If you have ever been to Burning Man even just once, if you got what it was about, and I don’t mean nudity and drugs and wild dancing, but ‘it’ being a true expression of freedom, of being in community, of being self-reliant in extreme conditions, then no matter where you are in the world during the last week of August/beginning of September when the event in the Black Rock City Desert takes place, you will find that the tether remains unbroken, and you will pause for a moment of reflection, or perhaps you will even celebrate and honor the great gift than Burning Man has bestowed upon us: freedom. Freedom to play, freedom to be released from the daily routines of every day life, freedom to honor oneself and enjoy the ritual of casting off the old and rejoicing in the new.
Bruce and I and a number of the Kiwiburners decided to throw down a dance party in parallel with the burning of the Man. For several months beforehand, we started talking about it and I volunteered to organise what we have affectionately come to call “Melting Man.” Like last year, we decided to have the party in the mountains about an hour outside of Christchurch. The good folks of Flock Hill Station were gracious enough to let us hold our one-night dance party on their property yet again.
We were seven who committed early on: me, Bruce, Hippie Tim, Wendy, Rich, Cass, and Jeremy: three Cantabrians, two Wellingtonians, and two Ozzies. Rich agreed to DJ and bring down the gear; Bruce and I had the remaining infrastructure. Tim crafted a poster and we started letting friends and burningman-curious folks know. The weather all winter long was stormy and cold and I was extremely worried about having an outdoor party in the snow or rain. Folks were not wanting to commit to coming.
During the week preceding the party, Cass gave me a ring and said ‘I-have-to-go-to-Burning-Man-and-I’m-leaving-tomorrow’ (what did I tell you about that tether?). Sad and happy at the same time, we wished her loads of fun. HiDive was planning to come down from Waiheke but had to cancel a few days before. But we started to get others to say YES. Two of Tim’s friends from New Plymouth were riding down with Wendy and Rich, and another Wellingtonian, John, decided to come too. Lady Steph and Pete came up from Oamaru and with Steph’s help, we convinced several of our New Brighton friends to join in the revelry. Tim playfully coerced his crew of anarchist revelers to join us as well.
The core group rode up to Flock Hill on Friday afternoon and booked into two cabins. We were ten for the night including Lady Steph, Nikki and his daughter Anna. The forecast for the weekend miraculously called for dry, sunny, warmish weather. The drive up was beautiful, the snow-capped mountains glistened. We had time to survey the site for the party and The Knoll was perfect. The road up to the Knoll had been graded so we were able to drive all the equipment up there ourselves (unlike last year when we had to borrow ‘Suzi’ the 4wd Station vehicle!)
The sun welcomed in Saturday and we all busied ourselves with various tasks. We had arts and crafts day out in the yard with Steph, Wendy, Bruce, Nikki, Anna, and myself all making posters and signs and painting large sticks to use as pathway markers.
Some people worked up at the site to get the tent and gear ready. Mid-afternoon the guys all went on a drive all the way up to Arthur’s Pass to find some snow for our Man which Bruce, John and Rich then built.
Because the season had been so wet, Jason, the station manager, said that we could have a fire, spin fire, and ‘burn’ our man if we wanted to. That was music to our ears. I circulated around the backpackers and the main dining area of the Station and invited everyone to the party.
The ‘crew’ finally arrived by 6 and included Pete, Emma, Lucy, Genevieve, Koosje, Laura, Tabatha, Chris, Rosie, and Ollie. We did a big pot luck dinner with the 19 of us gathered in the large lounge of one of the cabins. What a feast!
We dressed in our paddock-fabulous warm outfits and slowly made our way up to the Knoll. Everyone was given glowsticks and we lit the path. Rich kicked things off at 10. The night was stunningly clear, the stars bright. And slowly cars and folks arrived. I met a group newly arrived in New Zealand of young British doctors beginning their 1-year residency work at Christchurch Hospital. They were stoked to stumble upon a dance party. Shane and some others from Christchurch came over from Castle Hill because they’d heard about us. The cook from Flock Hill, Benjamin from Belgium, had his 27th birthday that day. He relieved Rich later that night and played an awesome set of music. Mark, one of the Station’s owners came up to ‘see what we were about’. In addition to Benjamin, a number of the other Station staff partied with us, including Jason. I think we were close to 50 people!
Wendy fire-hooped and Emma & Tim spun fire poi and dazzled the crowd. People huddled around the fire, someone brought face paints. We gave out bikkies, chocolate, and absinthe. We danced and we chatted about Kiwiburn and Burning Man.
I don’t know what time it was, but somewhere in the early hours, Wendy said it was time to melt the man. Rich pumped out an awesome track which folks found perfect for their lyrical ‘Melt-the-Man’ chant and dance. Bruce soaked the man with petrol. Someone (Steph?) carried a few branch-torches from the fire and lit the man, who in Burning Man fashion, ignited in a glory of blazing flames and then toppled over, melting away. Everyone cheered; most of us danced. We released.
The night grew cold; frost appeared on the car windows and on the ground. I was oblivious to it myself. Over time almost everyone drifted off, but a few hearty souls managed to welcome the dawn.
We were all up early, very much sleep-deprived, to start packing and cleaning up as we had to be out of our rooms by 11 am. It was another perfectly clear sunny day. We moved a bit slowly. We packed up the vans. We said our goodbyes, and the eight of us (me, Bruce, Chris & Tyler forever now known as Harold & Kumar, Wendy, Emma, Rich, & John) started our journey back to Christchurch.
We decided to stop and spend a few hours at Castle Rock, only 20 minutes away. Castle Rock is an awesome spot of majestic limestone rock formations: a world class haven for rock-climbers. We made the ten minute walk up to the site and after a short look about, proceeded to immediately relax and bask in the sun’s warmth. Perfect!
We finally arrived back in Christchurch by late afternoon. Most of the group was crashing at our place for the night before making the drive back to Wellington on Monday. We chilled out, drank some wine, made dinner, and talked about how much fun we all had. And then we were early bed, exhausted, yet satiated.
An excellent party; excellent weekend. I am grateful to all that made the effort to come and I am especially grateful to Flock Hill Station and to Jason Robinson who welcomed and supported us again this year and allowed our merry band of burners to have our southern hemisphere Burning Man.