To read the tl;dr version of my time at R&V click here
As November slipped into December, I realized that I still had no plans for New Years. Every city in New Zealand has it’s own celebrations, usually fireworks over some body of water. I’ve seen plenty of fireworks in my life, though, and wanted to do something a bit different this year. So after a little research I found a festival called Rhythm and Vines that happens over New Years every year in a vineyard in Gisborne. It has the added bonus of being the first place in the world to see the sunrise of the New Year (allegedly.) What more could I want?
So, I bought a ticket for the festival and rented the last remaining camping option, the ‘Eco-tent’, as all of the hostels/hotels/motels/other camping options were already sold out. Then the bus tickets both ways, which ended up with me having to go there on one company and come back on another because most of the busses were sold out too. This is what I get for not planning ahead.
December 28th finally arrived and I packed my bags and ran down to the bus station after work. Nearly five hours of winding roads and freezing cold a/c later and I was there. Well, almost there. I got dropped off at the i-Site and then (as the shuttle busses didn’t start running until the next day) had to catch a taxi to the actual venue. After getting through the bag check line and then the ticket check line, I found that no one actually seemed to know anything about these eco-tents. Where they were, how they worked, who was running them. I spent a while wandering around as darkness crept over the vineyard. I saw some cardboard boxes with variations of “so-and-so’s fuck house” scrawled across them. “Well, that’s one way to camp I guess,” I thought as I trudged along.
Eventually I came to find out that the cardboard fuck houses were actually the eco-tents I had been searching for. And they were first come, first serve. It seemed for a while I was going to have to kick someone out of their box to take it for myself, but eventually someone that knew what was going on made his way out of the shadows (where had he been this whole time?) and showed me to some more boxes in a different camp on the other side of the venue. He gave me some markers, so I drew a smiley face and some scribbles on the front of my box cave to claim it for myself and then crawled in.
Inside it was dark and the air was stale, and after batting around for a bit I found a light hanging from the roof. The solar light was the saving grace of the entire living-in-a-box scenario. It was the only thing that made me feel a little less like I was living through a ghost-of-Christmas-future-esque “this is what happens when you decide to go into the arts, you get to live in a box” nightmare. Also provided were a small map and set schedule glued to the wall.
As I had already wasted all of my evening searching for my tent, I decided to just call it a night and wake up early in the morning to get my bearings. I woke up bright and early to the sounds of teenagers with no volume control screaming to one another as they stumbled past (starting their day drinking at 7:00am, truly dedicated to living the full party life.) As the light flooded in, I realized that there were giant cracks around the door flaps to my box and so used my scarf to create a makeshift door curtain. After changing I crawled out of my box to see the campground in the daylight for the first time. It was actually quite nice, with vines covered in grapes running above all of the tents.
After giving up on securing any of my things (if someone really wanted anything they could just pop off the stapled-on roof and take it. Thankfully no one ever did) I headed out in search of food. I got a bratwurst and then went looking for things to do. I walked around each campsite and eventually realized that there was absolutely nothing interesting to do until 2:00pm except eat. So I went to the ticket counter and gave up another $40 so I could get a 3-day shuttle bus pass. No one seemed to know when the bus was coming or going (no one working there having any idea what was going on seemed to be a theme at R&V, but at least they were all very nice) but eventually come it did and I was on my way back to Gisborne.
I took a walk by the beach and then headed to the library to charge my phone (no where to charge anything at the festival, except at the Charging Station, which costs $7 per charge.) After a bit more wandering around the town, I got back on the bus and tried to decide who all I was going to see that afternoon. I was expecting actual bands, but almost every act I saw for the entire festival was some sort of electronic dj-set type thing. I guess it is just a product of me apparently being actually 80 years old that I thought there would be bands with instruments and stuff. It would seem that that is not hip with the kids these days. Eventually it was time for the main act I came to see, Chance the Rapper. I, naively, thought it would be fun to make my way to the middle of the GA to watch the show. It very much was not and I slinked my way back out very quickly and found a nice open spot off to the side of the stage.
Chance was great and full of energy as always. Other performances over the weekend were interesting as well, but nothing that really stuck with me as something I needed to get into once I left the festival. But as with any festival, it is always cool to listen to bands you might never have seen live otherwise. Given that I wasn’t trying to see anyone else in particular, it was nice to just wander around and listen to parts of sets and then move on to something different. I will say that I definitely should have done some more research on the musical acts before hand, but I still had a good experience nonetheless.
When I wasn’t meandering around the festival trying to understand the music of the youths, I spent my time exploring Gisborne. I went on a great farm walk out to the east, up the range of hills. It was host to some seriously stunning views of the area (as well as lots of farm animal friends that stared at me as I went by.) It was a relatively easy 3 hr hike, though at some points the directional signs were a bit lacking. I also stopped by the local museum, which was actually much larger than I was expecting from looking at the outside. It was mainly centered around Maori culture of the area, with the downstairs floor dedicated to maritime sports and the ships that have sunk in the area (including a life-size recreation of the front [I don’t know ship terms] of part of one of the ships, which you can walk through.) There were some nice green spaces and of course the beaches are beautiful, but I don’t know if it is a city I would need to spend more than a few days in.
For New Years Eve I was at the festival, hanging out with one of the girls I had met that was actually my age and her friends. There was a highlight-reel countdown followed by a lackluster firework show. As I planned to watch the sunset from the beach, I headed off pretty early into the next DJ’s set so that I could take a 1hr nap, pack up all of my stuff and head to the shuttle bus. The last shuttle bus ran at 6:00am, but I took the 4:00am one because I imagined the later ones would be packed and I needed to be in town by 5:30am to catch the sunrise. I walked to the beach closest to the i-Site, set up my camera and waited for the sun.
It was honestly one of the most beautiful sunrises that I have ever seen. It started out pretty lame, but then as the minutes rolled by more and more color burst across the sky. Watching the change from darkness, to pink flames streaking across the sky to full on light of day was a wonderful way to start the year. I know everyone complains about ‘awesome’ losing its meaning, but I have to say that this was a truly awe-some experience.
Shortly after the sun made its way up into the sky, my time was up in Gisborne and I had to head back to the i-Site to catch my bus. The ride back was not terribly enjoyable given that the driver was going incredibly quickly down the winding roads, causing the bus to sway back and forth. I don’t normally get carsickness, but my lack of sleep + food had my stomach weak. Thankfully we eventually stopped in a café and I was able to grab something to eat. Things were better from then on out and I was able to enjoy the rest of the ride back to Rotorua.
The entire R&V/Gisborne experience was not at all what I was expecting, but maybe that made it the perfect way to ring in 2017. I’ll just take it as a sign of the surprises (good and bad) to come.