Gatherers hit the road for party of the year
The first group of bleary-eyed Gatherers crowded into Nelson SBL Coaches' Bridge St terminal this morning, ready to travel to Upper Takaka and the dance party of the year.
Revellers from as far afield as Auckland, Dunedin and Canada boarded the first bus, which left Nelson at 7.20am.
Catherine Clayton-Smith, 17, from Dunedin, and Camila Salazar, 16, of Christchurch arrived in Nelson at 9.30 last night. They got up at 5am for a quick trip to the hospital for Ms Clayton-Smith to have an eye infection seen to before they boarded the bus.
While a little jaded, the pair were excited about the 72-hour event.
They said it was the first time they had been to the Gathering, and they had come well prepared with wet weather gear, insect repellent, poi and "lots of bubbles".
Wellingtonians Kirsty O'Hara and Esther Small, both 19, climbed aboard the bus brandishing super-soaker water guns.
They were unconcerned about the likelihood of rain. "If it rains, it'll just cool us off," Ms O'Hara said.
They said they arrived in Nelson two days ago, and had been "mellowing out" at a camping ground.
"It's going to crank. We love dance parties," Ms O'Hara said.
Canadian Trish Pearce, who has been in New Zealand for a month, said she decided to go to the Gathering for something different to do, as she wanted a good time at New Year.
Bus driver for the trip, Steve Monro of Nelson SBL Coaches, is into his fourth year of carrying Gatherers to the event.
"I'm well and truly seasoned. I absolutely love it," he said.
He said the passengers were always in a good mood, and he was looking forward to the easier access to the new Gathering site at Upper Takaka - an improvement on the 10km dirt road the bus had had to negotiate in previous years.
Staff at Nelson SBL Coaches have been frantically taking bookings from hundreds of keen partygoers.
Operations manager Nigel Smith said the company planned to take 40 busloads - about 1800 people in total - to the event.
Caption: Photo COLIN SMITH ARMED AND READY: Water gun-toting Kirsty O'Hara (left) and Esther Small, both 19, of Wellington, chat in Nelson this morning before boarding the first bus to the Gathering.