I went to Burning Man Festival in 2014

I arrive at San Francisco airport around midday. Despite an overnight flight from Ireland on which I barely slept, I’m feeling fresh and awake. Must be the excitement – it’s my first time in California.

I clear customs and then head towards the car rental office to collect our vehicle. We’ve booked a Chrysler ‘Town and Country’ minivan to be our home for the next week as we attend Burning Man. I’m a bit apprehensive, having never driven in America before. The car itself is cheap but additional GPS is $100 extra – a luxury I decide not to take. Stupidly, I also decide not to buy a local sim card.

As I drive out of the airport I realize I have no way of navigating. All I have is the address of the house in San Francisco where I need to meet the others. Fortunately, my sense of direction is spectacular as always and after a few hours and multiple stops to ask for directions, I eventually find it.

Bicycle Mission

After introductions and coffee, we all pile into the car and head out to get supplies for Burning Man. The only large Walmart is on the other side of the river in Oakland so we drive off there. We have ordered the majority of our campsite equipment online so all we really need are a few supplies and, of course, bicycles. Now, if you’ve ever been to Burning Man you will know that it has a fair amount of bicycles – pretty much the whole supply of California. We didn’t know this, so all that’s left when we get to the Oakland Walmart are three children’s BMX’s.

What can we do? We need bikes. So we buy them up anyway, grab some torches, batteries, cooking gear and other crap and head back. Naturally, we get completely lost on the way back, drive over the Golden Gate bridge twice, go through some tunnel, end up on an island and eventually get home late that night.

Earthquake!

I wake up and somebody is rocking my bed. Am I drunk? Where am I?

“Stop it”, I protest, groggily.

“Earthquake!” somebody shouts.

It’s dark and the room is moving but I can just make out the figure of a person as they run to stand under a door frame. I want to move but before I can react, it’s over.

“What happened?”, I ask.

“Nevermind”, someone says. “It was just a minor earthquake.”

We go back to sleep.

Road Trip

I wake up and look around. The room has not collapsed.

“I had the weirdest dream.”, I say. “There was an earthquake.”

“Oh no, that really happened.”, a friend replies.

Apparently, nobody else is fazed. Welcome to California.

We pack the car, pile in and head off for our first ever visit to Black Rock City, Nevada

On route, we stop at another Walmart and buy a ridiculous amount of water. For some reason, the girls think we need five liters per person per day. I know there is no possible way we’ll drink even half of it but I don’t bother arguing.  I buy whiskey.

Unfortunately, it means we need to strap the bicycles to the back since the car is now 50% water.

The drive is beautiful and we listen to some ridiculous Jamaican gabba-core and stop for $1 tacos at Del Taco in Reno. On arrival, there is a huge queue of cars – as expected. After a few fun hours chilling out in the car, listening to music and moving a meter per hour, disaster strikes.

It starts to rain.

Desert Driveway

The problem with rain in a hard, parched desert is that the ground soaks it up and turns to thick, solid mud. Driving is impossible. The gate staff walk around between the endless lines of cars and campervans, breaking the news to those waiting in line: we won’t be moving anywhere soon. It’s getting dark and the rain doesn’t look to be letting up, so we put the seats down and settle in for the night.

Morning brings clear skies and sun but our renewed hope is quickly quashed – until the ground dries completely we can’t move. Fortunately, we’re surrounded by a veritable gaggle of party-hungry ‘burners and it doesn’t take long for things to kick off. Behind us, a campervan sets up a sound system and initiates a dancefloor while our neighbor to the left lights up a barbeque and starts cooking some wagyu beef burgers. We dance, drink, smoke and play boomerang until eventually, towards evening, we can finally move.

Once inside we head straight for a friend-of-a-friends campsite. We haven’t actually booked into an official camp but they’ve kindly offered to let us park off in the space behind them. We set up the campsite as best we can and explore our surroundings. Despite it being our first night, nobody is too keen to party. I guess it’s been a long day. After a few drinks in a nearby wooden tower-like structure, we head to bed early.

