I couldn't believe that it would finally happen. Earlier this year our friends Todd and Tiff announced that they plan to go to Burning Man this year and that they had a spare ticket. This isn't really something we considered before, but the more we talked about it the more exciting the idea got. For those who don't know: Burning Man was started by Larry Harvey (who passed away this year) and a few friends on the beach of San Francisco in 1986. Nowadays it's a temporary city that is built each year in the Nevada desert with a population of over 70000. The community is guided by 10 principles: Radical Inclusion, Gifting, Decommodification, Radical Self-reliance, Radical Self-expression, Communal Effort, Civic Responsibility, Leaving No Trace, Participation, Immediacy. This year theme of the event was "I Robot"
To at least get the radical Self-reliance part right we started preparing. I must admit that we had it a bit easier than most people because we joined the fairly large Camp Contact which is very organized and provides food, a shower and a shade structure with the expectation that participants volunteer for shifts and are active in the contact dance / acro yoga scene and can provide workshops. The last part is not really true for us, but we had good connections to help us get in. What we did need though were bikes top get around the playa (it's several miles large, so just walking around would take hours). We first searched Craigslist, but eventually got found the community bike shop Kickstand through our Ultimate Frisbee teammate Dave. We got two used bikes for $50 each and started preparing them:
One issue I was still having was that I had no ticket for the event. Initially, I was not too concerned about it because people were saying that tickets would always start showing up once it got closer to the event. Not this year though.. the closer it got the higher the prices got on Craigslist (I saw prices of up to $1700 while a normal ticket only costs $425 USD) and there were only a few sold in the first place. Just one week before the event I got a message from our friend Jmath who got hands on an additional ticket and even better: I cost me less than the original price. Lucky me!
The drive to the event
To get from Vancouver to the event requires driving 1200 km, so it's a good road trip in itself already. Our car was packed to the brim with our new tent (Canopy), air mattress, clothing, and food as well as our two bikes in the back. We ended up driving over two days so we have some time to make stops plus we got delayed by traffic jams around Seattle.
Our first stop for the night was just after Portland close to Mt Hood on a small campground. We didn't have any reservation and very very fortunate to find one last empty spot on this long weekend. The next day we continued southwards and spontaneously decided to make a stop at Paulina Peak. One of the highlights there is a big obsidian flow. We learned it's one of the largest in North America and that obsidian was very valuable for first nation people since it can be used to make tools to work and hunt with.
We also heard about hot springs there we wanted to check out, but we were in a for a disappointment: Very tiny, shallow water and overfilled with little kids. We quickly turned around and continued our way.
We arrived on the opening night and the closer we got to the event the more we could feel a buzz in the air. More and more fellow burners on the road heading the same way. Then the entrance with a giant lineup of cars (there is only a single road leading to Black Rock City) and lights beaming up from afar. Once we got through the main gate we had the first challenge awaiting us: apparently as a Burning Man "Virgin" you have to make a snow angel in the dust to quickly overcome any aversion to it. As we all learned during the week: there is no escape from the dust. It's in your clothing, one your skin, on the food and anywhere else you can imagine.
I think it was 3 or 4 in the morning when we finally arrived at what we thought was our camp (it was our neighbors camp). We weren't allowed to put our tent up the same night, so we just fell asleep in a so-called chill-dome that had some pillows. Not the most comfortable, but we were both so tired that sleep found us easily.
Burning Man starts
A new and exciting day starts we got to know people in our camp how gave us an introduction lesson to find our way around. We also got greeted by a mean dust storm. Everyone had to help out securing tents and items so nothing blows away. He heard stories from the previous years where whole structures were torn out from the ground. It seems like everyone learned from past failures since no one got injured.
The first few days were a bit rough since we needed to adjust to the climate and dust. It's very different living in this environment in our tent where it's hot and dry and on top of that the sense just gets overloaded with all the impressions that await around each corner as well as the loud music each night. Never the less: We had some great days ahead of us...
Pictures during daytime
There was quite a bit of controversy around this art project. Read more about it here.
Stay tuned for part 2 where I will talk about our nighttime adventures!