I just spent four days with an estimated 70,000 people at Burning Man in the Black Rock Desert — a remote and desolate part of Nevada.
There is no power grid and no running water, yet during this week Black Rock City emerges out of the dust to become the 10th largest city in Nevada. Despite reports that the festival is losing its edge as wealthy tech titans like Elon Musk, Sergey Brin, and Mark Zuckerberg erect fancy luxury camps, I can report that this year’s festival was as wild as ever.
Much like when I first attended two years ago, I saw plenty of nudity, free hugs and massages, attractions like human petting zoos, dozens of weddings and memorial ceremonies, world class DJs playing on Vegas-style sound systems at all hours of the day and night, buses and tractors turned into party yachts, fire-breathing dragons and other outrageous “art cars,” people climbing on giant art installations, and generous offerings of food and alcohol to strangers.
This year also saw unseasonably bad dust storms and freezing temperatures, but that didn’t stop nearly 70,000 attendees from having the time of their lives.
Many journeys to Burning Man start in Reno, Nevada, where groups meet to pick up vehicles and friends.
But Burning Man officially begins three hours from Reno at the gates of Black Rock City, where vehicles wait in lines of traffic before they can be admitted.
Each car is searched by a Burning Man organiser to make sure you aren't sneaking anyone in. While your car is searched, everyone inside must wait outside and get their tickets scanned.
Once you reach the entrance -- which can take anywhere from 10 minutes to 10 hours depending on weather and traffic -- burn 'virgins' are hugged by a nude welcoming committee.
First everyone has to find their camp, the community in which they will live for the coming days. Camps can be anything from a group of fancy RVs to a tricked out old school bus.
And human Hungry, Hungry Hippos, in which you laid on a skateboard and caught as many balls as you could in an upside down storage bin.
Outside, I witnessed a wedding take place, complete with bagpipes. On Sunday, the temple was burned to the ground like many of the other art pieces.
This giant sculpture of a woman is always a festival favourite. Every year her looks change slightly.
This line of porta potties looked like they could be part of the art in the middle of the desert, but were actually functional and a popular destination.
Because no garbage can be left behind at Burning Man, all popcorn bags and leftovers were burned in this bin.
Food carts are rare, but this hot dog cart gifted food for those willing to do a stupid human trick.
Sunrise and sunset were by far the most beautiful times of day. Many people plan their sleeping patterns so that they can catch both.
While the festival doesn't end until Monday, the grand finale is on Saturday night when 'the man' sculpture is burned to the ground. The ceremony starts with a giant fireworks display.
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