Day 1 – Drunken Exploring

We choose to spend day one getting associated with our immediate neighborhood. After discovering the bacon stall and getting free breakfast, we find a funky little bar with sofas. We make friends with a funny American guy, have some free mojitos and mess around with an animatronic Santa Claus. Moving on, we discover a make-up stall and proceed to cover ourselves in all kinds of paint and glitter. Typical burning man styles.

The day proceeds with us exploring various camps and bars, getting progressively drunk and eventually dancing the day away in one of the many music camps. In time I find myself gesticulating to techno music in a gay bar wearing nothing but white hotpants and fading makeup.  I watch from my podium inside the pink elephant as a giant set of teacups roll past with half-naked concubines hanging from conveniently-placed windows.

Day 2 – Playa Friends

Time to check out the real Playa. After some coffee and questionable canned breakfast, we get on our child-size BMX bikes and head in to explore the center – towards the very man himself. If you haven’t been to Burning Man, it’s difficult to accurately describe how big it is. Just the surrounding campsite itself is like a medium-size, horse-shoe shaped city, and in the center is a huge open desert the size of about thirty football pitches. Even on a bicycle, it would take an hour to cross. It doesn’t help when there is an endless collection of entertaining structures and artworks along the way.

We end up playing a game of makeshift ten-pin bowling which we have to win in order to use the toilet and then spend a few hours playing piano on a tree made out of mirrors. We take numerous photographs with half-dressed passers-by and climb rickety-looking art pieces that turn out to be exceptionally stable.

The sound of a beat draws us towards Distrikt, a huge dancefloor playing some exceptionally good techno from a bizarre stage setup. As the heat becomes too much we find shelter in a chill area serving free cider and spend the afternoon lounging on pillows as sobriety evades us.

The night is dark and full of color, one dance floor to the next. An octopus shoots fire from its mechanical arms as a neon yacht sails off into the night. Flashing lights, smoke, and explosions come from every direction… a carnival of chaos.

Day 3 – Temples and Castles

We awake in our tents. Somehow we made it back. It’s all a beautiful blur.

The bacon stall is calling but along the way, we get sidetracked and whiskey happens. A passing art car becomes a climbing gym and we get asked to join the naked morning run, but groggily decline. Some new friends have arrived and we join them in their campervan, a significant improvement on our refugee-style campsite. Joints do the rounds and conversation turns to the orgy dome and subtle hints of possible attendance. Someone points out that it would be advisable to go earlier on in the week while everyone is still relatively clean. Silence. Pondering.

Nobody ends up going.

Instead, we cycle over to the main Temple where we wander around inside, quietly reading the many somber notes people have written to those loved and lost. Afterward, we speak of climbing the nearby ‘Embrace’ structure but instead end up getting lost in the desert. A passing pirate ship on wheels materializes like a mirage out of the shimmering heat and guides us back to safety.

As evening descends we stop for drinks at a fancy looking campsite with a red carpet. We are welcomed in through thick, ornate wooden doors onto genuine Persian carpets and offered a seat at a mahogany bar counter.

“What would you like?” a well-dressed barman offers. They only stock the absolute top of the range liquors and everything, of course, is on the house. I take a 12-year old Glenmorangie on the rocks. It’s fabulous.

This is not a mirage.

The walls are decorated with hunting trophies, taxidermy, and original artworks. A chandelier hangs from the ceiling above plush leather sofas and a glass coffee table. I’ve certainly seen worse campsites in my life. We get talking to a couple who tell us they are staying in the camp to which the bar belongs. They paid $2000 each for the pleasure.

Later we cycle back across the Playa to a huge white castle that acts as a music venue. Somebody famous is playing, maybe Diplo or Skrillex, I’m not sure. We dance on scaffolding until the sun starts to rise and then we cycle back into the central area, weaving between artworks, sculptures, stalls and other drunken cyclists.

