El Dorado

               By the time I made it to El Dorado festival at Eastnor Castle Deer Park in Herefordshire (didn’t even know this was a place until that weekend, and neither did most of my peers.  “Hertfordshire??” They’d say. “No, Herefordshire.  It is a county. By Gloucestershire.”) I was completely festival-ed out. My first of the summer had been the end of May (Virgo in Exeter), and since then I had been to Bulgaria for Meadows in the Mountains, broken in to Glastonbury (think less “broken in” more “paid-someone-£125-to-slip-me-a-wristband-and-then-I-had-to-give-it-back”) and the couple weekends cushioning these festivals were spent getting pissed in South London for various reasons (does one even need a reason to get pissed..?).  I feel like a spoilt child even coining the phrase “festivaled-out” but I am just being painstakingly honest about my frame of mind at the time.

            I booked the train to Bristol, and my best mate and I were to drive to the site together after making various pit stops on the way.  I arrived at Paddington and was mildly disappointed there wasn’t an M&S in site- my favourite part of a train journey from Waterloo or Victoria is splurging on outrageously priced sandwiches and chip-sticks from M&S.  Perhaps it just wasn’t in my view- either way I wasn’t walking to find it.  There was a Burger King strategically placed in the middle of the station, and I’ve recently obtained a mild addiction to fast food chicken burgers.  I ordered myself a Whopper and some nacho cheese bites (In all honestly I’m not sure what deluded me to do this, as the chili cheese bites are the bang bang) along with some ketchup and garlic mayo sauces, some fries and a fanta (my fast food fav).  Grabbed my bag in a rush, boarded the train, and the BK lady had only gone and bloody forgot the sauces (outrage!!).  The Whopper was disappointing at best- why didn’t I go with my breaded chicken burger??, and the nacho cheese bites tasted like feet (if this was possible).  I’d never been so disappointed by BK in all my life, and needless to say I actually haven’t gone back since (even after my 4 week binge of eating 1-2 BK meals a week).

            I arrived in Bristol, and Thomas whisked me away in his mum’s metallic blue Mini.  After our many pitstop’s and his morning/ half-afternoon at work he was very eager to get there.  We hit a bit of traffic which was met with loads of huffing (on his part) and I tried to make light of the situation by blasting old-school garage.  At around 6:15 pm we arrived onsite.  Tom packed most of our things on top of me like a bucking bronco, and he grabbed the rest.  We went through security, managing to smuggle in more booze than allow (how naughty), and somehow not obtaining a wristband upon entry (we had to go back half an hour later for this, common first year mishap).  Our tent had already been set up by Tom’s lovely mate Tristan, and the rest of the Bristol gang were rather merry due to their 11 am arrival.

            We changed clothes (i.e. Tom put on his sunshine yellow and orange Adidas jacket and cowboy hat, I put on my Barbie girl cosmic fur hooded coat) and we were on our way.  Smuggled a Guinness in to the festival site (naughty number 2) and danced to Collie Buddz to start off what would be one of my favourite weekends of the summer thus far.

            I’m not one to follow a Festival line-up.  I find it much more rewarding to go along with whatever group of people I find myself with- I tend to have a good time whatever environment I’m in as long as I’m not sleep deprived and / or someone is about who kills my mood.  We bumbled about exploring the festival for the rest of the evening, stumbling into various tents and eventually making our way back to camp at around 4 am.  Once back at the tent, the small crew we had assembled melted (quite literally) and Club Tropicana was officially born.  At Club Tropicana drinks are free, fun and sunshine there’s enough for everyone.  It became a notorious after-hours spot where the bouncers visited us regularly to confiscate our Mini rig’s (yes, plural). On Sunday morning we had our last one taken at 7:30 am, and were told they would be ready for collection at 9 am.  We stumbled down to the Mini-rig prison and Betty declared, only slightly sheepishly, “We are here for the speakers.” They nodded knowingly and handed over a pile of 3 speakers rather reluctantly.  We had been on our second final warning for around 26 hours at this point.

            It only escalated when on Sunday morning there was meant to be an “inflatable party”.  My new friend, and honorary founding member of Club Tropicana, Tom (another bloody Tom!) had brought an inflatable boat with him. Genius.  We spent 20 minutes at 10 am after no sleep, in the baking sunshine, blowing up this boat.  Dizzy headed and giddy, we grabbed our giant badminton foam bats as oars and headed for the water.  There was a crowd of around 5 people on the banks of the small pond, and 2 other girls floated on their inflatables.  We got in and pushed off.  We spent a good while realising our foam badminton oars were not the most effective, but had a friendly game out on the water.  I jumped in at one point, and was greeted at 2 feet deep by smooshy, sludge and promptly re-boarded the boat. We managed to paddled to the bank and Betty boarded with her blow-up boombox and we set sail once more.  The security waved us off all smiles, how deceitful as only a minute later they were yelling at us to come back ashore. “It’s too dangerous!” They said. “If others see you in the water, they will all flock to it!” (How unappealing we actually looked, teamed with the fact I was 99.3% sure no one else had brought an inflatable boat).  The best line was “These waters haven’t been tested who knows what kind of shit (literally) you are swimming in, or what you’ll catch from it!”.

            “We’ll risk it!” We shouted back.  They weren’t pleased. “We’re going to have to call security.” They said.  The only downfall of the whole festival was how stingy these security were.  Confiscating speakers, forbidding us from yachting on a warm summer’s day.  The outrage.  Eventually we managed to paddle ashore, however reluctantly.  We picked up our boat and took it where it was appreciated- back to Club Tropicana.  The remainder of my Sunday consisted of wearing a child’s inflatable ring around my midriff and meeting the most wonderful people.

            Sunday evening I saw Craig David live- and that was a truly amazing moment for me. He sings (like an angel), mixes (surprisingly well) and raps (ehh.. good effort though Craigy D) all within minutes of each other, 2 usually layered together.  DREAMY.  Set me off for the rest of the evening.  I ended up driving a new friends BMW around the car parks once the music had stopped and we blasted Now that’s what I call Music number 49 and watched the sunrise. I eventually drifted off into a sleep to be woken up by Tom nudging me and noticed all our campsite had been packed up and I was sleeping on the blow-up mattress out in the open with everyone staring down at me.  Thanks guys, I’m not sure if I ever really did.  Couldn’t find my purse, so found a ride home in my BMW’ed friend Alex’s car way later that afternoon at which point the girl in the back said “Is this your purse?”. Classic rookie error, but at least I got a comfy ride home.

Thanks El Dorado for a fabulously wonderful first year.

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