Burning Man 2018: Memories of the Dust

Burning Man 2018 in the Black Rock Desert. KPN photos.
Burning Man 2018 in the Black Rock Desert. KPN photos.

Gone with the Dust in at Burning Man in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert

By Julia Stepanova

BM2018 080“Whiskey cola please” –a middle-aged woman with golden stars on top of her nipples hands a mug to me.

I am working in a bar. I pour drinks in the middle of the Black Rock Desert in Nevada. It sounds a little bit absurd – like everything at Burning Man.

In America, you shouldn’t call blacks n–gers, or call Burning Man a festival. That sounds like an insult to the annual attempt of universal efforts to create an alternative reality.


In this psychedelic brew, there are all elements of a real city – post office, hospital, airport, cinemas, cafes, and spa centers. Here there are official marriage registrations and laser eye surgery.

Black Rock City

Black Rock City can even be found on Google maps. Perhaps, that is because the creators of Google maps are also somewhere here cutting through the desert on their bikes.

It is said that Mark Zuckerberg was distributing cheese sandwiches near the road, and Paris Hilton was once seen in a nearby bar. But it’s hard to get to know someone: all wearing glasses, handkerchiefs on the face and covered in a layer of white dust.

 Flour on your Face

The first days, you are haunted by the feeling that they have put on you in a package of flour and made holes in it for your eyes, feet, and hands.

Then you get used to the fact that the color of the skin does not differ from the color of the earth, and you become part of the desert. Dust envelopes you from head to toe and reaches the very bottom of your lungs, making everyone equal.

The only difference between the rich and not very rich, in terms of living. You can come by bike and buy a tent for $ 30 or you can fly by plane and live in a camp for $ 25,000, where several times daily carpet paths are vacuumed.

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People at Burning Man 2018.

I chose the golden middle and settled in a theme camp. It is the best way to provide yourself with water, food, a shower and … an occupation for 16 hours a week – every member of the camp must work that much.

Yesterday I washed the dishes and went to a nearby camp to buy ice. Today I got the role of bartender.

A Simple Choice

– Here everything is very simple: you offer a choice – vodka, rum or whiskey. If asked, you can get beer from the refrigerator. But better leave it to us.

And if they want anything else, say “fuck off”. These words solve all problems, my colleague at the bar instructing me, Californian Rob. He is 44. He has pigtails all over his head and no front teeth.

“How’s your burn?” I ask. Here this question is synonymous with “how are you?”

“It’s fun, although I will not say that this is the best burn to memory.”

“And which was the best?”

Rob smiles.

“The first. When I was 26. I was young and tried all the drugs that were possible. And now I’m 44, have a potbelly and my health is not the same.”

Our work, like everything at Burning Man, is not paid. But it should only bring pleasure. One of the main principles here is gifting. People are staying on the road and provide soup and pancakes, give out ice cream and watermelons, pour fresh orange juice. All this they bought and brought to the desert at their own expense, just to share with others.

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A decorated art vehicle at Burning Man 2018.

“You have such cool sunglasses! Where did you get them from?” – I admired the glasses with the branded inscription” Burning man “, in which a guy from my camp was flaunting.

“Here!” – he answered and the pair of the glasses instantly found themselves onto me. And all the remaining days in the desert the guy walked without glasses. But refusing any gifts here is not accepted – after all people do it because they want to.

Once, while waiting for dawn, my friend and I dozed off on couches in the chill-camp zone. This was noticed by one of our campmates and immediately got two sleeping bags to cover us.

Where else, except Burning Man, you, like a caring grandmother, will be provided with a blanket from an African American in a BDSM harness belt vest.

Universal Love and Care

In this atmosphere of universal love and care, a desire to give something and make people happy is borning. On the wave of this impulse hours of volunteer work is what you started to desire.

My camp is one of the largest at Playa. We repaired bicycles. More precisely, bicycles were repaired by the male half of the camp.

And I sprayed the guests with liquid from the outside (with water) and from the inside (with alcohol), so that they do not get bored while waiting for their bicycles to be repaired.

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Dust on the Playa gets everywhere.

After water and food, the bike is the most important thing at this event. It takes around an hour to ride around the city, and on your own legs, you will not see a hundredth (1/100) part of what is going on. Best is a bicycle with wide tires and no gears, these are more stable and easier to repair.

On the Playa, it’s hard to find a person who does not need a bike repair. Dust clogs the bearings, the pedals stop spinning, and the spokes shake in a matter of hours.


Therefore, the queue for our camp day after a day reminds one of the queues for a new iPhone.

But no one thinks that they are indignant of the fact that a lot of the precious time of rest is spent on standing around for a long time.

At Burning Man something is always going on. There are so many events that you do not need to chase after them. They will find you. There is no main stage and no main event.

The center of what is going on -– it is always yourself. Wherever you are, something happens to you. And from this, there will be created your personal experience – for which people come here.

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The only things you can buy at Burning Man are coffee and water. The rest is free, bartered or given with love.

Everyone finds their own – someone goes to the sessions of group masturbation or learns unicorn fisting, and for others, they attend lectures in physics and concerts of classical music.

People come out of the sand, talk to you and disappear as soon as you blink. It is very difficult to meet the same art-car twice and the same person twice.

If this happened, it means – Playa provides. It is the local religion. It is necessary to formulate a wish and throw it out of your head – as it is immediately realized.

A Permanent Holiday

A feeling of a permanent holiday never leaves the city. All the people are smiling and hugging, exclaiming “enjoy your burn!” And “welcome home!”.

In every camp plays its own DJ. And all this music merges for you into one track, when you ride along the road on a bike. Throughout the Playa, objects are scattered chaotically.

Burning Man 2018 GoNOMAD.com Travel

The most important is the Man and the Temple. The man stands in the heart of Playa as the main landmark. And the Temple is in the deep playa, a bit away from the city.

The silence in Temple is deafening. On the wooden walls, people write about their loved ones who have passed away. Photographs are looking at me from each of the walls.

As well as the inscriptions. I think that burning man is the most impressive party on the planet, compared to other club parties which are more like matinees in kindergarten. But the heart of this holiday of life is a pain.

A Russian woman strolls the Playa at Burning Man 2018 in Nevada.
A Russian woman strolls the Playa at Burning Man 2018 in Nevada.

People all around have different skin colors, language, sexual preferences as well as attitudes towards drugs. They can walk naked or in shorts with a unicorn, but inside everyone, there is this pain. The same as yours. And the Temple is the place where people open it to each other.


The atmosphere here feels like a cemetery. But in the cemetery, everyone’s emotions are directed inwards, and then – outwards. And that’s why it’s a temple. A temple of a religion common to the whole world–love.

The Temple Burns

On the last day of the festival, the Temple burns. Tens of thousands of people watch this huge fire. Everyone is silent. “Live brightly and leave no trace ” – another principle of the Black rock city – a city that exists eight days a year.

Burning man is when 70,000 people simultaneously decided to escape reality. It’s not just a big party. It’s a cosmic world with its own laws. There are not as many naked people as you think. It’s not just electronic music. Here, not only orgies and drugs.

Here everything is not what you think. And how – depends on the result of the chemical reaction between you and the white dust of this magical city.

Julia Stepanova

Julia Stepanova is a journalist by trade,  who finished Moscow University with a degree in printed arts. She lives between Berlin and Moscow and worked as a TV presenter and author of programs. She adores nature, traveling, and exploring the world ( 23 countries so far). Meeting people and writing are her passions.

More Burning Man photos from KPN

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