Free Flowing Joy

The Bear and I went away on the weekend. By ourselves. No kids. To a music festival :).

Luckily, we didn’t know how good it was going to be, otherwise we would have killed ourselves with anticipation over the past two months. Instead, we fought, argued and bickered over the cost and arrangements right up until the day before.

Two months ago, our friend Mick heard about The Gentlemen of the Road tour that his favourite band Mumford & Sons were putting together. It was in the same month as his 40th birthday, and they were having a music festival in a little town called Dungog, only 4 hours away. When you live where we do, 4 hours is close. Of course, he was busting to go, and wanted us to come as well.

A week before the festival, our friends decided to go to the free party the night before the festival started. We decided not to go – it was already a big ask for our Guardian Angel to look after the kids for two days and a night, and it didn’t feel right to ask for more. The Bear read the terms and conditions of the camping arrangements and found out two days before that our friends wouldn’t be able to save us a campsite because it was first in first served, no reserves.

At about this time, I sat down with myself and gave myself a festival mantra – Freedom, Flowing, Joyful. I didn’t want to worry, I didn’t want to hurry. I decided to take no food and no tent, just a bed in the back of the car. I wanted this weekend to be free of the normal domestic rituals with which my life is filled with at home. So I surrendered my worries to the Universe, lit the candle in my heart and trusted it all to work out.

free flowing joy

The next day, the day before the festival, I saw my friend Beth where she reminded me that her Mum lives in Dungog, walking distance from the festival – she had rung Beth several times and offered us the use of her spare room – and did I know that there were 11000 tickets sold, and 2000 camp sites? Not quite the intimate gig I had in mind, and definitely not the kind of camping I was keen on doing – 2000 camp sites in a paddock with 50 porta-loos? I rang Beth’s mum Lorraine and hooked it up that afternoon. Something tight in me unfurled and I breathed a sight of relief. It was going to work out, I knew it was.

Strangely, the Bear was also starting to get excited. We printed out maps, packed our bag and made the bed in the back of the car. We were off!

“Can I come too?”

If having kids has taught us one thing, it is that the holiday starts as soon as we get in the car. The journey is of no less importance than the destination. The playlist was sorted on the mp3 player (a delicate matter between the two of us – I tend to like roots, blues and alternative pop, and the Bear loves big guitars, wall of sound and dark lyrics). So, we agreed on YouAmI, Florence and the Machine, Sarah Blasko, The Church, Dandy Warhols, Nick Cave, Regina Spektor and a few alternative roots and pop compilations.

We had to stop here for breakfast. There is just something so alluring about Marilyn on a stick and a Pie Map don’t you think? Actually, it was a pretty good breakfast, except that they completely forgot to make the Bear’s meal. Hey, what’s a small oversight at the beginning of a road journey?

Marilyn on a stick
And at the centre of all things, is the pie

There was a big bush-fire front sweeping through the state – by the time we got to Dungog, just after midday, it was 38°C with a hot wind. We met our friends at a crowded pub in the middle of town with people spilling out onto the pavement. It’s a big deal for a town of 2500 people to get 11000 people visit them for a few days. Driving past the campsite, on our way to check out where we were going to stay, with 2000 tents baking in the hot sun and police patrolling on foot, bike, horse, van and with sniffer dogs, we just felt lucky.

The police weren’t just at the campsite either. Getting into the festival without being apprehended required a purity of body, mind and soul that not everyone possessed:

An intimidating presence
Mmmmm. You smell nice!

It’s a funny thing, a festival. It’s mostly a young person’s game. Lining up for a ticket so that I could be served alcohol, I was told I didn’t need identification. Probably 2/3 of the people there were much younger than us – standing out in the by now 40°C baking amphitheatre that is the Dungog showground didn’t seem to bother them much.  Us? We found a shaded spot under the grandstand and stayed there until nightfall :).

Sheltering under the grandstand

There were a few ways to keep cool:

Keeping cool under the sprinkler
Emergency! Call the fire brigade – we’re too hot!

And all kinds of drinks available.

Vote 1 Mushy Tea Party

We absolutely loved Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and Mumford &  Sons. With the first blast of their intensely hyperactive sound, the Zeros had us up and dancing. Mumford &  Sons were just phenomenal – their poetry, musical ability and stamina just blew us away. Although with another unfortunate reminder of our age, we had to go and sit down before they finished playing because our feet and hips were giving way :). Ha!

Thanking Beth’s mum and the Angels again, we were able to have a shower before we went to bed: filthy feet, our bodies coated in dust and grass stuck to sunscreen and sweat, we felt unbelievably gritty.

Check out our luxury accomodation:

Bed! Sweet Bed!

And most happily of all, we had the whole of the next day to get home. We sat on Lorraine’s verandah, early, watching the platypus create circular ripples in the pristine river that runs below the house, the blue wrens flicker around the undergrowth, sipping a cup of tea and chatting.

Tea and map drawing with Lorraine

Breakfast in Gloucester, a beer at the Harrington pub, a quick shop-stop in Kempsey and we were home.

Those two days and a night away were better than any medicine. Everybody needs a circuit breaker, a departure from the mundane. We travelled through country we had never seen before – and when most of our time is spent moving through familiar territory, the unknown is truly therapeutic.

It must have been because even when both the passenger and driver’s side doors broke (mysteriously I was the last to use both of them) requiring me to clamber over the driver’s side to get in and out, and discovering I had locked the house keys inside the house when we got home…none of these little incidents bothered us for long :).


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