News of people stranded at Burning Man due to the rain caused many to worry about their loved ones who were attending Burning Man in 2023. Media reports, however, were greatly exaggerated. I was on Playa as the storm hit. This is what actually happened at Mudman 2023.
We were in our Bedouin tent when the rain started. We weren’t all that worried at first, but it soon became obvious that we were trapped. The Bedouin tent began to float above the rising water, creating a natural float.
Meanwhile, our other campers were busy trying to keep the water out of our shade structure. Eventually they gave up, climbing atop the shade structure and forming it into a makeshift ark using their expert Burner engineering.
The rain stopped and one of the most beautiful double-rainbows formed. Some said it was a promise from God that the rain would never happen again on Playa. We took the opportunity for a camp photo with the rainbow and the mountains as a backdrop.
But as it turns out God was lying, because it started pissing down again.
We were serving chai-tea tea and giving workshops as the waters rose. Our guests became trapped in the Bedouin tent with us. We fed and sheltered the refugees, and they spent the night.
During the night the toilets were inaccessible. They were too far to swim to, and hadn’t been cleaned in like, over an hour. So they were obviously too dirty to use even if we swam there. So we resorted to filling up bottles.
Eventually we switched to buckets so we could float them toward the toilets. But the message got through that we shouldn’t do that. The toilets hadn’t been cleaned for two hours by now so they were probably full and our buckets would simply cause them to overflow.
The next morning we awoke over a lake. Somehow the Bedouin tent had remained completely dry and afloat. One-by-one the refugees elected to swim home, leaving their bikes to pick up later.
As we floated over the Playa that day we came across art made out of the clay and mud by resourceful Burners. There was a piece called “Erection after the Storm”, a highly detailed sculpture of a giant penis. The detail was incredible, even paying attention to the veins and folds in the foreskin.
We also came across another less detailed penis sculpture, a vagina sculpture, something that looked like it might have been a penis, and another one that definitely was a penis.
We were supposed to leave the Playa on Monday. Unfortunately, since we wouldn’t be able to leave until Monday, we had to ration our food. After doing an inventory we realised we only had food for our camp that would last an extra week, so immediately resorted to cannibalism.
We wanted to draw straws to make our decision. Unfortunately after spending two hours searching the camp, we remembered that we were Burners: none of us had brought straws with us. We knocked our superior Burner minds together and realised we could just play Rock-Paper-Scissors instead.
Thankfully my superior skills at the game guaranteed my survival. But it was still rough having to resort to such extremes. Before eating our sacrifice, we threw an arm and a leg into the rising water to keep the Playa Shrimp at bay.
It was only after we had finished eating that we had the horrible realisation. We had foolishly let the refugees go. And there were other camps around us. We could have eaten them instead of one of our own.
The rain brought out the Playa Shrimp. Our offerings kept them satiated for a while, but eventually there were too many, and they were hungry.
They attacked in droves. We managed to fend them off with fire poi and dragon staffs for a while, but they were overwhelming us. Half of our camp succumbed to their claws. I saw Captain Pump’s Raiders faring well, with lightsabres and foam weapons of various kinds.
Eventually the National Guard moved in and kept them at bay. Equipped with huge nets, they were able to catch the shrimp and they quickly became a food source for those of us stranded in the lake.
Some people managed to get out early. Others ended up stuck in the mud at the edge of the lake. A couple of rappers managed to stowaway on a Ranger boat and escape.
When Monday came around the water had all but disappeared. We dug through the mud to find our belongings. We had lost half of our camp number by now. But the rest of us had made it. We had to resort to horrifying things to survive, but it made all the difference to the extra 3 hours we needed to wait before we could leave.
We had made it. But at what cost?