'Sensory overload' for thousands at Gathering

Nelson Mail, 2 January 2001

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They include teachers, lawyers, students and stock market speculators.

Many come from New Zealand's main centres and have travelled long hours to get here.

They all have one thing in common, four days free to party hard, relax in the sun, and enjoy the biggest dance party of the year - the Gathering.

To stay awake through the 72-hour Golden Bay party and intensify the sensory experience they sip energy drinks, and coffee, pop pills - some legal some not - and take regular dips in an ice-cold river near the event's massive campground.

Illegal drugs are commonplace and it's hard to find people who aren't using either cannabis, speed or ecstasy - some are even admitting using all three. However, there are people who are enjoying the experience without drugs.

It's Dunedin medical student Clayton Connolly's third Gathering and he's loving every minute of it.

"It's a sensory overload," he says of the variety of people, food stalls and seven dance zones that pump out loud throbbing music non-stop throughout the party.

"It's this psychedelic carnival atmosphere."

His friend, Amanda Wiersma, a 19-year-old marketing student is enjoying her first Gathering. She particularly liked the hypnotic techno music, spectacular night time light shows and the event's no-alcohol policy.

"It's really out of it and I love it. It's just bringing lots of nice people together and getting out of the alcohol scene, there's no violence and no aggression."

Also enjoying the Gathering is pre-school teacher Angela Atger, 21.

She was at last year's Gathering when it was evacuated due to bad weather. She's glad she gave the event a second chance and would like to stay forever but has to return to work on Thursday in Christchurch.

Taranaki newlyweds, Nikki Davey and Pete Phillips, say the Gathering is the best place for a honeymoon.

Mr Phillips, a fitness teacher, and his wife, a teacher, said their first Gathering experience had proved beyond their expectations.

"It's just awesome. There are no police, no alcohol, no aggro. It's in an awesome setting with beautiful loving people," Mr Phillips said.

Auckland photographer Nick Jenkins, 23, said the best thing about the Gathering was it did not end at 6am on New Year's Day.

He will be one of the thousands partying hard until midday tomorrow, when the event closes.


Caption: Photo MARTIN DE RUYTER BIG BUBBLE, NO TROUBLE: Emma Wallace of Hawkes Bay, left, and Jackie West from Melbourne blwo some big bubbles at the Gathering on New Year's Day. Photo MARTIN DE RUYTER TRANCE: Fiona Richards, Right, and Monalisa Codling dance in the trance Zone. Photo MARTIN DE RUYTER WOK A SHOPPER: Rob Franklyn uses a very large wok to prepare food for hungry dancers. Photo MARTIN DE RUYTER HAPPY TO BE HERE: Dancers at the Gathering

Mariam El Orfi, Nelson Mail, 2 January 2001

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