Finally, I am getting to write about one of the brightest events of the last year and my whole life so far – Burning Man, a festival that I had wanted to attend for years! And it is just on time before the tickets for 2013 go on sale already next Wednesday, for which you need to pre-register by this coming Sunday, 12:00 Pacific Time!
Of course, given this blog’s theme, I’ll focus on the naked aspect of the [Burning] Man, which is just a small portion of what I have experienced there. Nudity is a commonplace in Black Rock City (geographic alias of Burning Man), but only a fraction of people opt for it. This gives you a realistic feeling of what it could be like if full nudity in public was legalised in Western society and some people would start make use of this freedom.
By the way, it is thanks to this blog that I found a wonderful companion, Andre, to join me at the festival, as I had to sell a ticket originally planned for another friend who had to cancel. We planned all logistics together, and it worked out just fine, and we became good friends. The whole planning thing seemed quite complicated at first, as we had to organise a self-reliable camp out in the desert in Nevada with unpredictable weather AND visit and see as many interesting things as possible during the festival. The official website and mailing list contains all necessary information, but I’m going to give just a few words of advice re logistics (of course, this is just from our personal experience, and may be totally different for you).
1) There are now buses from some of the major cities in the area, but the price doesn’t seem to be competitive with car rental as long as you are more than one person.
2) Even a small tent can be totally fine as long as you have a good shading structure. You are not going to sleep much and spend time ‘indoors’. But it’s essential to have protection from dusty winds (sometimes) and blazing sun around noon (every day).
3) What the official booklet advised re water (up to 4 gallons per day per person) was absolutely over the top for us. I understand that they want you to stay on the safe side, but we took only half of the recommended amount and then had to give out at least a third of water.
4) Don’t bring booze, unless you want a very specific type or your camp theme is some sort of bar. There is plenty of alcohol everywhere, and don’t forget, everything is free at Burning Man once you get there!
5) Vinegar turned out to be really useful to clean skin, especially feet, from alkaline playa dust. I sometimes poured it in my ‘barefoot’ Bikram shoes; skin moisturisers are great too. On the other hand, I didn’t feel it was necessary to have more sun protection than, say, on a sunny beach day, as some sources claimed and urged to bring sunscreens of SPF100 etc. But then again, I was already tanned by the end of the summer, and also I suspect that dust might actually help against the sun. I used SPF15 or 30 on my shoulders and never got burnt.
6) Melons! They actually did well even in that heat for several days and we wished we brought more than 3.
7) Last but not least, it was a great decision to join a pretty big theme camp, Playa Bike Transportation in our case. They gave us a lot of advice and provided the kitchen, solar camp shower, and most importantly the shading structure.
So, construction of the shading structure was the first thing we took care of when we found our camp. This way we also got to know several camp-mates.
It wasn’t too complicated, and I even found a minute to pose as the Vitruvian Man of Leonardo da Vinci :-)
The only difficult part was hammering rebar into the hard playa ground. But I had no idea that it would be much more difficult to get it out afterwards! (That’s when we used some of our extra water, as it was easier to pull out rebar from wet ground.)
Playa Bike Transportation camp turned out to be an excellent choice for me in many respects. Burning Man is built on the idea of everyone contributing something to ‘the community’ – “no spectators, only participants” is the motto. Being a part of a bike camp, it was easy to find a way to help people – by repairing their bicycles.
Black Rock City is quite a big town without public transportation and cars (unless they are ‘mutated’), so most people rely on bicycles to go long distances. But with all that dust, bikes break easily (it makes sense to have a playa-dedicated bike if you are a regular, or rent one from a camp like ours). So, our camp was always busy with people lining up for self-service or help from our professional mechanics or amateurs like me.
While on duty, we got approached all the time, but the good thing was that it allowed us to get to know a lot of people!
It is worth noting, that Playa Bike Transportation (this year, Playa Bike Repair) is not a nudist camp per se. I knew there were camps that were more related to nudity, but my idea was to try to live as if birthday suit was as ‘normal’ as any other outfit and just do regular stuff in the buff… like repairing bikes. I did not want to stay in any kind of nudist colony, and I think this was the best thing I could do to show that there is nothing wrong with nakedness. Before joining the camp, I discussed the nakedness issue with the leader and he seemed to be convinced, although Andre and I were going to be its first naked members (pun not intended). It worked out just great, nobody seemed to have issues with that and a couple of our campmates got naked too on various occasions.
