It was with some trepidation that I agreed to go on a Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival camping trip.
While it is universally regarded as one of the hippest music festivals in the northern hemisphere - style muses Alexa Chung and Chloe Sevigny are regulars - as a Gen X indie-rock survivor, I thought my days of drinking cans of warm VB while standing in portable toilet queues had gone the way of my faded Nirvana T-shirt. However, the pull of seeing live music outdoors again - Nick Cave, Tame Impala, Yeah Yeah Yeahs - was too great, even if I was going to have to bring ear muffs.
Heading into its 15th year, Coachella has become one of the most successful art and music festivals in the world.
What began as a one-day gathering on an Indio Polo Club field back in 1999 has become so popular it stretches over two weekends, with bands playing the same set twice to cater for the demand.
Part of its appeal is that Coachella attracts the biggest names in the business - The Stone Roses, The Cure and even Madonna have performed.
It also taps into the upcoming music scene, scouring the world and inviting the best still largely unearthed talent to play alongside the megastars.
In preparation for the weekend, my travelling crew check into the Andaz Hotel on Los Angeles' Sunset Strip in West Hollywood to overcome jet lag. The hotel is famous for having hosted parties by rock'n'roll royalty such as The Rolling Stones and The Who back in the day.
While still "cool", the hotel is more of a relaxed oasis for weary travellers.
The two-hour road trip from LA to Coachella is broken up with a quick stopover at the Desert Hills Premium Outlet to collect some cut-price jeans, sunnies and yet another pair of Converse shoes.
Upon arriving in Indio Valley, where the festival is setting up, we climb into golf buggies and are driven to a field of white-marquee style tents - the luxury safari tents camping ground. Across the field, there is a pool with deck, massage tents and showering trailers with mirrors and power.
Inside my tent, a wrought-iron bed covered with '70s print cushions takes the place of a sleeping bag. There's power. A fridge. Even aircon.
The "mess hall'' is yet another luxuriously furnished tent that serves hot breakfasts and late- night snacks.
With a three-day festival ahead, we plan our days.
The advantage of staying next to the festival grounds means we are a short golf buggy trip to the stages.
Despite its popularity - the festival attracts about 85,000 over the two weekends - there is never the feeling of being in a crowd, except, of course, near the moshpit.
It is a relaxed atmosphere with the fashion - think Woodstock, Ali McGraw, Michelle Phillips - and the celebrity-spotting is just as entertaining as the onstage acts.
The stark but stunning desert landscape is best appreciated from atop the now iconic Coachella ferris wheel.
Both toilet and drinks queues are surprisingly short, while the fast food is so good that even singer Katy Perry queues.
The VIP area - tickets can be bought at extra cost - is teeming with celebrities who appear to enjoy mingling with the masses instead of taking advantage of their backstage trailers. We spy Twilight stars Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart huddled in a corner (they broke up a few weeks later), Paris Hilton with her chain-smoking sister Nicky and actor Lindsay Lohan.
True Blood star Alexander Skarsgard outed himself as a fan of The Stone Roses, as did Katy Perry and UK Vogue cover girl Lily Donaldson.
Even back at the campground, we have a celebrity encounter when Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee, famous for partnering with Baywatch star Pamela Anderson, walks past on his way to have a shower.
Being a desert, the days are hot, think mid-30C and the nights cool. To avoid the midday heat, there is the option of joining the pool party scene in downtown Palm Springs. The hotels open their doors to the public - except for those hosting the real VIPs like Bono - to lounge by the pool with a cocktail under one of the district's ubiquitous date palms until it cools down.
Others wile away the hours with a yoga or Pilates session, or take photographs of the 9m tall statue of Marilyn Monroe who lived in the neighbourhood.
It is hard not to fall in love with Coachella. Not just for the music but also for the afternoon desert sunsets - arguably the best act each day - and the chilled-out nature of the crowd.
Not even an eye-stinging violent desert dust storm could dampen my enthusiasm for the festival, nor the headline act - the Red Hot Chili Peppers - who gritted their teeth and crunched their way through the final hour.
After four days and more than 40 bands, it is time to go into recovery mode - and a long, luxurious shower.
We check in at the Shore Hotel in Santa Monica, opposite the famous pier, before heading further south to stay at Belamar Hotel in the artist and surfing hub of Manhattan Beach.
One of the main reasons why the High Desert is so intriguing is that it is full of hidden gems. Aside from its rustic flea markets, vegan roadside cafes, and ruggedly beautiful landscapes, it also has an abundance of naturally heated mineral pools. Desert Hot Springs, an eccentric and underrated town located in the Coachella Valley, is a prime location for holistic healing and swimming under the sun. " What makes Desert Hot Springs so unique is that it offers a wide selection of all- natural spas, most of which are scattered throughout the valley. A far cry from conventional hotel chains, these family run resorts offer a variety of specialized spa treatments, holistic healing sessions, and access to prized mineral baths. To test the waters, we decided to stop by the Nurturing Nest, a rustic spa and retreat located on Sunset Avenue in DHS. For a reasonable 20 dollars per person, this retreat offers two hour access to its indoor and outdoor mineral pools, along with a spot to lounge and sip on a complimentary cup of tea. The pools are open to visitors from 11-7 PM, and open 24 hours to patrons staying overnight. Since not everyone can handle the intense 106 degree heat of the indoor pool, Nurturing Nest also provides access to its milder outdoor pool. " Despite its ragtag exterior, the interior of Nurturing Nest is modest yet elegant. Sparsely decorated with moroccan lanterns, buddha statues, and wild succulents, thepoolside lounges are spacious and serene. Travelers both young and old can be seen lounging by the outdoor pool, where tattoos and sun-kissed skin are commonplace. According to Sandy Gune, the owner and operator of Nurturing Nest, many patrons visit because they want to experience solitude and renewal. " Aside from providing access to mineral pools, Nurturing Nest also has programs which focus on restoring physical, mental, and emotional health. A holistic chiropractor for over 18 years and specialist in the Energetic Synchronization Technique, Sandy Guneʼs treatments focus on realigning both the body and spirit. Chiropractic treatments and counseling sessions range from 65 to 150 dollars, and can be booked online or by phone. From “Total Tune-ups” to Transformational Breathing exercises, these holistic treatments are a unique blend between science and spirituality--so if youʼre passing through the Mojave desert and need a place to turn on, tune in, and drop out, Nurturing Nestʼs doors are always open.
For inquiries regarding retreats and reservations, contact Sandy Gune at (760)251-2583 or visit her website.