Burning Man. Almost everyone has heard of the legendary desert celebration of life, creativity and community. Few comprehend it. Even if you have been going for years it can still be impossible to explain. So I am going to skip the task of definition and recent debate over ticket sellout and shortages [Both of which I address in the previous article HERE. And it is worth noting that since the article, the Committee has been amazing with the increasingly difficult task of maintaining the integrity of the festival]. Here are some playa tips and highlights to burn like the rest of them whether it is your first or 26th trip to Black Rock City.
Build and Bring a Bike
With no cars allowed and over nine square kilometers of desert and camps to explore, a bike is essential to cover the full playa. You can always hitch a ride with an Art Car (always fun jumping on a giant set of dentures, pumping disco with hammocks revolving around), but save that for the nightlife. Spend a couple days decking out your bike too so you stand a chance of recognizing it after a few dust storms amidst a hundred other bikes.
The zebradonk, decked out in the SF Green Tortoise Hostel
Spend a Night in the Temple and Watch the Sunrise
The Temple is the closest thing I have ever experienced to a pilgrimage of religious energy. Especially so when you are silently walking across the desert with hundreds of other shadows to reach the Temple before the rise of the Sun. The belly of the Temple is a myriad of people with their own reason for reflection with the walls adorning photos of lost loved ones and messages of personal regret. The Burning Man effigy itself has evolved to commemorate all there is to love about life while the Temple has become an offering for all of life’s loss and sadness. Spend a night to soak up the energy and celebrate with the first light of day.
The belly of the Temple at dawn
The first light upon Black Rock City
Read and Use the Burning Man Guide
With thousands of ridiculous activities, events and lectures occurring during the seven days, it is impressive how many actually get listed in the Guide handed out when you cross the gate. Nighttime is a helluva party but the day breathes the soul of Burning Man, so get out of the shade and enjoy. A watch is also handy as many start on time…because you would hate to miss ‘Rabbits VS Carrots’, ‘Beat Poetry with a wee bit of Spanking’, ‘Wizord of Oz in Reverse to Pink Floyd’ or ‘Dildo Fencing’.
The epic battle at the Man. Check this year's guide for when it is going down.
Sit In on a Monkey Chant
The HeeBeeGeeBee Camp is your go to for morning yoga, holistic healing and incredible lectures throughout the day. The Monkey Chant sessions might one of its most vibrant aspects though. Based on traditional Balinese Kecak Dances (I realized this only after visiting the Indonesian Hindu island), it is one of the best forms of group rhythm chanting and energy release on the playa.
The daily Monkey Chant
The parking lot in front of the scrap metal buddha marking a full day at the Heebeegeebee Camp.
One of the things Burning Man is most notorious for is pure, good ol’ fashioned nakedness. Just do not forget to put sunscreen on the spots that mean most. The Steam Bath Project (apart of the HeeBeeGeeBee Camp) is ideal for both group nakedness and sweating out the toxins while in an enclosed sphere. [For the record I thought I was in a lineup for guacamole only to later realize the front of the line was entering into a metal sphere naked.]
Spend an Afternoon in the Deep Playa
The Deep Playa: AKA the giant mass of desert behind the Temple. A bike is needed to take the time to explore those blips on the horizon (to later realize it is actually a functioning cinema). Yes, some of the best art and structures are hidden deep beyond Black Rock City making it all the more sweet to those that find them.
Exploring the hidden horizon gems of the Deep Playa
Day Rave at Distrikt
It has become the most notorious day party spot on the playa and with good reason. The party just never seems to die. Make sure to hit it up around 7pm so you can cheer with the masses for the set of the sun, bringing in the night.
Picture via the Distrikt Camp website
Bring Minimal Alcohol
Sorry, what? You’re probably saying…Is this not a seven day festival, where too much alcohol is just ludicrous reasoning? Well, welcome to the gift principle of the Burn! Many camps fundraise all year round just so you can get that tasty mojito or caesar (Canadians rejoice) fresh off the desert. Think nine square kilometers of unlimited desert pub-crawl. [Just keep on your toes in case the neon leprechaun guarding the Irish pub demands a limerick before pouring you a glass of Guinness.] This also takes us to the importance of the next topic…
Bring a Gift
Burning Man is a ‘spectator free’ zone of participants only. Therefore create a purpose for yourself, get engaged and have a gift to share. It is not so much about ‘trading’ as much as it is the selfless gift of giving. Getting involved and volunteering with a camp or your local burner organization is also a great gift.
One of my favourite gifts was finding this guy silk screening a custom Black Rock City decal. Worked well with the funky vest I traded with Barter Bob for some written poetry.
The Burning Sheaf created by the Saskatchewan Burners was apart of the 22 Circle of Regional Effigies in 2011. Click HERE to check out the SK Burner crew.
Spend a Day Without Your Camera
This will be a tough one for a lot of virgin burners. Everywhere you look there will be a moment of surreal magnificence framed and ready for that perfect picture, like Salvadore Dali himself set it up. However there is more to Burning Man than taking hundreds of pictures to show and blog about after (cough). The true spirit of the experience is based around impermanence and creating something beautiful that will never be perceived again.
Live it up and enjoy the gift of the Playa.
To match some visuals with the words, check out this short vid I edited from last years burn: