Drix was knackered so he had forty winks in the car and me and Jim set about building the camp (time-lapse movie of this is forthcoming!). Jim had devised a great scaffold shade structure so we bolted it together then fought with the canvas covers and fastened them into place. This took a good few hours, and meanwhile the City was filling up as more and more people arrived. They came over to say hi and have a quick chat, everyone was still so friendly :o)
Unpacking all the other camp gear took hours too - the table, the stove, the food boxes, hammering in the rebar to double-secure the shade structure....it was now about 11am and the heat was starting to filter thru as the sun got higher. But then suddenly the sun was blocked out by an oncoming dust storm....."oh it'll pass" I thought to myself - YEAH RIGHT :D
The storm settled in and stayed - like, for the rest of the day and through the night. Visibility plummeted, we donned goggles and dust masks, secured the shade structure even more, then attempted to pitch our tents. We took a quick break and went for a wander round the city.....it was very surreal, like a Nuclear Winter. Total whiteout, shadowy figures of other Burners wandering around, people on bikes, art cars coming and going into the dust, glimpses of neon or EL wire, and just the howling buffeting wind. It was exhilarating but by now I was so tired that I couldn't see straight. It was well over 24 hours since I'd slept!!
Drix walked right out to the Man and climbed up it - in the whiteout! Go Drix :D He said it was awesome and I wish I'd had the energy to go out there too and experience it. he saw a stretch Limo pull up at the Man and someone got out, climbed up and had a look around at the view, then got back into the Limo and it disappeared into the dust clouds.....I wonder who it was.....someone wealthy no doubt, trying to experience Burning Man without TRULY experiencing it by camping here, getting covered in dust, and leaving the Comfort Zone of their aircon Limo. IMO if you're not gonna embrace the dust then you're wasting your time coming along!!
Now it was getting dark, I was so tired and ready to drop where I stood. I started to get scratchy and irritable, and when the tent pitching proved to be a total windy nightmare, I snapped and barked at Drix as he tried to help....oops! He went off and left me to it. All three of us were very tired and Jim had started to hallucinate out of pure fatigue. We finally got the tents up and I just piled all my stuff inside (suitcases covered in dust but I was past caring), crawled in my sleeping bag, and tried to sleep. I was so tired I thought I'd drop off in no time but in true "first day" style, everyone was up and about with loud sound systems.
Earplugs were useless....and the wind was blowing so bad that the tent bashed and battered and flapped around me, it was so noisy. I just lay in a stupor and waited for sleep to take over, which it only did when the music abated at about 4am. So I had 3 hours sleep in total I reckon.....
I still had jetlag too and it wasn't until Wednesday that I had straightened out and started to feel a bit healthier. My body adapted to having bugger all sleep most nights, but crikey it took some adapting to the full force of the Nevada sun!!! Without my cowboy had and Factor 50 I'd have not made it thru the days for sure.
Now the constant desert dust started to work it's "magic" on my feet. By "magic" I mean it gets into every nook and crevice of your feet, and starts sucking the moisture out from them. All the sandals and shoes I'd brought that were comfy in the UK, started chafing and blistering my feet due to the heat and the dust. I'd already bought a new pair of slip ons because my normal sandals had started chafing in Vegas. Now these new ones, cos they were rubber (doh!), just made my feeet sweat and then chafe even more. Thank GOD I'd brought with me a big bottle of moisturiser - it really did save my feet from some serious crackage!
If you went barefoot then your feet would eventually crack and get very painful due to the moisture-sucking alkaline dust. I tried the hideous combo of socks and sandals which worked OK but after a few hours, still chafed and blistered. My hiking boots with thick socks were great but my feet literally boiled while wearing them, making my feet swell then they'd start blistering cos they were crushed into the boots. To sum it up, I couldn't win!! many an evening was cut short by my feet literally screaming in agony, which really pissed me off cos the night times were so awesome I wanted to just wander round Black Rock until dawn, but I had to limp back to camp and rest my feet, then rest them the next day so I could try to walk around more later on.
Thankfully I could cycle around the Playa during the day, but I had to strap some fleece onto the saddle cos that started to give me a right sore bum!! By the end of the week the streets were so pitted and bumpy I was riding standing up in the saddle anyhow, so the bum-pain became irrelevant :D
One thing a lot of people told me about Burning Man is "don't try to plan anything". And they were totally right! I had a list in my head of things I was going to do:
* I was gonna get up early to see the sun rise (I never did, it was too darn cold and I was always knackered in the mornings due to crap nights sleep)
* I was gonna record a video diary of as much as I could (nope, my camera battery wouldn't charge up so the only thing I could have used was my mobile which takes crap video)
* I carried a small book with me that I wanted people who I met to sign (chickened out due to being shy, and also CBA!!!!)
* I was going to drop into random theme camps and say hi (fannied out again!)
When you're at Burning Man you just go with the flow....depending on the amount of alcohol/sleep/painkillers you've had, the things you PLAN to do don't always happen!!! It wasn't until about Thursday that I started dragging myself out of bed early (but still not early enough to see the sun rise), cos I realised that the magic time of 7am till about 10am was great for a level of warmth that wasn't skin-blistering, plus you had the golden morning light, and the Playa and City were relatively tranquil and quiet.
Oh it was such bliss....cycling out into the desert, stopping off to look at the giant Playa art, taking photos, just sitting and enjoying the silence and the gorgeous cloudless blue sky....the only sounds were the crunching of my bike tyres on the surface, the rattling of the bike, the occasional swear word from me as I got beached in yet another dune..... :D One morning there was a hot air balloon just landed, I got some lovely pics of it - will get them on here soon I promise! Groups of Burners lounged around near the various artwork, chatting and smiling and saying hello as you cycled by. They'd probably not even slept yet but had partied thru the night (OK for them with no painful feet!) Black Rock has it's own airstrip and throughout the week, people parachuted into the Playa - what a way to arrive! Apparently the pilots would give free flights over the City to people if you went in the morning and asked them, but I fannied out again (BUGGER - next time!!!!!)
I spent my days cycling systematically down each street in Black Rock, checking out the theme camps, the art cars, the sights, the people. Lots of people - lots of semi naked people and some totally buck naked. OMG! At first I was a model of British prudeness, getting a shock each time a naked guy wandered by, but a couple of days into it I was like "yep, another naked man, another willy.....move along nothing to see here!" I was so desensitized to body parts that even a naked and rather buff guy with a pink mohican offering me toilet roll at the portaloos didn't faze me ;o)
I had to laugh when I reached the kid-friendly part of the City "Kidsville". Families were encouraged to camp near this area and there was lots going on to keep the kiddies amused. But about 3 camps down from Kidsville there were about 5 naked guys crowded round a BBQ having a jolly good fry-up. Hilarious. Wonder what mummy and daddy would tell little Timmy when he asked about the "naked men and their sausages"?? :D
One afternoon when the sun was at its worst and I was almost melting, I came across The Deep End....a dawn to dusk club with a bar, and a wooden scaffold platform for dancers, and THE most awesome dance music and vibe I've ever witnessed. How I cursed my bloody camera and its flat battery! The dancefloor was heaving with people, the sun beat down like a furnace and I was dying to get in there and dance but I knew I'd probably pass out. I found a spot in the shade and stood with my bike watching, utterly entranced....people walked by and encouraged me to have a dance - oh I wish I could have done!! But I could feel my ginger fair skin starting to really screech for some shade and cooling down - despite the factor 50. After 30 minutes of watching I had to go back to camp and refill my camelback, and jusst seek some shade to let my body temperature drop a bit.....I didn't want to risk any form of heatstroke and dehydration.
I tried to go back there later in the day when the sun was cooler but my typically shit sense of direction meant I kept bloody missing it....and cos it finishes at sundown, by the time I did find it, it was deserted.
Night time. OMG night times were utter mind-overload. I wanted them to last forever, I wanted to cut my complaining blistered whingeing feet off and replace them with prosthetics, so the pain would stop and I could walk around all night. I wanted to mug someone and take their Segway, I wanted to cycle but at night time it'd be lethal with all the dunes and bad visibility and the hassle of trying to find your bike in the dark or lock it up if you went for a wander.
Night times were a vision of EL wire - on clothing, on art cars, on theme camps. Propane flames blasted from some of the art cars, there was a fire stage devoted to fire dancers, with 6 huge propane burners that threw out huge blasts of flames at random intervals. Music pumped while the fire dancers took turns to take the stage with fiery hoops or poi or huge batons or 5-spoked flaming torches......fucking awesome to behold. Glowsticks, coloured neon, music of every genre could be heard....Playa art was lit up to spectacular affect, the Man in the distance blazed neon, the lack of light pollution meant that the stars in the sky were an umbrella of light. Roars and cheers were heard from the very popular Thunderdome (more of that later!)
I walked out into the middle of the Playa so the City was far off from me. I stood enveloped in the darkness just looking and listening. The night air was warm, at least 20oC. I watched the colours of the City flickering and blinking in the distance, listening to the cheers from the open air club with it's huge screens, as the DJ let rip with another awesome track.....a burst of propane flames lit up the surrounding area with a bright orange, then died away.....across the distance, another propane art car answered it with a replying burst. The gentle evening breeze blew the strains of Frank Sinatra past my ears, then it was gone.....then more heavy pumping bass......then a snippet of Martin Luther King's famous speech......"I have a dream". If you've not yet listened to his full 20 minute speech then do it (http://www.youtube.com/wat
"Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!
But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring."
Such relevant words to all at Burning Man, we all just want to be free, to live in a free world that is uncluttered by all the crap and corruption that is crippling it and us today. I sat in the desert under the stars with the biggest grin on this earth on my face, totally overwhelmed by the visual and mental overload going on in my brain. Photos and film just cannot capture what was before me.
Whilst wandering one night, an impromptu fireworks display kicked off near the Man. I stood and watched, and got chatting to a random young guy who was standing near me and watching too. We started to chat and walk together, and after a whie I grew a bit suspicious. he seemed to have lots of stories .....first he said he was here cos his brother had died earlier in the year, and he had been a Burner, so he wanted to experience what his brother had. Then he said he was a woodworker by trade....then later he said he'd just completed Police Academy.....then he said he worked as a plain clothes shop detective.
WTF? Make your mind up? When I challenged him about exactly what job he DID do, he said that the store detective was a kind of fill-in between Police Academy, and the woodworking thing had been "earlier on". His next tale was about how he'd inherited a load of land. As yet I'd not even bothered to ask his name and I was rapidly discovering he had the personality of a garden gnome. He didn't ask me much about myself - I considered telling him I was a genetic engineer/dolphin trainer/polar ice cap researcher, just to see if it made a dent......
One of the biggest art cars came near us so we sprinted to get onto it. It was a huge bus that was hinged in the middle and had a platform on top that pretty much was a nightclub! It heaved with people, the bus below was full of people, UV lights, and oh joys - TV screens showing hardocre triple dildo porn action :O We headedupstairs and enjoyed a ride out to the Playa, people watching and chatting. A drunken girl clapped her eyes on him and they started talking, and I realised that we were being taken WAY out into the depths of the desert - argh! I was stuck on a nightclub bus screening porn, with a personality-less guy who was more interested in chatting to a drunk girl (I think he'd realised he'd not got a chance in hell with me, cos I was sober!)
I started chatting to another guy then thought "screw this I'm outta here". I told my nameless Garden Gnome I was going downstairs to warm up a bit, waited till the next stop then did a runner :D
Of course this meant that I had to walk my cripped feet for about 40 minutes, to get back to the city. I stopped off at the fire stage again to warm up and have a sit down, then limped back to camp and fell into bed.