Burn baby burn, disco Inferno- (The Trammps)

Trip Start Aug 17, 2010
Trip End Feb 06, 2011

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Where I stayed
In a tent

Flag of United States  , Nevada
Monday, September 6, 2010

Describing burning man accurately is an impossible task. I hope, but doubt you get a little flavor of what its all about from this post.

What is burning man

For a week in the height of summer 57K people from around the globe travel to the middle of the Nevada desert to build a city and to live together for one blissfully boundary-free week. Burning man is about extreme expression as well as survival. Here are a few things which make burning man unique:

* Before Burning man the desert is completely desolate. When the festival starts every participant brings enough material to construct infrastructure, create art pieces and of course carries enough food, water and shelter to survive. When the week is over everyone departs carrying back all materials to ensure no trace is left.

* The only vehicles allowed to drive around the city are art cars or mutant vehicles (vehicles built to be a work of art in their own right). There are literally hundreds of these cars ranging from mechanical flame throwing spiders, moving cup cakes, furry cats, pirate ships and beyond.

* There are hundreds of theme camps and events which encourage participation. These range from the normal (spiritual healing, hula hooping, jazz) to the surreal (roller disco, flattery camp, pimp your bike) to the darn right weird (naked karaoke, coffee and spanking, fighting on bungees with giant sabers.)

* There's no currency in Burning man, instead people gift experiences, food and services. You dont spend a cent but eat yummy food, drink booze, have free massages, face paints, clothes and much more.

*The conditions in a desert are extreme (to say the least) during the day it is fecking roasting, during the night it goes very cold. A fine powder of alkaline dust coats the desert and gets absolutely everywhere. Out of nowhere great gusts of winds brew up sandstorms which cause white-outs and bring everything to a standstill until the bright blue sky returns as quickly as it disappeared. Everyone carries dust masks and goggles ready to whip out when the wind starts blowing.

* Everyone who lives in Blackrock city during burning man dresses in whatever way they see fit, one things for sure your normal attire is world's apart from this communities'. Some people choose to be completely naked, others are clad in fur, sequins, stilts, feathers or paints. Some costumes are mind bogglingly creative.

* The playa is awash with art installations including high sculptures, forests of trees which look soft to the touch but are actually made from industrial metal, fire you can pick up in your bare hands. There is so much of it most don't get a chance to see it all. Creativity doesn't stop with these pieces, the community is full of some of the worlds most talented poets, musicans, dancers and photographers all freely sharing their art with others.

* The main focal point of the city is a humongous wooden man on top of a 3-story structure, the man represents and is called 'the man' (maaan!) On the penultimate day he is ritualistically burnt before the cheering crowd.

Our experience

Our time in the burning man was tough, wonderfully, amazingly beautifully tough. We began our adventure on the Green tortoise bus which although started off as a fairly bog-standard hippy mobile transfered into a hostel on wheels allowing us a full nights kip in the bottom bunk. We woke up 8 hours later in the middle of the desert, and as burning man virgins were ordered off the bus to 'dong a chime' and were made to line up and roll around in the dust, an initiation to start living, breathing, smelling, tasting the fine dusty powder below our feet. Cries of welcome home and plenty of broad smiles and hugs were around us, we knew we were in for something really special.

We secured our Walmart tent into the ground with industrial 10' rebar next to our friends Ben and Hollie. To our absolute amazement our little home remained intact during our entire stay, although the insides were coated with thick dust which almost dripped off every surface. Our camp was next to the Hare Krishna stage where there were performances all through the night; singing, dancing, chanting and even bizarrely incredibly loud 'n' banging drum and bass. I am sure you are wondering if we caught even a glimmer of sleep in our dust lagged disco tent, but after a day and night of the sensory explosion that is burning man we slept like babies.

Our days were spent going out on our BMX, with me riding 'backies' on the stunt pegs as Ian peddled. To be honest one day blurs into the next but for the most part it felt like we were trapped in a never ending Dali painting. Some of the plentiful highlights that spring to mind include;

* Skating in an outdoor roller disco in the middle of the desert to funky 70s beats. I nearly fell on arse on many occasions.

* Going to a mass monkey chanting meditation, where everyone sits around in a circle being instructed to sway, chatter and chant like monkeys. This lasted for one crazy but actually quite peaceful hour.

*Watching people being lifted 50ft into the sky by a bunch of helium balloons. We were too chicken-shit to do it ourselves ( remember those sand storms I told you about!)

