Destination: Kiwiburn: Whakamaru Domain, February 5 – 8, 2009

Fireworks Man

Epic.  Transitional.  Watershed.  That is how I would describe Kiwiburn 2009.   Whoa.    It was big, again, and it was magical, again.

Nurse KathyBruce face paintKathy Flowers

Bruce and I took on a lot of projects this year.  In addition to The Green Fairy, which we’ve got down to a tee, and the Kostume Korner, which I did last year, Bruce brought his new improved Merkaba art structure and he also decided to spearhead Shambala, aka Healer Camp, to expand upon his spiritual focus and bring some yin to Kiwiburn’s often yang-focused atmosphere.    I put up my hand to run the Gate & Greeters and had been working with my co-conspirator Kora over the last few months to design the Mutation Station.   There’s been plenty to think about.

Van fully loaded

We were on schedule, having partially packed the van in Wainui and then cruising into town (Christchurch) to gather up the rest of the gear.    We had so much stuff and the van was chokka full with little room to spare.   We started off on our 2-day journey on a Saturday afternoon, pleased with ourselves and excited to get to be on our way.  About an hour into the trip the van started over heating which is something it’s never done before.  A stop to the nearest petrol station revealed that there was no water in the radiator and that it appeared the cylinder head gasket had ruptured.  Not a good sign.   The mechanic shook his head and cautioned us from going further, “I wouldn’t take that thing to the north island.”  “Hmmm” is all we could say.   There was no question in either of our minds that we’d have to go back to Christchurch and figure out a new plan.    Options:  Rent a van,  rent a trailer and pull it with our 4×4,  buy a van, or borrow a van.   All shops were closed for the evening but a quick internet search revealed that a van rental for 10 days would run almost $1000 and we wouldn’t be able to get one till mid-morning.    We weren’t keen on the trailer/4×4 concept.  We seriously considered going to the Sunday morning car faire and buying a van and as we were pondering all these options, our temporary roommates Sola & Inayat popped in and as we explained our situation, Sola, without missing a beat, said “Wanna take our van?” to which we replied, “YES!”     We unloaded and loaded the vans in just under two hours, had dinner and went off to bed.

At 5 am we were up and on our way making the 340 km trip to Picton in 4 ½ hours with an hour to spare before the three hour ferry ride to Wellington.   At 4:30 pm we were ready to embark on the 370 km ride to Mangakino, generally a six hour journey.   About an hour outside of Wellington we came to a standstill on the highway (which in New Zealand often means 2 lane roads).   Word came from up front that a head-on occurred just a few km ahead and the road would be closed for at least two hours.  With no options for alternate routes, we just turned off the engine and sat in the queue, trying to entertain ourselves or catch a few zzz’s.  Finally at 8:00 pm we were on our way again and we plowed through the night arriving on site by 2 am.   Only a 21-hour trip.  Epic.

After good nights’ sleep, we woke to a beautiful day on the paddock.  It felt good to be there and the Burning Man mantrum ‘Welcome Home’ finally felt appropriate to me.  There is a feeling of home there on the Whakamaru Domain.  The place has Mana, a specialness about it, with a majestic tree marking the centre of the main paddock, the rolling hills,  the shady knoll,  and the lake just down the path.   In just a few days our little temporary community would be in full swing, with a few hundred burners gathered for fun, friendship, and ritual.

First Day on the PaddockRuby Painting ManGreen Fairy & Kostume Korner

About 15 people were already on site and after a leisurely morning of saying hellos and chatting, we all went to work.  Time to build the village (I refrain from using the word city, since we’re not quite that big yet).   Kiwi, Andy, Jason, Bacon, Sam, Carl, DJ Dave, and a few other folks made up the MPW crew (Ministry of Public Works) which shared some crossover with the Skullf*ck crew who were also on site preparing to build their Empire.   Hippie Tim and Kat from Club Pedro were there sewing the final touches to what would become an awesome pyramid.     Empires and pyramids – fitting for this years’ theme of FutureHistory.

