Fear and Loathing in Port Waikato
Illustraion by Lucy Higgins (she/her)
I’m not much of a stoner these days. It’s something that can be traced back to the time I ate too many edibles in Port Waikato and completely freaked out - vowing to never do them again. I haven’t exactly stuck to that decision, but I have become pretty good at saying no to drugs, including my flatmate’s daily (and much appreciated) offers to have a cone with him. For better or for worse, I’ll always remember those six mind-bending hours. Here’s how it went.
To set the scene, it was summer 2018 at my friend’s bach, which we affectionately called ‘Port Wai’. I’d been to the bach once before – back in high school and without the trippy undertones. It’s a small beach town situated on the rugged west coast, where the longest river in Aotearoa meets the wildest sea - Te Tai-o-Rēhua, the Tasman. The fateful night started out just how you’d expect – familiar faces and cheap drinks, a classic summer night. As general mischief ensued, a small group were busy in the kitchen, rustling up ‘Firecrackers’; a cute name for raw weed sprinkled between two superwine biscuits, slathered with Nutella and blasted in the oven.
I immediately broke rule number one of edibles. Thinking they weren't strong, I ate a couple more. As with trying any drug for the first time, there was a nervous excitement while I waited for the effects to kick in. It went pretty quickly from your typical giggly high, to a real nightmare-ish freaky-deaky high. It was a shock to a 19-year old, who up until then thought they were a seasoned stoner. The point of no return was when Joe started dealing cards for ‘Go Fish’. His hand seemed to stretch out in front of me, going very, very slow. I was sinking into the couch - I knew I had to get up soon, or I'd be stuck there for a while. Laughing along with my mates, the paranoia was getting harder to ignore, but I managed to announce “I’m... going to bed”.
I somehow made it to my bed for the night: the back of my mate’s van. Under the cover of darkness, it wasn't the refuge I'd hoped it would be. The now oppressive atmosphere was punctuated by dogs barking, sounds of the party and 2018 pop music. The latter did not help my mental state (cast your mind back to 'Sicko Mode' and 'Gucci Gang'). After a few shaky hours, one by one, my roomies started to follow suit and join me in the van. Jake took my approach: lie down and wait for it to pass. Harry decided to battle it head-on, running frantically back and forth between the van and the bach. And Joe, seemingly unfazed, came to hang out with us, munching on a bag of chips – a sound which rattled me to my bones and had more reverb than a Tame Impala album.
Sleep can be pretty hit or miss when it comes to weed. It can act like a narcotic camomile tea, sending you off into a blissful sleep, with dreams of fluffy clouds. The side effects harmless: cotton mouth, the munchies and red eyes. My world, on the other hand, turned into one big kaleidoscope, and not in a good way. It might be weird thinking how that can be scary, but the best way I can describe it is that one scene from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Where Raoul Duke and Dr Gonzo are checking into their hotel and the patterns on the carpet start morphing into their surroundings. The things around you take on a life of their own, and depending on your mindset this can be fun, or honestly terrifying. Naively, I closed my eyes, thinking it would stop. But instead, I lay awake for what felt like hours and it was all my own doing. I must’ve eventually fallen asleep, not that I remember.
In retrospect, I think we should all save that Lifewise clip on YouTube. The nice lady imparts some pretty amazing wisdom: “Hey champ a friend told me you got a little too high... This sucks, you may feel like you've gone permanently insane, or you’re dead. Here’s the good news: you’re alive and your sanity is probably intact. You’re just really, really high.”
I woke up the next day to inspect the damage: every single door of the bach was open and people were crashed in whatever nook they could find. I guess I wasn’t the only one. We all drove to the beach, sat for a while in the carpark and made a brave attempt at a swim. Next, my friend and I went to get lunch in Pokeno, but it turned out to be 6pm – and ice cream was our first meal of the day. Needless to say, I was pretty brain-dead.
At the end of the day, our brains can be pretty weird on drugs. We've all had the odd scary high experience, but that’s nothing to be ashamed of. Also, if you’re freaking out, don’t be afraid to ask a friend for help – you'd do the same for them! Here’s to many good highs in the future, but don’t be dismayed when a bad one comes along – you'll be fine.