Besides Playa Bike Transportation, Andre (mostly) and I volunteered at the neighbouring Post Office camp. Yes, Black Rock City may be a short-living settlement but it’s got its own functional Post Office with a proper stamp! I tried my best to be the least friendly possible mocking the stereotype of a USPS worker, but Andre was much better at it and soon became known as an ‘angry postman’.
Again, we surprised our customers by our attire, but everyone seemed to love it!
Our coworkers were cool about it too.
Thus, I think our biggest contribution to the Burning Man festival was spreading the idea that nakedness is just fine and there is nothing shocking about it by doing regular jobs in the buff and interacting with large numbers of people every day. Burning Man is all about expanding your views and comfort zone, and hopefully we’ve triggered this at least in some of our “customers” and campmates.
Besides acquiring new friends, I also knew some old buddies were coming as well. One of them was Miguel, a devoted naturist traveller.
He stayed at colourful Comfort and Joy camp.
When I ventured out to search of Miguel’s camp, I saw El Pulpo Mecanico, one of the hundreds of art cars, or mutant vehicles on the playa.
And I think it remained to be my favourite till the end. It looked fantastic in daylight and at night too, with all its moving tentacles emitting fire.
Some mutant vehicles were huge and impressed with their design and mere size.
There were also a lot of spectacular structures and constructions, big and small, that made the landscape absolutely surreal.
This pirate ship sinking in sand was definitely one of the highlights.
Some structures were interactive, like these phone booths.
By the way, as you can see on this photo, there was a night when it was warm enough to walk around naked. When we played with my LED-lit frisbee, it was even too hot. But most of the nights were quite chilly, so we had to wear something. Andre and I had a minimalist ‘caveman’ outfit made of fake sheep fur rugs (you can see me on the left of the night el Pulpo Mecanico picture).
The main structure was of course the Man himself, seen from all over the city thanks to its geometrical plan (and provided clear weather, usually in early mornings) – on this photo from 9 o’clock plaza, where our camp was located,
or from Center Camp, here.
At night, it is lit up, as almost everything (and everybody) else.
The Man structure was also a gathering point for some events like Black Rock City’s own issue of the World Naked Bike Ride, aka World Naked Pub Crawl. With bikes being such a crucial part of life during the festival, and its idea to promote self-reliance and sustainability, WNBR seems to fit perfectly into the concept of Burning Man; and with those phallic structures around the Man, which I guess had to do with 2012′s theme, Fertility, the naked aspect of the ride seemed only more appropriate.
Before the ride, naked people took over the Man,
filling the whole structure
and climbing everywhere possible.
Nice view from the Man ;-)
Most of the participants were on regular bikes, but it wouldn’t be Burning Man without some amusing riders, who decorated their naked bodies,
these fancy tandem bikers,
or like this guy on unicycle.
Amazeballs! [I know, the term use is somewhat controversial, but it suits here more than anywhere else ;-) ]
Several “pubs” welcomed naked bike riders. The Duck Pond was probably the most fun, as it had a 150-foot-long slip-n-slide.
At least one guy made it almost all the way till the end of it!
I went a bit sideways and didn’t reach that far.
Next stop was spontaneous, as some riders simply took over trampolines of another camp.
Needless to say, it was a lot of fun and some were really good at tumbling!
Next bar, Barbie Death Camp, saw a naked pianist performance.
Party Naked Tiki Bar, is a probably the most known naked hang out place at the playa, and it was a part of the World Naked Pub Crawl too, of course.
Besides those, I would also like to mention Scarbutts Cafe, where we got our late morning coffee
for a couple of good spanks :D
Center Camp is a great hang out spot too, and it wasn’t left without some naked activities either.
This guy was really good at playing with the sock ball.
And I was really happy that my Burning Man didn’t go without some capoeira games.
There was a martial arts theme camp, Black Rock Kwoon and Dojo, with classes on different martial arts including capoeira, but there were daily games (rodas) at the Center Camp too.
And I was even happier when one more naked guy joined the game, as well as a topless girl (not on the photos, though).
For a moment, the Center Camp turned into an Ancient Greek gymnasium :-)
Too bad it was the last evening already, but that was a definitive “yes” – Black Rock City rocks!!!
Those were sad and happy two last nights when major structures were burnt, but that is also a part of beauty of Burning Man, highlighting the idea that one must live in the moment.
And it ends, as everything, only to give a new beginning… Already on the way back, my new friends and I were discussing our ideas for the next year! (Though I am still to decide whether I am going in 2013.)
Oh wait, I’ve also compiled a video with some of the brightest moments at Burning Man. No video is capable to show what that festival of festivals really is, but hopefully it can give you some idea and inspiration.