JLW ON THE ROAD: BURNING MAN5 October 2017
Fresh from her epic adventures in South America, Outdoor Hero Jade Worsley has been out at the unique phenomenon that is the Burning Man festival at Black Rock City in the USA.
Once a year thousands of people gather deep in the Nevada desert at Black Rock City to make the most memorable, outrageous, creative few weeks of their lives.
People have asked me time and again, ‘what IS Burning Man?’ My answer – it’s crazy, bonkers, silly, madness, creative chaos and it’s a community creating art. It’s people being allowed true self-expression, people being able to gift in whatever way they desire.
It is also a couple of weeks to be radically self-reliant! You’re in the desert, it’s hot and dusty and you’re forever dirty and thirsty. This is my survival guide and my experience.It’s hard to think en route when we were queuing bumper to bumper with 80,000 other people, chomping at the bit to get in to get a first taste of Burning Man, that 30 years ago it all started on a small beach in San Francisco by a couple of friends.
First of all – the best piece of advice I can give you is GET OUT THERE.
It’s easy to stay in camp or to be overwhelmed because there is so much going on, and you won’t be able to experience everything, but at least you could try! I saw cars transformed into prisms, a pirate ship, palm trees on an island and fire breathing dragons! On my venture one day on a golf caddy with four people I’d met an hour before, we ended up at the “Tiki Bar” and smaller print it read (naked bar)! As you can imagine everyone is naked in there. The somewhat older barman served me a shot completely starkers! Interesting when he had to bend over for the bottle!
A highlight was driving around in the evening on Davina – a fire breathing dragon – I was asked to ‘control the head’. So I sat on the top of the art car and pushed one lever with my foot which moved Davina’s head, I pulled another lever which opened the dragon’s mouth and – my favourite button – activate the fire. Amazing.
Of course, the awesome sights just kept coming.
The main draw is the burning man. A parade of people marching with a man at it’s front, with the fire to light the giant sculpture of a man. There were fire dancers, music coming from all directions, people everywhere, arts cars surrounding the inner circle all ready to watch the big burn.
This year the man was in a temple which was also set to burn. When the fireworks kicked off they were spectacular, I genuinely have never seen a pyrotechnic display as good. Then there was an explosion which left everyone cheering and the man when up in flames. It felt so tribal and primal, all the cheering and excitement in the air mixed in with ash and smoke.
So, here are my tips on surviving Burning Man – from what to pack and how to get there, to what to do when you arrive.
Burning Man is all about participation so make sure you volunteer even if it’s working in a cafe a couple of hours a week. You can find somewhere to volunteer once you’re there at Playa Information they have boards up and you can sign up for anything. Or if you prefer to camp with the people you’re volunteering with you should find a camp to volunteer with before you get there. I’d recommend camping with the team for first timers because you feel more included, you’ll be hanging with BM veterans who’ll show you the ropes and give you an inside look into getting the best from your Burn.
Do that here: https://burningman.org/event/volunteering/
You could even put on your own event anything from hosting a stand up comedy night, to teaching a yoga class. You can take your own art installation or create your own theme camp! Find out more here: https://burningman.org/event/brc/participate/
What to do as soon as you get to BM:
- Pitch tent asap!! Preferably during dusk so it’s not so hot or early in the morning before the sun is fully up
- If you don’t have a bike you can rent one for as little as $50 per bike for the duration – follow this link for a list of reputable places https://burningman.org/event/preparation/getting-around/bikes/bike-repair/
- Get ice for cooler.
- Cycle around and get a feel for the Playa
- Make friends, get out there and get out of your comfort zone, hang out with complete strangers for the day
- EAT! Find food for free! Midnight poutine happened every night at midnight in 6 and E (the design of the playa is a clock face with the time correlating to where the event or camp is positioned and the alphabet going from the esplanade and A which is the middle to G on the outer edges. They give out chips, cheese and gravy every evening! There’s also an array of bars offering drinks everywhere you go, you are less likely to find food so taking you own is important. , but it is out there! My faves were Ribs at Cowboys and midnight poutine cheesy chips, gravy, and pulled pork on top. Be quick though huge queues of 200 people wanting to taste the poutine!
- Raid the rails in Costume Cult and get yourself a fancy dress outfit if you haven’t already. I made a tutu which was strangely satisfying and dressed up as a cop which was brilliant fun getting into character.
- Definitely don’t miss out the thunder dome, at night volunteers enter the metal structure in a dome shape with audiences clambering onto the top so they can get a better view. Volunteers get strapped into a swing with elastic straps and they swing into their opponent and hit them with foam bats. People don’t get hurt it’s all fun and games…. I think.
- When you’re ready, get involved in something you might never have done in the ‘default world’. I was asked to do stand up comedy and even though I was nervous I did it and it was amazing. There’s camps with musical instruments waiting ready to be played, go and jam out with friends or strangers.
How to get to Burning Man:
- Reno – fly into Reno the closest airport to BRC it takes about three hours 30 mins to drive
- San Fransisco – fly into San Fran and drive, it’ll take seven hours on a good run
- Burner Express shuttle bus takes burners from San Fran and Reno to and from BRC
- Obviously take into consideration waiting times in and out of the playa, I was waiting in line for 5 hours on the day the gates opened!
What to pack:
- Cup and bottle – bottle for water and cup for “other drinks”.
- Isotonic drink.
- Water, don’t under estimate how much (a gallon per day, per person is what people recommend.
- Camelback to keep hydrated
- Vinegar to cancel out the alkaline
- Factor 50 sun cream & aloe vera after sun
- Sturdy shoes you don’t care about
- Fun clothes and warm clothes for the evening
- Lots of underwear & socks
- Shower stuff in case you get the chance to shower!
- Trekmates packable Bumbag, easily fits in your case to be brought out when you arrive.
- Any drinks you might need.
- Gifts – Burning Man runs from people gifting to each other whether it’s an art installation, a bar or something like sharing time or giving out lip balms. Take something that you can gift, it’s appreciated and a conversation starter.
- LIGHTS – you need to bring fairy lights to light up your whole body and your bike at night. Take a head light for your tent too
- Blow up mattress and a Trekmates inflatable pillow – sleeping on the floor can be rough
- Sleeping bag (and Trekmates sleeping bag liner)
- Ear plugs
- Toilet paper
- Lip balm
- Trekmates lightweight travel Towels
- Eye drops
- Car phone charger
- If you’re camping alone get a shade structure
- Folding chairs
- Camping stove
- Face mask
- Trekmates lightweight sun hats
- Sun glasses
- Tutu for tutu Tuesday
I could talk about Burning Man for ever and ever, it was a life changing experience and after the possibility of me not going because I was too nervous I wanted to explain to people who maybe are in the same position as me for next year that you shouldn’t be afraid and embrace it. I’d be lying if I said the conditions didn’t make it tough but the pros outweighed the cons by far. So sign up & I’ll see you next year. If you have any other questions come to my pages and I’ll try to answer it!