At a rest stop next to singing spheres of light we make friends with a random stranger who claims to have hitchhiked to the festival alone with nothing but a backpack. He tells tales of a wondrous place that dishes out free mimosas every morning and so we agree to accompany him on his quest.

Presently, we come across a tiny stall sitting smack-bang in the middle of nowhere, offering free hugs. A jovial, portly man in an animal costume emerges and enquires enthusiastically as to which type of hug we would like. Apparently, there is more than one type.

I forget which I chose but I’m confident it was the right one.

Hugged up and happy we continue on towards the rising sun, the promise of champagne and orange juice drawing us along.  Unfortunately, our new friend reveals himself to be less than reliable and takes us on a never-ending goose chase after non-existent mimosas. We eventually abandon the lost wanderer and reconvene back at the campsite, defeated and exhausted. As we flop down to sleep in what little shade our camp affords us we are left wondering if the mimosa stall, or indeed the man himself, ever existed in the first place.

Day 4 – A Sofa, a Sandstorm, and a Robot Heart

The campsite is a mess. Dusty bodies lie sprawled around empty tins of collard greens and beer bottles. The solar-powered lights have long since stopped working. Nobody can remember when they last showered. Hangovers hang on high tensions and short tempers cast long shadows.

Wearily, I make use of the one thing we have an almost endless supply of and boil some water. I have seldom encountered a problem that cannot be significantly improved with coffee and a smoke.

Bodies begin to stir. I’m unsure of the time, or day. Did we sleep through the night? Is the sun setting or rising? The smell of bacon suggests the latter but at Burning Man, one can never be sure.

Bacon is omnipresent.

After a slow gathering of thoughts and suggestions, we decide to abandon the squalor and venture out to discover a new world – presumably one with less dystopian undertones.

Our quest delivers us to none other than Michelle Rodriquez of ‘The Fast and the Furious’ fame (and, presumably, some other movies?) She’s on a Segway.

My friend says ‘hi’.

She says ‘hi’.

I miss the opportunity to make a ‘segue’ joke.

She’s gone.

Sheepishly, we enter the fancy campsite that she disappeared into and try to make ourselves comfortable on some huge, luxurious sofas. People are staring at us. Some of them look suspiciously like Hollywood actors. While nobody specifically asks us to leave we feel decidedly unwelcome. Maybe it’s just in our heads. Maybe not. We leave anyway.

Further down the path, we discover a camp called Sofa King, playing some exceptionally good drum & bass music to an empty dancefloor and the world’s largest sofa. We climb up onto the comfortable sofa and decide this is a vast improvement on Hollywood camp. As the day progresses the weather takes a turn and the wind picks up drastically.

We start heading back towards our home but along the way decide to take refuge in a friendly looking campsite with some beanbags and cocktails. A friend decides she wants to go find a recreational sedative meant for horses that she assures us we will enjoy and disappears into the gathering sandstorm.

That’s the last we ever see of her.

Until later that day when the sandstorm clears.

Sandstorm over and horse sedative unobtainable, we choose to rather go dance the night away at Robot Heart. Oddly enough, I find a man with a food cart gifting hotdogs in the middle of the dancefloor and graciously accept his offer of one while desperately trying to remember when I last ate.

Shortly before dawn, we accept an invitation onto a mutant vehicle that is actually a dragon on wheels heading off into the playa to watch the sunrise. Since we can’t take our bicycles we have no choice but to leave them lying amongst the piles of others at Robot Heart as its thumping beat fades into the distance and gives way to the rhythmic ambient sounds of the art car.

As the sun slowly rises we dance away on the rooftop, the mutant vehicle taking us in a wide loop that connects one end of the horseshoe city to the other. There it stops and lets people off while others come on,  like some bizarre desert ferry. We hop off to look around but there isn’t much in the way of music playing this side and while looking we miss the chance to board the ferry back.

With our bicycles on the other side of the playa, we have no option but to make the long walk back through the desert. Fortunately, the trek affords us some excellent photo opportunities of which I take full advantage.

A few hours later back at Robot Heart, which is now completely deserted, we discover one bicycle is inevitably missing. It’s my favorite one too – the prettiest one, with little pink handlebar tassels and a sparkly green frame. Nevertheless, we grab the remaining one and attempt to give each other lifts back to the campsite.

Day 5 – The Man Burns

We sleep most of the day and then awake towards the evening to prepare for the burning of the man, which is set to happen around midnight. We have hotel reservations in Vegas tomorrow night, meaning I will have to drive throughout the day and can’t really party tonight. On reflection, not the best planning.

However, after five days most of us are fairly ready to get going anyway and decide it would be best to pack up now and be ready to leave as soon as the burn is over  – that way beating any build up of traffic.

We wearily tear down the campsite and pile the car full of dust-covered tents, sleeping bags, and shade cloth. By the time we’re done I’m already exhausted. With the remaining bikes strapped to the back of the car, we embark on the long walk to the man where already a huge crowd has gathered.

We watch the burn, which is impressive but otherwise fairly uneventful, and then make the long walk back to the car and get ready to leave. Fortunately, we are one of the very few cars leaving and have a completely clear road out.

After driving for an hour I pull off on the side of the road to have a nap.

Everyone else is already asleep.

(SCROLL DOWN FOR MORE PICTURES)


 

Outlook Festival

This was one helluva party!  My friends Mike and Lizzie organised a beach house for us in the festival camp grounds, which was a bit more expensive than camping but so worth it.  Proper beds, a full kitchen, fridge (cold beer!) and shower with hot water.  Plus an awesome balcony which we spent a lot of time on watching and laughing at all the drunk people coming past.

Stupidly I was partying the night before in London at Notting Hill Carnival, so I slept through my alarm and missed my flight, forcing me to buy another one at the last minute for £150.  That was an expensive lesson.  It also meant I was too late to catch my connecting coach from Venice in Italy to Pula in Croatia where the festival was.  I had to do a mad rush of getting a bus from the airport to the local train station, which then took me as far as the Slovenian border, and from there I had to catch another coach to Pula.  Luckily it all worked out and I finally made it!

Thursday

The first night the main festival hadn’t started yet, but there was a small independent dancefloor setup just outside the festival grounds next to a little bar, so me, Mike and Lizzy and another one of crew from Joburg, Cimone, spent most of the night there dancing and lying on the beach until the sun came up. We met this very energetic Colombian who kept us going all night, and for most of the festival really. The next day the final member of our crew, Louella, arrived, and the party started in earnest.  We spent most of the morning chilling by the beach until the real music started and then we went to explore the many dancefloors – about 14 in total!  I can’t remember much of that night, but I remember there was an awesome dancefloor called the Moat which had the heaviest bass I’ve ever heard.

The next day was the Gentlemen’s Dub Club boat party.  It was in the afternoon and I was pretty drunk by that point so I spent most of the time trying to pick up this British/Indian girl who I thought was the cutest thing I’d ever seen, but she was having none of it.  I think she was about 22, haha.  Probably thought I was some old dude working at the festival or something.  Actually the average age of the entire festival seemed to be about 22!  Being mostly bass music I guess it appeals to a younger crowd.  Anyway the boat party was still awesome, mostly because I was wearing a purple 14141589_10157484413490220_3957474989795907306_nunicorn horn the entire time.  I’m not sure who that guy in the picture with me is??

We headed back to the beach house after the boat party and just massively chilled out on our porch until much later that night, then headed back to the main festival area to dance until sunrise.  At some point we found ourselves sitting on the pier listening to power ballads on my phone and staring out over the ocean.  I’m not sure anybody else liked the power ballads, but I was having the time of my life.

