After a stressful afternoon gathering the necessary, paying special attention to the unnecessary, we left Garden Valley – a quiet, but charming little California town up in the mountains – on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Our destination: Black Rock City, to be built by us in the middle of Nevada’s desert lands – close to the Sin City; and also not to far away from it.
What an isolated place! Maybe just as remote as the farm where Pink Floyd’s guitarist hid during his secluded years. Literally in the middle of nowhere, not ever cactus grow on this desert, 47,366 people build up and take down an entire city in just nine days. In the meantime they make it their homes, managing to live in complete harmony with one another with no need for the most basic modern resources, like plumbing, electricity, mobile phones and of course, the Internet. And, above all, they are totally absent from the capitalistic world we live in (or free from it).
A few decades old but holding on like a Rolling Stone, our blue bus – which was once a typical yellow school bus full of little kids, and now transformed into a hanging out room over wheels – transports seven burners into the parallel world of wonders, also known as the art festival for all kinds of imaginations: The Burning Man.
Our driver is almost a warrior, sober as a lizard after hours toasting in the boiling sun. He worried about the road conditions, fuel and the jammed traffic on the front gates while the rest of us drank atomic watermelons (Vodka+Sugar in a Watermelon) and sang Sublime songs in between the tales of some old Burning Man memories. We were all ready for a long drive, since our blue bus can’t go over 40m/h, not even downhill.
Ten hours later – in a regular vehicle, it wouldn’t be more than four – we can start to see the BRC lights sparkling in the distance. In half an hour we got through the front gates, only because we’re early on, arriving on the first opening night, tomorrow the same trajectory may take up to five fun hours.
Hundreds of signs with funny commentaries entertain everyone who waits on line to get to the city’s welcoming doors. The arriving ceremony is the first step to make you dive into the mood of this strange society. First visit to BRC? You’re a virgin! And will get an enthusiastic invitation to come down from your vehicle and perform two tasks: Ring a loud iron church bell and then roll on the ground to get to know the dear PLAYA – loving nickname given to the thin desert’s sandy dust.
We parked our bus on Boreal St. at 7:00 and started to build up our camp site. Aiming for the easy navigation, the city was projected in a shape similar to an old-fashioned clock, in a way that the hours cut the internal roads that go from A to L, like rings inside this circle. The first internal street is called Esplanade, and that’s where most of the theme camps are concentrated. With the will to preserve the beautiful view of the desert’s immensity, four hours of that clock are open into the mountains, nothing big is usually in the way, and that gives BRC a final silhouette similar to the letter C.
The Esplanade goes around the playa, which is the internal free circle with something like 8km from side to side. Fifty colossal and interactive art projects are spread all over it. Exactly in the middle, on top of a 15m structure is the man of the festival.
Everything here goes from art to ashes. Traditionally, right after the man burns on Friday, all other big art projects transform into enormous fires in a frenetic festival of astonishing colorful flames.