SaddleDrunker Raffa talk to us about his experience at the desert festival in Black Rock City.
My experience at Burning Man
As I promised here my short story about the experience at Black Rock City for the Burning Man festival!!!
Just a quick explanation of the festival if anyone has never heard of it: basically in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada, 120 miles north Reno, every year the week leading up to and including Labor Day the people belonging to the non-profit organisation “Burning Man Project” build a city called Black Rock City.
In this city for one week people can experience where almost 60,000 people (participants, volunteers and staff) “dedicate themselves to the spirit of community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance.” (Burning Man website, What is Burning Man, http://www.burningman.com/whatisburningman/)
There are 10 principles that provide a social framework for Burning Man, like “Leaving no Trace”, all the litter you produce and things you bring must come with you after the festival; or “Gifting” where giving gifts to friends and especially strangers is unconditional, and much appreciated! (Burning Man website, Ten Principles of Burning Man, http://www.burningman.com/whatisburningman/about_burningman/principles.html#.VBg92PldXh4)
At the festival nothing is sold but ice and coffee-tea, you must bring everything you need to survive in the desert for one week, food, water, appropriate clothing (hot in the day, cold in the evening!) and lights to decorate your bike and yourself! Bikes, yes, there are tons of bikes!! And you need one in order to get around BRC because it’s HUGE!! I’ll come to the cycling part in a moment.
I was so curios to check out what was the big deal about Black Rock City, so I pre-registered in January and at the end of February I was so lucky to get my ticket… tickets sold out in 45 minutes!!
I rented a car in Reno, where they start to ask you if you are a Burner… there is a little “museum” about Burning Man and if you fly a couple of days before the festival you will see lots of Burners!!!
Me and my friend Alessia (who arrived the day the festival was supposed to start) went to Walmart for a massive shopping and then we went to Black Rock Bicycles (http://www.blackrockbicycles.com/): they basically rent bikes for Burning Man. I found them online and I decided to rent our bikes there: 2 American cruisers, awesome!!!! The staff is great and very chilled, they even give me pop corns as soon I stepped in the shop, and the quality of the bikes was great (in the desert you need a good bike that don’t let you down!!).
We left in the afternoon but because it has rained on Monday and they closed the gates, we had to queue with all the people that were supposed to be already in… 6 hours total time and we parked at 4!! We got our bikes and excited we went exploring Black Rock City and we couldn’t believe what we were seeing: lights and fire, mutant vehicles dressed as ships, skulls, scorpions, dragons, etc….Music was everywhere: form bars (created ad hoc for the festival!), mutant vehicles pumping loud music with massive speakers, proper stages with lights and fire, after only one hour we were overwhelmed by all the things that were going on in the playa!!
There are many art installations; one of my favourite was Embrace (http://embrace2014.com/), a huge man and woman embracing each other. You could walk inside to find their hearts!! Spotted first time at the sunrise: it was special and emotional!!
The man this year was sooooo tall and with no structure underneath it: instead they built a kind of souk with tents where you can explore or chill, especially when the hot sun was out!!
There were so many other art installations, mutant vehicles, bars and stuff that people built specifically for Burning Man to check out, here really a few to show:
One of the things I enjoyed the most was cycling in the playa: there was a sense of freedom that rarely you can get in your normal life. There was a sense of wandering (or cruising as my good buddy would say) with no destination, no rush, time didn’t matter for a whole week and you could literally do whatever you want, with (almost) no restrictions. You can be whoever you want and you can do whatever you want!!
They give you a small booklet at the gate when they welcome you: this is a very useful gift because there are listed all the events that are planned in Black Rock City. You can do LOTS of stuff: from meditation courses, yoga sessions, workshop, attending talks, being spanked (!) or a crash course on Japanese bondage. It’s almost impossible to find something that you don’t like!! So your experience could be from the most mystic and holy adventure in the desert to the naughtiest one. Or you could dance 24/7. It’s up to you!! :)
A dramatic change of weather brought sand storms: they are fun, as long as you have goggles and dust-masks or scarfs!!!
Bikes are everywhere!!! Without a bike you would miss out so much!!!
This is why everyone had a bike and the way to recognise it from the other 50,000 was… to customise it!! Creativity was the way, all kind of materials have been used (I had a tiger-striped saddle cover and led lights all around it for night rides) and I’ve seen very cool bikes like the one in the picture below: the guy put a fire-thrower on it too!!! super cool!!!)
In the middle of the playa there was a Bike Portal: if you had any problem with your bike you could get some spare parts from the wardrobe next to it… all for free!!! Have I already said that everything was free in BRC?? :)
Saturday night the burnt the man: imagine the biggest party you have ever been!!! At least 30,000 people partying in the desert with music, lights, fire and people just so excited to see the man burning!! It was AWESOME!!!
The party went on till morning with some of the most famous DJ-Sets like Robot Heart, one of my favourite.
The night afet they burnt the temple: such a complete opposite experience!! The temple was crowd-founded on Kickstater, and basically a lot of people paid a tribute to someone who lost, people went there to pray, you could literally feel like you left the crazy and loud BRC and you escaped in an oasis of calm and holiness, not necessary religious.
I spent twice some time there and I could see people praying and crying, it really is such an incredible place.
The last night of the festival, when they burn the temple, music is stopped and people are silent, you can hear the crackles of wood in the fire: that’s a VERY emotional moment!!!
So, this is the story of my experience at Black Rock City. It has been the most incredible experience in my life, a city that never sleeps and that offers so many things to do. But that was not the best part in my opinion, in a place where you can be yourself and you don’t need to play a part, connecting with similar-minded people was the best gift I have ever received from this amazing adventure. Welcome Home Burners!!!!!!