14203291_10157484414295220_2188881967853144352_nFriday

The next day we had another boat party, All Trap Music.  I’d never really been into Trap music so I wasn’t sure about it, but it turned out to be the best party of the festvial!  We had spent the morning getting sufficiently wasted on the beach, so by the time 4pm came and we had to go to the boat, Mike was too hungover and decided to skip it and sleep instead.  Sorry for him, he missed out!  Me, Lizzy and Cimone headed to the boat, stumbled onboard and pretty much just danced for the entire trip, while watching some of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen.  14202640_10157503994180220_7331280893801906973_nAll Trap Music is a label started by Jikay, who I hadn’t heard before, but he was great.  He also had Massappeals and the legendary Lex Luger with him, so it was pretty much solid good music for four hours.  Needless to say, I left that boat a Trap music convert.

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I crashed out pretty hard after the boat party and some lovely person bought me a hamburger and fed it to me, I think it was Lizzy or Mike.  That saved me or I would have had an awful hangover later on.  That night followed a similar theme as before, moving from dancefloor to dancefloor, chasing the good tunes.  I’m sure there were many individual moments of hilarity and notable occurances,but for some reason I struggle to remember things after dark. I think I’m more of a day party person.  I do remember watching Noisia around midnight and then heading to bed because I was exhausted.

Noisia
Nosia on the mainstage

Saturday

We were all feeling a bit rough around the edges today after three days solid partying, so we took it easy and had a nice lunch in a proper restaurant overlooking the ocean.  Then we just lazed on the beach and took turns attempting a floating, inflatable obstacle course they had setup in the sea.  You were supposed to pay to use it though, so this guy would occasional come across on a little kayak and kick us off.  He had his work cut out for him!

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Then we headed off to another boat party, and to meet a friend of one of Louella’s friends, Andy, who just happened to be in the town of Pula for the weekend and decided to come to the festival – even though he didn’t know anybody else there!  14142024_10157484416185220_4897092010914817661_nWe found him and tried to enjoy the boat party but everyone was feeling a bit worse for wear so we just sat around on the lower deck drinking and chatting.  I danced a bit though and quite enjoyed watching the lights from the shore reflecting off the water, as it was a night time party.  It was pretty heavy rap and hip-hop music though so maybe not the best for a bunch of hungover people.  Afterwards at about 11pm we returned to the main festival and attempted to party, but everybody kept fading off like little delicate leaves in autumn, until only me and Andy were left. We found Mandy and she got us in a really good mood so we decided to party with her.   We held the fort and kept jamming right through until about 7am the next day when they turned off the music.  Then we walked around the bay and watched the sunrise while some crazy people went swimming naked in the freezing water.

Sunday

By this point everybody was done with partying, so we just chilled all day by the awesome Beach Party dancefloor.  I was also severly broke by this point so I was happy to just chill.  Mike decided it was a good idea to finish all the whiskey by himself and try hula-hoop security guards with an inflatable tube, which very almost got us kicked out and/or arrested.  After six days of dealing with drunken foreigners I can understand the Croatian security guards 14222200_10157484419555220_5001435072213608981_nlack of humor.

We did attempt to go to party a bit that night but spent the majority of the time trying to keep Mike on his feet.  Fortunately I made friends with two Slovenian girls so when Mike and Lizzie headed back to the house I carried on partying with them.  They had just come for the weekend and were also a bit older than the average crowd, so were happy to meet someone more their age.  When it started raining around 2am I was hoping they would want to retire back to their campsite, but they just kept going!  Eventually I gave up at about 4am and headed back to the house because I had to be up at 8am to catch my coach back to Venice.  I did add them on facebook though and they invited me to come visit them in Slovenia, which I plan to do as I’ve never been there before.