Pollys Put The Kettle OnSkullF*ck EmpireThemeCamps

Theme Camps and volunteers kept coming in over the following days.  By Tuesday, we’d gotten The Green Fairy, most of The Greeters Station, and the Merkaba built.   The Man, The Temple, Centre Camp and the bigger sound camps – Skullf*ck Empire, Club Pedro, Drop Zone, and Pink Moa – were all in progress.   Time for the requisite Green Fairy pre-party for the 40 or so of us on site.  Fun!  By Wednesday evening all of the committee members were on site, and a few more theme camps and art pieces had gone up.   We were 60-strong and it was Skullf*cks turn to host a party complete with DJ’s throwing down some good breaks and drum & bass, and some ice cold beers and homemade moonshine.  Well done!

 Gate CrewAri & MichaelGreeting

Thursday morning marked the official opening of the festival.  We’d been a bit nervous about attendance since our pre-sales had been a bit low and we were wondering if we’d even hit last year’s attendance numbers of 180 people.  At minimum, we were hoping for 25% growth to 225 people, which would probably just make us profitable.   What an amazing day!  The cars kept pouring in and the number of gate ticket sales kept increasing.    I had a blast with the volunteers running the Gate/Greeters Station, which I have to say, is an awesome way to meet people.   By the end of the day, we’d mutated over 140 people through the future and history tunnels, bringing our numbers to 200!   It was an exhausting yet totally satisfying day!


The next day we saw another 50 people come through and that combined with our ‘locals’ day in which another 20 people came brought our numbers to around 270.  The attendance far exceeded our expectations.    Watershed.

So, just what went on at Kiwiburn?  How does one describe the crazy mix of performance art, theme camps, art installations, flair, silliness, seriousness, debauchery, and solemnity, that goes on in a paddock in the middle of New Zealand?  I doubt I can do justice and in no way will be able to mention everything that went on, so you may need to read this thread on the forums for other people’s input, but I’ll see what I can do.

 MexicanosHealer CampVodka Bar

The scale of the projects in relation to the number of people working on them was tremendous.  Everyone stepped it up by a large magnitude.  Polly’s Put the Kettle On became a magnificent gathering place morning, noon, and night, for drinks and nibbles, complete with chaises, comfy chairs, and our newest addition, the Paddock Post, where one could write letters to anyone in Aoetearoa, on or off the paddock and have mail delivered by the Paddock Postie several times a day.    The Skullf*ck Empire was so impressive, consisting of two large Romanesque structures housing their massive sound system and amazing bar.  Props to the young Auckland crew who labored all year to bring us the Empire.     Camp Pedro morphed into Club Pedro, a giant Egyptian pyramid, which could be seen well across the paddock and was an awesome dance zone complete with lasers, DJ’s, and bar. Balrogs Playpen of amazing firespinners gave us a show on Burn Night that would make Maid Marian and the Burning Man Fire Conclave proud.     The mobile black light vodka bar was cool, and so was Gadget & Tammi’s Texture For the Soul, a black-light chill space which was covered from top to bottom in faux fur and bean bag chairs and was the place to be in the wee cool hours of the morning.   I loved their space!    The Pirate Ship was back and better than ever thanks to Lumos who brought and fitted it with an outboard motor.  The Pirate Ship puttered around the lake complete with drunken pirates.   Handyman Bill, who seemed to have everything in his van full of tricks brought several kayaks and brought a whole lot of love to many of us hanging out at the lake during the 40 degree days.    StinkyPuppy made a lot of people happy by bringing 20 or so bikes which made bridging the gap between the sound camps and the main camping area much, much easier.    Il Sucio Mexicanos brought some tequila love,  Princess Camp offered hair flair, the Kostume Korner and Wearable Arts Fashion House pimped everyone up a bit.   Healer Camp arose from the efforts of several and meditations, massage, and a serene setting were on offer there.    The Drop Zone was back with their awesome sound system, dance zone, and eclectic films and Pink Moa brought the pink again.  The newest sound camp addition, Celebrity Camp I think they were called, while never getting their sound groove on, did erect a huge effigy of Paris Hilton which they offered up to the great big bonfire on Burn Night much to the dismay of some of those watching who could be heard shouting “Save Paris!”   HiDive brought to life for the last and final time, the Sheep End, which could be seen zipping around the paddock and which brought the beats to us at the Burn.   Oh, and I should mention: naked jelly wresting.

