urban – I decided I had to go somewhere further. Phillip Island and Lorne, after my online research, were the finalists.
So I woke up on December 29th, 2007, and quickly packed my faithful backpack with a change of clothes. Although we might not spend the night; actually, we had decided on Lorne as we could go and come back that same day. Oh yeah, my roommate, Ania, decided to join me really last minute: she woke up while I packed, asked where I was going, and so she jumped out of bed to join me. Spontaneous gals, you know?
You have no idea.
After a train ride (or two), we were on a bus – directions given by my aparthotel concierge – and that’s where our story begins: the ride was full of hippie-partygoers carrying sleeping bags (that looked like were likely not going to be used). It all smelled like too much fun (and a little bit of alcohol) for us to miss. Ania and I grinned at each other like: is this a sign? How on Earth are we, worldly known as party people, supposed to miss that bash? A bus clubber told us where they were heading: Falls Festivals, with headliners Kings of Leon and Groove Armada.
I voiced it out: ‘Ania, you do know there is no way we’ll miss this, right? Let’s just figure it out how we’ll get in.’
So we got to Lorne and looked around. An interesting character was sitting on the beach, wearing khaki shorts and a blue t-shirt with psychedelic circles on it. He was wearing ray bans wayfarer, had blond messy hair and was probably on his 20s, half smile on his face. Looked like the perfect informant. His name was James. ‘Are you going to the festival, James?’ ‘Yes’. ‘Do you have tickets?’ ‘No.’ ‘How are you getting in?’
Casually, he said: ‘You can enter through the bushes.’
In front of us was the sea; behind, a large green, mountainous area. The forest.
James drew us a map. Madness.
The map was a scrawl, without any detail. ‘The beach on one side, the festival on the other. The forest beside the road’. He said we had to get a ride and ask the driver to drop us off a mile or so before the festival entrance. Then enter the bushes as far as possible from the road, as security guards would be on the lookout. Getting caught would not be cool.
We tried contacting the organizers for free tickets (as we would), but no luck. It was late, and media credentials had already been analyzed and delivered. And even if we wanted to pay the $200AUS, we couldn’t. It was sold out. There was no other way: we’d have to use James’s tactic and go through the woods. We went to the supermarket, bought a bottle of Smirnoff and some cookies and put everything in my backpack. I had worn a pair of leggings and a T-shirt. Ania had nothing and wore shorts.
At some point, I lent her my dress to wear as a skirt and protect her legs from the jungle cuts and bites.
It was not an easy path with a trail. We had to cut our way through tall trees and shrubs; it was a wild forest. We spent 3 and a half-hour walking; got scared by a passing-jumping wallaby (cousin of the kangaroo) and I became desperate. We were lost and it was almost darkening.
At the beginning of the walk, we were finding it all very funny. Where were we getting into? A Brazilian and a Polish, far from home, in the middle of a forest near a beach that no friends had ever even heard of, arriving at a festival that seemed to be famous, but only for Australians. We crossed paths with several people on the way – there were a lot of people going underground like us – but no groups wanted to be followed, for fear of being caught. And my group was just Ania and me.
After two hours of walking, we came to the conclusion that we were lost. The music seemed to come from one direction, but when we walked to it, it seemed to come from where we came from. I was exhausted from walking and carrying my backpack with a good 10 pounds on my back, and things heated up between us. I was following her sense of direction, but that seemed to be always wrong.
Then we found a group of about five Australian surfers, and they kind of directed us. But soon we were lost again. I still could not be sure if we were on the right track until we found another boy, a bit lost too, who said that the festival parking lot was right ahead but he wasn’t sure if it was safe to enter. He quickened his pace to go check. We sat and waited a bit, but soon decided to continue walking, since we thought he would not come back. But he did!
We ended up getting in with 3 more guys that already had a support car waiting for them. We sat for a moment with them, drank some water, and thought better of what to do next.
Everybody was setting up tents, but we were totally unprepared. Luckily the vibe was that of festivals – everybody loves everybody! We met the forest surfers, and they offered us their car to sleep, plus made us fake bracelets to access the shows. Amazing!
I think that was my first real festival, and I absobloodylootely fell in love with. The cycling-powered juice blender stand, the 20 thousand people jumping together for Groove Armada, the open-air shared showers, the community living vibe… freaking awesome!
We already had NYE plans, all paid for and with the rest of our group, so we had to leave Falls Festival on December 31st. On the bus leaving Lorne, I looked back with a bittersweet smile: I wish I could stay, but I am can’t believe it all happened. A traveler’s real voyage. A wonderful vacation life.