Burning Man 2016 officially started on Sunday.
Even as photos of this year’s festival have started trickling onto social media, many are still baffled by what exactly goes on at the week-long event.
Three years ago, I went to Burning Man for the first time. Last year, I returned for round two.
Burning Man, as the website proclaims, is “an annual art event and temporary community based on radical self expression and self-reliance in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada.”
The festival is a choose your own adventure of early morning meditation, late nights lit up by neon and pulsating music, art installations, bicycle adventures, and much more.
Here’s what happens inside the wild world of Burning Man.
It all started with this: a cheap leopard suitcase I purchased on the streets of New York City. Everything you bring to Burning Man is at risk of getting seriously dirty or of disappearing. I felt OK sacrificing this.
I packed it full with costumes, sunscreen, sunglasses, flashlights, food, and other items on the official checklist. Everything is in plastic bags to keep it clean from the impending desert dust.
Upon arrival in Reno, Nevada, the closest airport, I hit a Walmart to grab last-minute necessities such as jugs of water. Walmart was clearly prepared for all of the 'Burners' driving from Reno.
After a two-hour drive, I approached 'The Playa' -- what people call the land where Burning Man is held.
I was greeted by veteran burners. Being a 'burn virgin' myself, I had to get out of the car and roll around in the dust, as is customary for all first-timers.
There was a communal tent filled with pillows, blowup couches, and chairs where everyone could hang out together.
My camp was part of a larger camp that offered two large meals a day in exchange for kitchen duties like cooking and cleaning.
It was pretty gross. Everything you bring into the desert, you have to take back out -- including dirty dish water.
The first place I checked out was Distrikt, a Vegas-like outdoor club pumping music between the mountains. The bar was open, but you had to provide your own glass.
Money is no good here, but stupid human tricks are. I don't have any, so I had to do a cartwheel in exchange for sending a postcard from the working post office.
Including this fire-breathing octopus art car, where the bride and groom's rings were made of duct tape.
Art cars, such as this piñata-themed vehicle, are a huge thing at the festival, and people spend all year putting them together.
This guy inside the car shot people below with a hose to cool them down. It was nearly 100 degrees every day. Nights were cooler.
On the outside of the car there was an open bar, where people filled their Camelbaks -- intended for water -- with alcohol.
The cars take you out to 'deep playa,' miles away from the main camps, where random things like this open bar are set up.
Around this area, I spotted a movie theatre. It was fully functioning with a generator, playing films like 'The Wizard of Oz,' and offering snacks at a concession stand.
I spotted this cart, which had two sinks and was handing out free toothbrushes. Notice the glowing tooth on the top!
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