The Playa provides!
Trip Start May 31, 2011
8Trip End Aug 24, 2012
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
Where I stayed
It was the previos October when Kiwi Matt had started talking so pasionately about his time at Burning Man. it was to him like camp was to me, a life changing experience that held a special place in his heart. As he talked more ove the coming months I realised it was not a music festival but angathering based on art, community and ‘radical self-reliance’. The festival does not allow commercial vendors and so nothing is sold, it is ‘gifted’. I was struggling to get my head around this as I was used a community where things had to be earned and brought or were ‘gifted’ with the expectation of an equal return.
So we rampaged around Vancouver in search of bikes, lights, camel packs and all other types of camping gear
With a decent chunk of our stuff and our freshly spray painted bikes, we set off for San Francisco. Two days down the coast we arrived on Divisidero St and settled into the friend of a friends lounge we were sleeping in. We spent the next day trawling Haight St with hundreds of others bound for Nevada, looking for last minute costumes. The vintage stores that Haight St is famous for were teeming with people and there was a growing excitment in the air. We eventually dragged ourselves home, stopping for a delicious dinner at Little Star Pizza. It was the deepest dish pizza I have ever had and was clearly a local favorite with a cue forming down the street by the time we left.
Next we were off to the airport to collect Julz, the last member of our posse and when were had finally squezzed her thing into the car we headed towards Reno. Cars marked with the Burning Man symbol )’( began to pop up on the highway and we signaled each other as the hours rolled by. We reached Reno at around 5pm and then did the strangest thing out of the whole crazy trip... we went to Walmart. The amount of things we needed for the festival and the limited time and money I had to prepare meant that we hit up the cheapest option for our last minute shop. We marveled and how contradictory ot felt to be shopping at a multi-national company that is know for its poor labour practices and yet, there were no other afforadable options open at 5pm on a Sunday. So into the belly of the beast we went. When we emerged 4 hours later (no joke!) we began to pack even more things onto the already jam packed car, including 25 gallons of water
The trail of tail lights was like a firey snake winding into the darkness as we crawled towards the turnoff and then finally we were there, we left the bitchimen behind and rolled onto the sand. With thousands of other cars, we spent another few hours rolling towards the entrace, stopping and starting the overheating car and entertaining ourselves running along the rows of cars barefoot and christening the car with our footprints. After passing the ticket collection point, we were met by greeters who welcomed us home. They checked the car for Virgin Burners and Calra and I got out to meet the Playa for the first time. They invited us to kiss the ground, make Playa angels and then ring a big bell and scream “I am not a virgin!’. We were finally here.
We rolled into Shadyvil camp around 4am and began to set up camp and met our fellow Shady’s. Kiwi Matt greeted us with big hugs and once the tents were up and the car was emptied into them, we rode out to meet the new day that had dawned. We headed out to see the man and the temple breifly before colapsing to try to get some sleep. When i finally staggered out and asked David how long we had all been sleeping, he said it had only been an hour. I guess this was a sign of things to come. Eventually it got too hot to sleep and we headed for the Shadyvil bar where we chatted and drank the afternoon away, only venturing out to find a group of sun beds with white shade sails that were set up in a half circle out of camp
That night we decided to explore on foot and jump on a few art cars to cruise around the camp. The first art car that we climbed on was a giant neon snail that pumped music and shot fire from its antenae. Seeing the night lit up in the middle of no where was staggering, We bounced onto a few other art cars and in my true uncoordinated style (aided by iniebriation) I bounced off one too, disembarking when it was moving a little faster than I anticipated and quickly meeting the playa with my butt. I had the moment of recognition, as the tail lights lit up a small section of the ground but it was too late and I was quickly left in the darkness to collect my dignity and dust of my bottom. After wandering off to find my friends at another camp and then realising it was futile and walking all the way back to camp, I was lucky to run into everyone from our little pose and we danced the rest of the night away.
I woke up to see Shadyvil in full swing for brunch, serving a few hundred people eggs, pancakes, bacon (a shady special, I was learning) and drinks. I had decided tuesday was the day I was to be a bumblebee (it also happened to be tutu tuesday) and so I dressed in my yellow and black tutu and top and set off with a little pose to find an air conditioned tent our friends had told us about the night before. Alas, it was full when we arrived to instead we toured through the back streets checking out different camps. We stopped for cocktails before heading to centre camp where they were offering massages, displaying art and music. We came across snow cones which were a life saver and then made our way to the ‘womb’ bar at our friends camp. That night I went out in search of our group after a power nap and found that costumes and lights serve another purpose in the desert
By Wednesday I was finally ready to go to the temple. I had been too tired the first day and overwhelmed with things to see the second. We rode out there as a group and then went our seperate ways, moving silently around the imposing open air building as we listened to chanting, the earth harp and read peoples messages of love and loss. Within moments of being in the space I was crying at the feelings of pain and release that people were expressing there. They wrote on the walls and left photos & momentos in the temple so that when it was burned down on sunday night they would be free of their burdens and open to a new year and new love. As I stoped crying I was comforted by kind words and gestures of those around me and someone gave me a pen to leave my own messages which I then passed on to someone else before I left.
