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LetsCampOut at The Lost Party!

A little sunburnt, with blistered feet and a satanic flu, but nonetheless happy – I returned from a new camp-out music festival in the Sahyadri hills, called The Lost Party, held this past weekend. Invited to stay by LetsCampOut, I was rather intrigued – having only been camping at a music festival once before (actually, it was rather like glamping), this experience sounded a little outside of my comfort zone – so of course I said yes!

Travelling alone to a new city is one thing – travelling alone to a music festival is quite another. It may sound clichΓ©d, but I promise you it’s a great way to meet new people and discover things about yourself. There’s a sense of camaraderie, because you’ve all come together for one singular purpose – to listen to music you love and have a great time. You may not remember each other’s names or hometowns after you part, but for those precious few days, you are part of the same tribe – bonding over lines to the bathroom, shady older men checking you out and how you’re dreading going back to reality.

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The Journey

I was travelling on my own for the first day (Friday) and a friend was going to be joining me on the second day (Saturday). A representative for LetsCampOut met with me, and a bunch of us strangers caught the festival shuttle to Lavasa from Poona. We took a while longer than expected to get there (it’s about a two-hour journey by car), but the drive was lovely and the view quite something else. Although a few people took ill on the long and winding road, we chugged on, listening to music through someone’s phone and munching on chips.

Location, Location, Location

Set amidst the Sahyadris, the planned city of Lavasa stands like a ghost town – with abandoned construction sites scattered around an idyllic lakeside location. Whatever has been completed looks almost picture-perfect, but that is exactly what I find so unappealing about this planned ‘city’. We drove a little ahead of the main city centre, further up the hills to a large levelled area of land which was the festival site. With no network, in the middle of nowhere, it was just what I needed! The climate change was a bit drastic though, with scorching heat during the day – at one point I felt like I was going to burst into flames – and bone-chilling temperatures as soon as the sun would set.

The Campsite

The campsite was hosted and organised by LetsCampOut – founded in 2010 by Abhijeet Mhatre and Amit Jambotkar, with the intention of improving camping experiences in India. Apart from offering their ‘camp outsourcing’ services to festivals like The Lost Party, India Bike Week, Sulafest, etc. they also have twelve campsites across Maharashtra, catering to different camping styles – from thrill-seeking adventurers to mellow campers who would rather chill out by a campfire.

We camped on the ground, in tents for two (there were also tents for four and eight people available), equipped with a mattress, blanket and pillow each. The tents were spacious enough for us to sleep comfortably and I could almost stand up in them (although I’m 5′ 3″ so that isn’t saying much). Solar-charged lamps were available with a security deposit, but the campsite was well-lit enough for the light to permeate softly through the tent lining, so I didn’t need one.

The men’s and women’s community bathrooms were divided and maintained by an on-site housekeeping department. My number one concern was hygiene in the bathrooms and I was happy to notice that each inpidual stall had it’s own wash basin, hand soap and toilet paper. There was also a dual sink which we would line up to brush our teeth at, every morning. The shower situation was less scary than I had imagined – the shower tents were tall, with a small wooden platform on which the bather was to stand, equipped with a cylinder of water which had to be hand-pumped a few times before operating the hand-shower spray. The shower-tent had a slit in the top through which you could hang your towel and clothes. I carried my own bath towel and toiletries – face wash, shower gel, shampoo etc. as those were obviously not going to be provided.

Each night after the music stages would shut shop, there’d be a bonfire at our campsite. Huddled around the fire, toasting our fingers and faces, someone would bring out a guitar and small PA and start singing – which resulted in jam sessions that went on til the break of dawn. There was also a large tent set up, with a mini-stage for artists to have an unplugged music session. We’d also heard rumors of founder Abhijeet’s BBQ skills, but since the festival had arranged for an after-hours ‘tapri’, there was no BBQ to be had (sad face).

The Hungry Bunny’s ‘tapri’ in question offered everything to soothe our midnight cravings – hot tea, coffee, maggi, eggs, grilled cheese sandwiches – all much more expensive than they would usually be, but then again, we were in the middle of nowhere.

Sleeping on the ground in a tent was actually not as uncomfortable as I thought it would be – except for the cold. It was dreadfully chilly and even in my warmest pyjamas, I froze like an ice-cube. I think it’s not such a bad idea to carry your own blanket (and socks) too, just in case you’re someone who is uncomfortable in the cold. I found the wrap-yourself-up-like-a-burrito technique to be particularly effective in staying warm.

Would I go camping like this again? Definitely. Roughing it out once in a while is fun! Forget the muss and fuss, just pack the essentials into a backpack and get on the road.

The Lost Party

As far as music festivals go, the first edition always has some teething problems. It’s a given that there will be a certain amount of logistical issues and mistakes, no matter how much you try to prepare, but that’s how you learn and improve on it for the next time. A little more attention to detail and promotion would have seen much improvement in the turnout. I did have a chat with some of the organisers, and they acknowledged the shortcomings of this festival and seemed very open to ideas and suggestions that we had.

On the plus side, BookMyShow tied up with atomX (holla, Abhilash!) and did a great job of initiating a cash-card system, which made it easy to pay for food and drinks without worrying about getting back change. The security at the venue was tight, there was a clean-up crew constantly picking up trash, an ATM, first-aid tents were everywhere and the bars and toilets were conveniently placed.

Unfortunately, because of conditions like the extreme heat during the day, for instance, people would cluster under the two tents (one near to the electronic stage and one at the campsite) rather than in front of the stages, which just resulted in the artists playing to themselves rather than a packed audience. Sound clash was a major issue and something that could have been easily rectified beforehand, by angling the stages a little away from each other.

Another glitch was a lack of accessibility to drinking water – we were quite dehydrated one morning and had to wait a while for someone to open a stall and sell us water. The food stalls had quite the monopoly obviously, and were charging quite a lot for small portions of food amidst much grumbling from festival-goers. I did have some delicious chicken shawarma from Maroosh and nice poutine from Street Kings, though.

A better transport network to and from the festival would also have been greatly appreciated overall. We had to wait quite a while to catch the return shuttle to Poona on the last day and everyone was exhausted.

The Lost Party has tons of potential as a music festival, with a well-curated lineup of artists (including a huge chunk of my favourites), food stalls, ideas and a great location. I’m hoping that they get it together by next year, because I’m really looking forward to the second edition!

Here’s what a few other festival attendees had to say about their experience:

“I had an amazing time. The artists they had were fantastic. It was definitely a great experience and I will go again next year provided they give us warmer blankets in the tents!” – Shweta Shahade, dog behaviorist and child psychologist

“Pristine location, killer weather, fresh music, good food, lovely people, brilliant campsite and a great setting. The Lost party was a terrific getaway!” – Parth, student

“For techno/deep house lovers the Boomerang stage was definitely heaven. Just wish I had carried sunblock. Overall for a festival of this level and scale to be pulled off in such a short span of time was really impressive. Hopefully next year will be bigger and better!” – Ekta Aggarwal, event & artist manager

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