The Burning Man and I were tight once. I met him only one week ago but I felt like I’d known him all my life. It was a completely chance meeting – a friend from Mexico announced she could source some spare tickets to the Burning Man festival only two weeks prior to the event. My husband and I jumped at the chance and soon we were purchasing all matter of odd clothing, equipment and gifts.
Armed with goggles, dust masks, costumes, camping gear and WATER we joined the crew at the la Calaca camp in the Black Rock desert of Nevada. Our entry was better than most- only 3 hours spent in line (at 1 AM) as compared to the 24-30 hours many spent after lightening storms sent them back to Reno. A roll in the playa dust and the clang of the virgin bell announced us to the BM city that would be our home for the next week.
In the morning, we grabbed some camp bikes and introduced ourselves to the man- the 80 foot giant who cast his gaze over the playa. What a cool guy; a little quiet but nice all the same.
There were art cars made to look like fish, boats, aardvarks, unicorns, tanks, jellyfish, guns, skulls… the list goes on. You could ride these art cars anywhere they happened to be going (like public transport) while chatting to fellow burners on board and dancing to the music pumping from within.
There were 1000s of camps sprawled across the flat, white, dusty, dry playa, making a temporary city, beaten in size only by Reno and Las Vegas in the state of Nevada. Camps offered spa services, food, drinks, games, orgies, advice… Anything you could possibly imagine and for FREE. There is no money on the playa- only gifts.
At night, everything glowed. You had to light yourself and your bike so you could be seen from dusk until dawn. Every art car and art installation did the same, creating a seething, shifting mass of light to explore and get lost in. Electronic music filled the air 24 hours a day and if you felt like dancing, then you could indulge until you dropped. Everything was always open and on.
We took part in everything we could find. We made friends with like minded people that ranged from students to CEOs. The camp was our home and the other campers our family. We felt welcome and loved and had some amazing nights ending with the sunrise.
There were tough times too though. Lack of sleep frayed nerves and the hot biting sun raked at our skin. Dust storms constantly threatened to engulf us and goggles and masks became a staple when leaving the camp for adventure. At night temperatures plunged to 2 or 3 degrees but it was all worth while when we found a cool camp or made a new friend.
We watched the tribal burning of many installations but when it was time for our friend- the man to burn, excitement spread like fire across the playa. Every burner and art car watched the spectacle. We said our goodbyes and cheered when he crumbled to hot embers and ash.
The next day we were so sad to leave. What an amazing experience. We will never forget our time at burning man, our new friends and the lost leader- the man.