I woke up this morning with dried mud stuck between my toes, thick black dust under my fingernails, a matted top-knot of hair, sweating, as the heat of day three at Splore penetrated my tent. And I wasn't the only one that had gone the whole festival without letting my personal care standards slip - I didn't take a shower the whole time (swimming in the ocean totally counts as a wash) and portable toilets are never nice.

But this is all part of the festival vibe. And I think it brings people together. Who are we to judge each other when we're all covered in three days of grime?

There were frustrations over crowded campsite, bars that ran out of gin and juice and portable toilets that seemed to be forgotten about - but all of these grievances seemed to be overlooked by the eclectic community that flocked to the three-day event.

There were pregnant bellies brightly painted, little ones wearing ear muffs, people dressed as animals and heaps of feathers, leis, lycra and headwear. Babies as young as six-months were slung across their mums' chest and couples well over 60 grooved at the DJ stage well in to the night. Some sat in trees, others had photo shoots in the glowing art installations around the site. There was face painting, circus cabaret, yoga, an oracle tent, unicycle riding and musical sets keeping crowds happy until 5am. Splore had something for everyone. This is what makes it so special, according to co-director and creator Amanda Wright.


"It's about being eclectic ... it's that kaleidoscope of stuff that's happening," she said on the final day of the event.

This year's festival was the largest yet - 6500 tickets were sold - but Wright says the place was heaving with up to 8000 people including volunteers, crew, media and all the kids aged under-13 who can get in with their families free-of charge.

It's come a long way since the dance party Wright held for about 1000 people back in 1998.

"Our expectations at that time were obviously very different. It was a time when dance culture was more predominant.

"We did a small party for about 1000 people ... and that was kind of the beginning of Splore.

"The whole ethos about Splore was about coming together and community and arts and culture and I think we really held on to that as we evolved over the years."

Splore upped the anti in 2002, when the biennial event moved out to the larger seaside location of Tapapakanga Regional Park, just south of Maraetai.

"We're at capacity now, we can't go any bigger," Wright said.

"It's at a nice size now."

She's considered making it an annual event, but : "when something's every year sometimes it loses its magic." And Splore is a pretty magical affair.