Once again I slept through my alarm and very almost missed my coach!  This would have been a serious problem, as I literally had no money left for another coach and/or flight!  Luckily I made it just in time and enjoyed a long, very hungover three hour journey back to the airport…. good times 🙂

Outlook is an incredible festival, in one of the most beautiful locations you can imagine, but I think it’s become somewhat over-commercialised recently and is populated almost entirely by very young, drunk, British students.  While it was still a huge amount of fun and I would definitly go again, I think it would be massively improved by an older and more diverse crowd.  I believe there are other festivals in this same location, so I might check those out in future to see the difference.

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Boom Festival

Every two years Portugal is host to the biggest Psytrance gathering in the world, which has morphed into a huge multi-genre week long music and arts festival with a strong emphasis on environmental awareness and sustainability.  Aside from almost non-stop music across four different stages it also hosts talks, workshops, yoga classes, art installations and various other exhibits and performances.

This year was my third time attending Boom, and every time it gets better!  Just prior to the festival my friend Anton had got married and was going to the festival as the first part of his honeymoon.  He and his wife Jenny hired a nice big campervan to drive down in and me and some other friends all camped with them.  We setup a lovely campsite around the campervan with all our various tents and tons of shade to keep out the 40 degree Portugese desert heat.

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I arrived on my own by coach from Madrid airport, and although it was already dark I managed to find them quite easily due to Jon’s excellent directions.  I didn’t have a tent but I wasn’t too bothered as I knew it would be warm all night and it didn’t rain this time of year.  I had a blowup mattress and there was also various inflatable furniture I could sleep on around the campsite, although for the most part I ended up sharing a tent with another friend from our crew.

14233191_10207434745772083_3744464451129557992_nAs the dancefloors were very far from the campsite, most mornings were spent getting everything ready and packing it all into the ‘granny’ – a wheeled shopping cart kitted out with a coolbox, bag for clothes and a tall pink flag so we could all find each other easily amongst the crowds.  This really was the saviour of the trip as there was very little mobile reception and hardly anybody carried their phones on them, so losing people could be a problem.  Also the convience of having somewhere to store your extra clothes, towels and cold beer was a life-saver!

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The first night I got a leeeeetle bit too wasted and lost everyone while going to the toilet.  I walked around for ages looking for them, and despite the main dancefloor resembling a huge, pulsating, bass-pounding alien spaceship, I still couldn’t find it!   Somehow I eventually made my way back to camp, but nobody was there and I couldn’t fathom trying to look for them so I decided to call it a night.

After a full day of dancing on day two, we headed to the lakeside to chill, swim and watch the sunset.  This became a ritual and as the days went on more and more people started swimming with less and less clothes on, until eventually at sunset each night the majority of people were skinny-dipping.  (Although to be fair this was also fairly common at any time of day).

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At one point I was lying on this inflatable raft with a girl from our crew who I hadn’t really spoken to much up until then.  Being a hyperactive person, I guess I was babbling and fidgeting a lot, so at one point she snapped “Stop talking and stop moving!”  I found that quite cute and it got my attention, which I can’t be sure but I assume was her intention.  Then we all went to a beach bar a bit further away from the central area to carry on partying.  Eventually the music there ended too and everybody headed back to camp, but me and her stayed on and spent a lovely evening there lying on the beach under the stars.

One of the mornings I discovered an amazing crepe and chai stall near our campsite, which became our staple breakfast from then on, except on one occasion when we cooked bacon and eggs in the campervan which were amazing.  I don’t know why but somehow food always tastes better to me when camping.

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I think it was the third or fourth day we spent almost the entire day just relaxing by the lake and swimming, which was one of my favourite days of the festival.  Ace Ventura was playing and it sounded really good, but it was way too hot and packed on the dancefloor.  That evening we decided to check out the sacred fire, which I assumed would actually be a giant bonfire, but turned out to just be another dancefloor called The Sacred Fire, which was playing reggae and dub music.  It was ok but we didn’t hang around long.

