A haze of sunshine beats down onto a hill covered in alternating patches of downtrodden grass and dirt. Remnants of glitter are everywhere: scattered on the ground, plastered to the canvas floors of tents, and somehow, inexplicably, dotted on your face.
At night you collapse into bed from sheer exhaustion, despite the swell of drunken voices and thumping bass. You fall asleep shivering, and wake in a sweat, the tent now a sauna in the early morning sun blazes.
For three days you tramp back and forth around a festival ground the size of a village, dancing with a gusto that defies your increasingly aching feet and singing until the lyrics are lost in your hoarse throat. It's the middle of winter and it's every Australian music lover's dream destination: Splendour in the Grass.
My first Splendour was full of surprises from start to finish, the first being the sheer scale of the event. It explodes with colour and music at every turn; and is lit up with fairy lights and glowing lanterns as the sun sets, casting a magical glow over 42,500 joyous faces.
Also surprising? Sometimes a killer lineup can be too good to be true. Festival closer Chance the Rapper's cancellation was a devastating last-minute loss, but even without him, the lineup was stacked. There was no time to waste basking in the afterglow of a set; you'd applaud as you pushed your way out of one mosh, already on the run to the one. And even so, with all the rushing around, sometimes you have to accept the impossibility of seeing complete sets from Cosmo's Midnight, SZA, The Lumineers, What So Not, and Hilltop Hoods when they all overlap at completely separate stages and when you've already spent the entire day - the entire weekend, even - on your feet.
What was completely unsurprising was my absolute joy at seeing so many fantastic live acts in quick succession. There were old favourites whose sets revived my adoration, like Last Dinosaurs and Foals; reliable favourites who I've seen before and am still in awe of, from Ocean Alley to The Rubens; and new favourites, who have quickly been added to my playlists, like Catfish and the Bottlemen, Matt Corby and SZA.
Other highlights were the performers whose sheer delight at their presence on the stage matched - if not exceeded - your own delighted presence in the audience: from the dreamy synth pop of Honne; to the energetic dancing and vocals of Odette; to the blissed out vibes of Tame Impala; and even to Wolfmother, who surprised all of us with a passionate dedication to their 2000s rock aesthetic.
One clear highlight stood out, however: Childish Gambino, aka Donald Glover. A bona fide triple threat, Gambino didn't waste a single second of his 75-minute set, nailing the vocals on every song, from the falsetto-riddled "Me and Your Mama" to the fast-paced rapping in "V. 3005" and "IV. sweatpants". He preached love and kindness to his audience and thanked his enraptured Australian fans for their patience, saying "y'all are pretty tucked away, but you're worth every drop of sweat it took to get here".
Whilst Splendour provided an unforgettable weekend in many ways, it wasn't without flaws. The lineup could certainly have benefited from more female headlining acts, of which there are no shortage locally and worldwide. Crowd control was also somewhat lacking, despite the huge police and security presence onsite - the Childish Gambino mosh was unlike anything I've ever experienced before, with multiple crushes and little help offered.
That said, even with its flaws, Splendour brought the goods: killer tunes from a quality lineup and fun company from fellow fans. It's an experience I won't be forgetting any time soon - and I've got the blisters to prove it.