Reconviening, we made our way back to Shadyvil for our regae and keg party and I worked with barkeep for the next few hours to wet the whistles of everyone that came to party with us. Back on the bikes that night, David and I rode straight across the desert to 2 O’clock to check out the Fractal Nation camp, art gallery and stage. From there we found a camp that looked like a rainbow fort and climbed up to the roof to check out the view of the city lit up. We went in search of sacred spaces, a camp which had music and guided meditation durning the day, and we chatted the night away, randomly running into Kiwi and Clara before they disappeared into the night again
Thursday was the day for Playa art. Surrounging the Man at the centre of camp was 22 effigies that were built by different burner communities and numerous other art pieces. We rode around checking out as many of them as we could. We stopped at the Hug Deli where I ordered a bear hug, and the psychic bar where the others spoke to a psychic who told you what drink you would like. We came across the ‘Wdydwyd?’ stand, a website that asks ‘why do you do what you do’ . We wrote our answers to the question on paper and were photographed around the playa with out statement which would then be posted on their website (www.wdydwyd.com). We saw a dinosaur made from plastic army toys, a giant mechaical face and a flying bike contraption. We climed up the centre of a giant lotus flower for a view of the camp and were decended on by the ‘anti-fun police’ who tried to arrest us and then ordered us to attend their camp the next night ‘rehabilitation’.
It was back to Fractal Nation for music in the night and then we wandered around the back streets until we found the ‘boobie bar’ a pair of dome tents that shot fire out of the top of each. There we met a canadian from saskatewan name Logan who had misplaced all his friends and so we added him to our crew as we danced, skated at the roller disco and eventually rode out to the temple to watch the sunrise. Despite being insainly tired and watching it between extremely long blinks, it was breathtaking. The dawn started to break, fending off the darkness with blues and purples before lighting up the sky like a blaze of briliant orrange and red. As the sun snuck up behind the mountains it lit the ridges up like a neon streak acroos the horizon before finally bursting out into the sky
We staggered wearily back to our bikes as a couple walked down the isle together outside temple and then rode with the energy of olympic athletes to get back to our beds.
When it again got too hot to sleep in our tents, we headed for sacred spaces and lay on the mats in their big tent as they lead guided meditation. David and I cruised home through the back street and stumbled across Ashram Glatica, an oasis of plush carpets, couches, finger food and drinks where we refuled.
That night was the night of the Trojan Horse burn and we got front and centre seats to watch it go up. Earlier in the day Kiwi and Clara helped hundreds of others drag the 3 story high wodden horse into the playa. As they lit it up, fireworks exploded from its mouth and body and it burned to the ground.
Saturday was insanely hot, even after 5 days in the desert, but we rallied and went via Liquid Baptism camp to find Logan and then headed for the Temple. It was our last chance to spend time there as it would be closed the next morning so that they could ready it for the burn. When the heat got unbearable we returned to the Shady bar and hung out until dinner. Kiwi, David, Clara, Julz and I met up at dusk to watch the man burn. There were over 50,000 surrounding the giant wodden man and we cheered and cried out in awe as they blew it up and burned it down
As people began to leave in droves and we started to take down camp, we prepared for the Temple burn that night. David and I cooked up a feast for Shadyvil and them we all made our way down to temple as a group of about 30 people. Again, tens of thousands of people surrounded the burn site and waited. The crowd grew quiet as the time past and as the temple was set alight, we fell into silence. With the exception of the sobs coming from somewhere in the faceless crowd, we all sat quietly shedding tears for the things were were saying goodbye to the things we were opening ourselves up to. We huged and kissed our friends and told each other how happy we were to have shared the experience. Then the sea of people slowly broke up and moved back to camp. We started saying goodbye as Julz packed up and left with some friends giving her a lift back to San Francisco
When I awoke in the morning I was ready to go. After helping pack up camp a bit more and packing the car, stress levels started to rise as we all delt with the end of the burn in our own ways. By the time we finally set off for the exit that afternoon, I was exhausted and emotional and trying not to let the saddness of saying goodbye ruin the beutiful week I had. We watched the sun set from the exit line and fianally hit the paved road a little over 4 hours after leaving the campsite. Bound for Reno, the Californian and Oregon coast, Redwood forrests and Motel 6’s, I tried to process all that Burning man had exposed me to and hoped that I would be able to return to the Playa next year.
Many thanks to David Jardine & Julz Quickenden for sacrificing their cameras for these beautiful pictures.