ANDNAHickory Dickory DockMerkabah

And the art was wonderful.   The Merkaba offered contemplation;  Mark’s ANDNA was a beacon in the night;  and Abbie’s Candy Tree provided the sweetness.   Mars & Ellen created a gorgeous interactive art space at the tree by the lake called Hickory Dickory Dock.  They laboured for days to create the amphitheatre-like space, with colorful flags and artwork and an elaborate panel for folks to colour in.   And you had to be in the know to find Tim’s The One, a huge illuminated and sound-filled dice set up ‘way over yonder there.’   LippyLou, Myles, Rich, and the temple crew created a beautiful and colourful piece, complete with a vaginal entranceway.    Perched on a hill, the flags of the temple flew majestically in the wind and could be seen from everywhere.

Mudfop RichWranglersMudfop Shelley

This was also a big growth year for the committee with lots of year-long planning and discussions about safety and security at the festival.   We’d been talking about needing someone ‘on-call’ 24 hours a day, to be the ‘go-to’ person of sorts who would be available for anyone and anything.  This became the MUDFOP:  muggle under duress, finger on the pulse person (don’t ask me how we came up with that moniker for I can’t explain) and we rallied a cadre of trustworthy individuals to take 6-hour sober shifts throughout the event.   Thanks to Dr. Windy, the MUDFOP could be easily identifiable from across the paddock with their colourful faux fur hat and vest!    And this year saw the beginnings of the Black Sheep Wranglers, akin to the Black Rock City Rangers, who, in their well-identified t-shirts, walk around and are available 24 hours a day to assist with any type of “issue”:  conflict-resolution,  gate jumpers,  and the like.   We owe a tremendous amount of thanks to Ranger Dave Bradshaw, a veteran Burner, BRC Ranger, and co-organizer of Spain’s regional BM event, Nowhere.  Dave flew in from the UK and gave us copious guidance and insight on how to make the festival safe and enjoyable for everyone.  We all learned heaps from Dave and have all gotten pretty flash with our walkie talkie vernacular.    Transitional.

Nick firewhippingPreburnEarly Burn

Oh yeah, and then there was that man burning thing (hehehe) and the pre-burn which we did at the request of the local fire chief who couldn’t make it to the Burn but was keen to come ‘round for a pre-burn.  So we did.   We burned stuff on night #2 and the fire department came and the Balrogs spun and everyone danced.  All in preparation for THE REAL THING the next evening in which the fire department came, and the Balrogs spun, and we burned the man in a beautiful fiery flame complete with fireworks.   A HUGE shout out goes to Long Island Ryan whose passion for flame (and safety) created such a beautiful burn.  And it goes without saying that we all absolutely love and appreciate Kiwi for oh so many reasons:  his awesome vision and building skills to bring the Man to fruition, his tirelessness at running the DPW, his endless dedication to Kiwiburn.  I don’t think we could do it without you Kiwi.      As if that wasn’t enough,  Pearl created and brought to us again, the magical fire labyrinth, which we all glided through.  So transformative.

Cass & JeremyKora & CrewWill & Friend

But Kiwiburn isn’t just about the stuff, it’s about the people, the connections made, the friendships deepened.   We wouldn’t be Kiwiburn without the awesomeness of the individuals who come and create it.  We had folks from all over the world and surprisingly (though I should be getting less surprised) a large contingent from the United States, mainly the west coast, and specifically a good handful from the Bay Area!  What fun it was to reminisce on the paddock about Mission burritos and canoeing in Guerneville.     Polly, Kiwi, Shelley, Mark, Bruce, Wendy, Jodi, Cass, Alyn, Kyla, Sam, Kiwi, Roey, Rich, Jeremy, Lynda, Joel, Myles, Gadget, Tami, Nigel, Jez, Carl, Linus, Poppy, Lily, Zane, Ants, Tim, Kat, Andy, Jane, Jason, Michael, Sophia, Alan, Ari, Lev, Elias, Lucy, Ashan, Chris, Tyler, Abbie, Allan, Gizelle, Ryan, Paula, Dave, Ruby, Will, Kora, Abby, Pete, Skat, Elijah, Roy, Alfred, HiDive, DJ Dave, Ranty Dave, Heidi, Bunny, Pearl, Will, Lumos, Bill, Sam, Sunny, Jack, Pixie, and Bacon.  These are just a few of the folks I met and know.  There are so many more.  Thank you all for making it another terrific event, an amazing burn, and an awesome community to be a part of.

‘Till next year.

(For more photos, see our picassa web album)