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On the fourth or fifth night me and the girl from before lost everybody but found an inflatable ‘island’ mattress with a little palm tree and spent the evening getting frisky on that and listening to some buskers making awesome trance beat-boxing next to the food court.  Then we got some wraps and headed to bed.  I found out afterwards the others actually saw us and were sitting nearby but didn’t want to disturb us!  Haha…

The rest of the party followed a similar theme, dancing, drinking endless cheap beer, eating pizza, watching a crazy guy dance in a tree, exploring the gardens and swimming and relaxing by the lake.  I was supposed to catch the coach back to Madrid on Thursday and fly home to be at work on Friday, but I decided rushing home just for one day of work was stupid, so I decided to stay on with the others and change my flight to Sunday.  On Thursday night the music finished so on Friday once everything was packed up and most of the people were gone, me and her spent the afternoon skinny-dipping and lying naked on the lakeside like proper hippies.. 🙂

Then we all piled into the campervan and drove back to Madrid where our lovely friend John let us crash at his apartment for the weekend while he was in Thailand.  I decided it would be a good idea to finish all the alcohol on the way, so I passed out fairly soon after arriving and missed dinner!  The next day we just relaxed on the balcony and tried our best to keep cool in the suffocating heat.  Everybody else had to leave that evening so on Saturday just me and her were left.  We spent the day exploring the central park in Madrid and had some rather disappointing pizza for dinner because we couldn’t find any traditional tapas restaurants that were open.  It seemed like every restaurant owner in Madrid was on holiday!  Anyway it was still a nice ending to an amazing week, and the next morning we both flew home to our respective lives in the real world…

Psychedelic Experience Festival

My friend Magnus, a DJ from Cape Town was playing at this festival so I decided to fly over to Germany for the weekend and check it out.  I enlisted my friend Jon to join me and we flew to Hamburg after work on Thursday night, hired a car and drove to a hostel in the famous Reeperbahn area (Hamburg’s red light district).

After a few beers we walked up and down the main area looking for a good strip club.  Most of them are rubbish and try extort money from you, but we managed to find a good one and one of the dancers gave us both a lap dance for the price of one!

The next morning we got up early and headed off on the two hour drive to the party.  We had to stop on the way to get supplies and I spent ages looking for a coolbox to keep ice and cold beer in, but we eventually got there and quickly setup our small tent that would be our home for the next 3 days.  Luckily the weather was fairly good, not sunny but not raining or cold.  We then went and explored the party and while sitting in the chill area a girl asked us if she could have a rizla, so we went and sat with her group and started chatting to them.  They were from Berlin but they all spoke English quite well and they were very funny, so we carried on partying with them and went back to their campsite.  Towards the evening my friend Magnus was going to be DJ’ing so we left their group and went to go watch him, and then we went backstage to party with him and another DJ that I also knew from Cape Town.  Backstage however was literally just the back of the stage, and not the sofa’s and flowing champagne I was expecting, so we stood around chatting there for a bit and then went back to the dancefloor.  13265849_10157041656750220_4289728605376498203_n

Around midnight we were all partying back at our tiny campsite and I was tired and lay down for a little nap, but ended up sleeping all night.  My Cape Town friends had to leave because they were flying back to Cape Town the next day, and poor Jon couldn’t sleep so he was left on his own for the night. Sorry Jon!

The next day we started to try get more into the party spirit.  Which began slowly has we spent most of the day just lying around in the many hammocks, but that was quite fun anyway, watching all the random people.  We danced a bit and spent a few hours trying to find the elusive lake, without success.  Apparently you had to leave the party and walk about 10 kilometres down the road, so we gave up on that quickly.  Later on we met up with the other group again and partied with them all night.  At some point we all ended up back in their campsite, lying on inflatable mattresses and blowup crocodiles and just laughing and talking so much rubbish.

 

Eventually the sun was rising and we decided we better get some sleep if we want to enjoy the last day.  Our new friends had to drive home that evening but luckily me and Jon were only leaving on Monday so we could still fit in a full nights rest.  We headed off to bed and arranged to meet them later that afternoon.

