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September 06, 2004

Burning Man 2004

Gallery LinkWhat is Burning Man?
I won't even try to explain since that would fall too short anyway.

Surf the web and find out for yourself.

Well, maybe I'll try a little bit.

Imagine 35,000 people gathering in a remote desert area in Nevada to try something different. They start with building a city that exists for just one week - Black Rock City. Then they get creative, wild, artistic, pyromanic and much more.

Those who know me a bit longer than others know that I was fascinated by fire ever since. How is it possible then that 2004 was my first year at Burning Man? I don't know. I grew up in Europe, and while the event on the playa becomes more popular with Europeans every year, I had to visit California to find out about it. That happened in 2000, and since then I guess I had no excuse any more. Oh well, I finally made it, so who cares...

Daryl and I planned the trip really late in the game. If you want to go, plan early - tickets are much cheaper and you actually can prepare some interesting contribution. Burning Man is all about giving, therefore making a contribution is very important. Besides contributing, preparation is everything. Burning Man is not only inspiring, fun, spiritual and fascinating, it is also hot, cold, dry, dusty and dangerous. Don't forget your hat, goggles and dust mask. Oh, and a bike. You need a Burning Man Bike. Because the city covers more than five square miles, and walking from one end to the other takes hours. This doesn't mean bringing your latest-and-greatest mountain bike. It would be toast afterwards. You want to get a beater and decorate it as crazy as you can.

As we were both busy, we chose to go the second half only, Friday through Monday. I flew into Reno Friday morning, Daryl picked me up at the airport. He had everything prepared and stuffed into a Jeep. After stocking up on a few essential things (such as 15 gallons of water), we headed out to the desert. The afternoon went by setting up our tents and shade structure. Later, I visited my friend Arena, she was camping with The Tribe Of The Chattering Monks.
Saturday night is the night of the burn. The Man's existence ends in a firework setting him on fire. The scenery is surrounded by ten thousands cheering and whistling.

Sunday is very different. Camps start to break down and all the burn-night-only visitors leave early. Sunday night is the silent highlight of the week: David Best burns the installation he and his 70 person crew built over months: This year it was called the Temple of Stars. Stretching out a quarter mile wide and 100 feet tall. An unreal experience.
The crowd is almost as large as Saturday night, but 15 minutes before the burn, the entire playa goes silent. The atmosphere becomes sombre and celebratory at the same time. Once the temple burn is over, everone knows that this was it. Time to prepare for the way home.

After four days of intense experience, we left the already half-way deconstructed Black Rock City. That is first we tried to leave. Since Highway 447 from Black Rock Desert to I-80 was built for a fraction of Burning Man's traffic, we had to queue three and a half hours to leave the playa.
Finally, Daryl dropped me off in Reno and I flew back to San Jose. Went to bed with body paint on...

Posted by Uli at September 6, 2004 11:59 PM


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