This is the end

University Orientation week, with 20,000 students returning home after a long summer break, is probably not the best time to be visiting Dunedin

University students in Dunedin leave behind a trail of destruction, Dunedin, February 22, 2015

Students spell litter  •  ESPNcricinfo Ltd

I leave my motel room on a bright Tuesday morning ahead of the New Zealand-Scotland match, and Dunedin appears to be having a festival of vomit and broken bottles. In the convenience store where I'm buying breakfast, I ask the middle-aged woman behind the counter what is going on. Distress dawns on her face. Her pupils are suddenly trained on mine, the whites around them intense. "It's… it's university orientation week."
Dunedin, I'm certain, is a lovely city the remaining 51 weeks of the year. There are blue penguins within driving distance, beautiful old stone buildings, and a friendly southern vibe. The surrounding landscape and coastline are lovely, and the local vineyards produce world-class red wine. But when 20,000 students return to the town after the long summer break, free at last from the supervision of their parents, some (not all) take the first chance to prove why they might not quite be ready for the freedom to begin with.
They move in swarms, like a plague of insects, stripping one neighbourhood of its alcohol, leaving puke and refuse in their wake. Next evening, they do it all again in some other place. Police often patrol the streets, but so vast are student numbers, there is little even they can do. Home owners see the week as an annual ordeal. Even the businesses that profit from the students' return are jaded by it all.
The offenders, for the most part, appear completely oblivious to the trauma they are visiting upon their city. During the week, one flat party attracts around 1000 revellers, and the next morning, the small road this house is on is a carpet of broken glass and food wrappers. When the council refused to commit resources to clean up an estimated 550kg of debris, the young men who hosted the rager were forced to do it themselves. Next day, they crowed about their efforts in the local paper. "We didn't just clean in front of our flat, we cleaned the whole street," said one. He only rendered the road unusable for 24 hours. Ah, what a hero.
On Saturday evening, it's the turn of the young people next door to my motel room to host the evening's brain-cell massacre. When I make my way to my room at about 8pm, their subwoofer is thrumming at a hair-raising frequency. I exit for an evening meal and return to find that the flub-wub-wub of their stereo has given way to even something even more aggravating. From the shrieking, bellowing, dry and wet heaving, I deduce the theme of their party is "mass exorcism".
I awake the next day with a throbbing ache in my ears and a weariness that I can only describe as a contact hangover. I hadn't managed to sleep till the early hours, but on Sunday evening, the city has relaxed. Everyone over 23 is beginning to smile again. Tears of joy are forming in our bloodshot eyes. We had all made it through, together.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando