Rhythm of the Rain

Christchurch Press - 8 January 2000

For Generation X'ers, The Gathering was the millennium party not to be missed. With up to 10,000 revellers descending on Takaka Hill the predictions of mayhem were rife until the rain began to fall and fall and fall... Press reviewer Sharon McIver was among the wet bodies warding off hypothermia with constant movement.

So where were you when the clock ticked over from one millennium to the next? It is a question that we're likely to be answering for the rest of our lives, so with this in mind I took myself off to one of the few places - and the only one with more than a dozen people present - where I could imagine myself being able to forget about the hype and hoopla associated with the big event, and just enjoy.

The place where a year ago I had discovered a love of camping, a love of dance music, and most surprising, a love of New Year - The Gathering.

I imagined spending that unavoidable nigt blissfully circulating around the seven dance zones, finding just the right sounds to match my mood, and combating the effects of extended dancing by taking in an outdoor movie.

Just before dawn I would make my way to the peaceful tribal zone where I would watch the sun come up to the primitive beats of hand-made drums.

How very different it was. December 31 dawned wet and bloody miserable. A collection of tents, portaloos and dirt tracks lapped by widening pools of water and the rain showing no signs of letting up. I was struck by the irony of the situation. All the organisation in the world (and The Gathering was very organised) is no weapon when the gods get bored by our self-obsession with mortal time and decide to amuse themselves at our expense.

Strangely, though (or maybe because) my New Year celebrations were so vastly different to how I had envisaged them, I suspect that they will hold even greater significance over years to come.

When the music stopped shortly after midnight - which only seconds before had been pounding out of each of the main zones - I initially wondered if, in a truly perverse fashion, the Gathering people had decided to celebrate the moment with a minute's silene, but the real reason soon became clear.

And when it did, it sent a shockwave of recognition from the top of my rain-drenched head right through to my mud-encased toes. The promised midnight surprise was a beautifully performed karakia and waiata broadcast through all the speakers.

The poignancy was tangible - here in the midst of one of the most beautiful areas in the country at the most talked-about moment of time for decades (past and future) was a reminder of the importance of the land.

And the land itself was putting paid to any grandiose man-made ideas of self-importance.

As I left The Gathering a day early because of the rain (eventually the whole party wound up with the mass evacuation of more that 300 muddy people in various stages of exposure [see note 1]) I experienced a simiar sense of self-awareness as I had the year before. But whereas last year's experience had been about freeing inhibitions and simply enjoying the moment, this time I came away with a heightened sense of insouciance and a wariness of doing battle with circumstances completely beyond my control.

In the future, when asked how I spent the first minutes of the new millennium, I will be reminded of just how insignificant in the greater scheme of things human beings really are.

As for The Gathering, all the rain in the world could not put me off, and it remains at the top of my list of things to do this time next year.

Sharon McIver, Christchurch Press, 8 January 2000
Photos: Jim Tannock, Nelson Mail

WebEd's corrections

note 1

This is inaccurate reporting. Approximately 300 people left The Gathering site on January 2 on buses, as they had always planned to do. We provide a bus service between both Nelson & Motueka and The Gathering site for people who do not have their own vehicles. This year, around 300 people chose to use that service. They were not evacuated and the situation was never an emergency, they were simply leaving.

We took 40 Gatherers suffering from mild hypothermia to Motueka Salvation Army hall where they were checked out by St John Ambulance staff, and given food and warm clothes before being taken to Nelson College for the night. We took these Gatherers off the hill BEFORE their situation became serious.

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