At Black Rock City in the state of Nevada, a world-renowned festival takes place in the middle of a desert; it can only be Burning Man.
There's nothing quite like Burning Man. This world famous festival is probably more unique than a Lady Gaga outfit at the MTV Awards. Burning Man is a surreal and unforgettable experience where participants are encouraged to not only participate but to be responsible for the activities.
Since Burning Man stretches across five and a half square miles of sand in the Black Rock Desert, do as others do and base yourself in Reno. It will take over three hours to reach the annually erected and dissembled town. Independent of any commercialisation, Burning Man has no audience or employees and turns no profit. The burners that undertake the pilgrimage from over 60 countries must bring their own supplies to survive the desert heat that exceeds 35 degrees Celsius by day and freezing temperatures at night. Attendees volunteer their services to gift food and drink to fellow burners. There is no exchange of money, no advertising of any kind (even car logos must be covered up) and the spirit of radical inclusion guarantees you'll make life-long friends.
Sceptics may have creased eyebrows by this point, a city that exists for seven days out of the year and vanishes without a trace? It does admittedly sound, well biblical but make no mistake, the barren sands of Arizona transform into a self-governing municipality, dedicated to art and community. It even circulates its own newspaper. But matters of local council and community are not the purpose of 65,000 pilgrims that make for the Black Rock Desert. They come for the art.
Installations are mesmerizing: themed camps, musical performances, mutant insect vehicles, pirate ships, mechanical mammals and musical swings. Costumes are varied and wacky but anyone worth their desert salt will pack a pair of steampunk goggles, bullet proof in a sand storm. That's not all you'll need to bring along to make it through though. A couple of absolute essentials are sunscreen, gallons of water, food, a bicycle (the city is huge), a head torch as well as a regular flashlight and plastic cutlery and crockery. Bring nothing that is disposable, a violation of a core Burning Man principle. Cash: you won't need it. Nothing is for sale here.
Be sure to pick up a map and invest some time studying it so you can navigate your way through the metropolis' semicircle layout. It's also worth taking a tour of the event's website to familiarise yourself with what to expect, what to take as well as schedule updates. If you want to collaborate with others prior to the festival, the Spark is an online tool that lets you share ideas.
On the Saturday night before Labour Day, Burning Man's hadjis assemble for the spiritual climax when the wooden man, who has overseen the week from his lofty height, is set ablaze.
Think outside the box and you'll fit right in. Perhaps Lady Gaga was on her way to Burning Man when she wore that infamous meat dress; she probably wouldn't have looked out of place here.
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