*Trampolining in the playa with Ian, who I am sure wont mind me describing as not only clumsy but also heavy footed. As Ian bounced around uncontrollably I was screaming, laughing and crying to get down.

A lot of the day was spent chilling under shade and getting out of the harsh sun, a few people had to get medical attention for dehidration but all four of us drank an inordinate amount of water and were constantly running off to the porta-loos ( Those who have been to Glastonbury should be feeling very sympathetic for our predicament).

The days were crazy but the nights were arguably more strange, installations and camps were lit up every colour of the rainbow and every shade in between. Art cars were illuminated and drove by with music cranked up full of people dancing. Structures and cars spat out giant fireballs, outdoor clubs were full of people dancing furiously. There are no words to describe the spectacle of burning man after dark.

The actual burning of the man topped everything, we sat next to someone called 'Dirtbag' and supped Jameson whisky out of a bottle. The ceremony started with some of the most incredible five dancers doing a routine to the beat of drums that probably would keep every health and safety officer up at night. This was followed by a massive firework display and the catching fire of the structure the 'Man' presided on. As the flames licked the building the crowd went nuts yelling 'burn the man'. The fire was impressive and eventually the structure toppled over. The crowd roared with delight.

There is so much more I could mention, we have literaly gorged on the absurd and beautiful to the point of fatigue. At least every half hour I saw things that took my breath away. Again and sorry to real off random moments but this seems to be what life is about in Burning man.

* Two men cycled by on a bike, one completely on fire (in a burning suit)

* Three dimensional remote-control neon sharks with movable fins and snapping jaws, who in the dark swam towards us floating through the air nipping at our heals

* A man trying to collect ten thousand hugs in 24 hrs (I was number one thousand and something)

* Critical Pricks & tits march of naked people, each march with their respective parts showing!

* Ben wearing the tiniest outfit complete with silver hotpants, cape and silver gaffer tape for the nipples! All of us were a wee bit concerned that removing the tape could cause serious injury in the morning.

Of course Burning Man is not for everyone some people struggled with the limitless, relentless atmosphere and crazy conditions but for me it really felt magical. Back out of the rabbit hole now to the so called 'real world' with a couple of days in San Fransisco followed by a road-trip to Yosemite valley.

Love you all loads

Princess Funk (The name given to me on the playa)
& Ian (no playa name, but hay, there's always next year)

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Jo Bell on

Wow - sounds awesome! Amazing descriptions of all the sights and sounds, but what I'm really curious about is the gifting thing. Do you just ask people for what you need? Are they allowed to say no?
Yosemite is beautiful. I haven't been there - please take lots of pictures for me.

welshhobo on

Hey lovely, well basically if you see someone struggling an you have extra supplies you just give it to them. Gifts I had included things like: vodka ice pops (yummy), sun glasses, a poem, spray of water, a bright pink jumper, whiskey, glow sticks. There are few politics and it would be quite frowned upon if you ask for something someone has a spare of and they say no.
Really looking forward to yosemite, we pick up our hire car tomorrow. Yippeee. Hope you are well sweet, how did that interview go?

Helen (Wales) on

Bloomin Norah!!!! Are you sure this was the Nevada desert or had you been transported to another galaxy unbeknown to you when you were asleep in the bus/ come hostel transporter???!!!!

Sounds absolutely crazy!!!!! But amazing too!!!! Looking fowrard to see the pics!!!!! :) xx

Bethan on

Sounds like your having the time of your lives!! Burning man sounds amazing, very jealous! Love reading your blogs and cant wait for the next one.
Look after each other and keep having fun.
p.s. Last week Millie wore the wooly hat from monsoon that you bought her when she was born (yes it was that chilly!!) and she looked so cute, will try and send you a pic of it, fingers crossed she wont be wearing the gloves soon.......

tony on

What's the story - we're sweating our bollocks off on the Takeda stand in Stockholm while you pair are swanning around South America !!! By the way - the graphics are cocked up on this stand - can you nip back and sort the file out for us. Great pictures - enjoy the rest of it.

welshhobo on

Never mind Tony, Good luck out there in Stockholm. Takeda and all that seems a very very long way from Cuzco in Peru. Keep reading our blog for the inca trail coming up as I will post a picture just for you on there. (from Ian)

Sarah Jones on

Wow crazy! 'Burning Man festival' reminded me of a story my Mum told me. She went to a free festival in 1972, her group of friends had a camp fire then a man was so out of it he fell on the fire and just stayed there. Mum said 'Oh no he has started smoking' but the 2 guys she was with just turned him over to cook the other side! She had to go and get the medics to help.

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