We woke up sometime around early afternoon and found our friends again.  Everyone was packing up and looking a bit worse for wear, but we managed to all go to the dancefloor together for one last dance.  There we found a man trying to vacuum the dancefloor, and somebody selling balloons out of a wheelbarrow!  Good times!

We danced a bit until our friends left and then went in search of food and hammocks.  After the music on the main dancefloor ended we moved to the chill area for a bit, but by then the weather was turning bad so we retired to the campsite to sleep.  The next morning we packed up, grabbed some coffee and headed back to Hamburg

 

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My friend Magnus DJ’ing

Coachella Festival

 

I heard some rumours awhile ago that Guns & Roses were reforming with the original line up for Coachella Festival 2016.  Considering all members were adamant this would never happen, I wasn’t too hopeful, but I bought a ticket on a whim anyway – just in case.  Turns out the rumours were true, but since none of my friends had bought a ticket it looked like I was going to Coachella all on my own!  I managed to get a fairly cheap flight to LA by setting a reminder on Skyscanner and waiting for the price to drop.  I also bought a cheap four-person hotel room booking off somebody else who couldn’t go, and then advertised on the forums and found three other solo travellers to join me in the hotel.

I didn’t have a lot of time off work so could only go for a long weekend – leaving Thursday evening and returning Monday night.  Since car hire is so cheap in the US I decided to hire a Ford Mustang and drive down to the festival in style.  13076778_10156926718455220_4754378645578386155_nUnfortunately my flight was delayed and by the time I got to the rental place all the Mustangs were gone, so they let me take a sexy red Dodge Challenger instead!  Bonus!

I met up with Val, one of the other three hotel guests, at the airport.  He’s from Switzerland and is travelling the world for a year on money he saved while doing military service.  We drove down to Palm Springs together, which took a bit longer than planned since the traffic leaving LA was terrible!  Fortunately once we hit the open highway the Dodge saved us some time – that thing has some power!

13083200_10156936496910220_1404436228544111941_nWe arrived that evening, met up with Keith, one of the other guests, checked in, dropped off the car and then went to get our armbands for the festival.  Just before midnight the final guest, Alex, arrived and then we just crashed for the night so we could be up early.

Day 1 – Friday

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We all drove into town in Alex’s car, got some breakfast and I bought a simcard, which turned out to be a waste of money because the entire festival was serviced by free wifi!  We took forever to find parking as Alex was hoping to park in his friends campsite on the festival grounds, but they wouldn’t let us in so we had to park far away and walk.  There weren’t a lot of good acts early on so we just walked around exploring the various stages and artwork installations.  It really is quite an incredible and well designed festival, with amazing, fully structured bars and restuarants – not just the usual food trucks etc.  There were loads of staff and hardly any queues, except for free water which was a bit chaotic due to the hot, desert climate.  Keith went off to do his own thing and me, Val and Alex met up with Alex’s friends and watched Nic Fanciulli on one of the most amazing stages I’ve ever seen!  It was all made up of 3D blocks with flashing lights and screens on every side playing video, and 3D steel cubes13006623_10156929608745220_7423579270170227478_n that hung from the ceiling and moved up and down.  Pretty mind-blowing.

Then we watched Years and Years, Of monsters and Men and M83 on the main stage, and then Jack U on the second stage.  I was pretty drunk by this point, and I vaguely remembering watching Ellie Goulding for a bit, but don’t remember LCD Soundsystem.  I might have just been in the bar by that point, which was excellently positioned because you could see both the main and second stages from it.  Despite the festival having 5 stages, they’re all very close together, so it’s easy to get from one to the other and not miss out on any acts.

Day 2 – Saturday

Today’s the day!  We didn’t go in quite as early as it’s very hot during midday and most of the best acts only start around 5pm, so me and Val made use of the hotel pool and chilled there under the umbrellas for the morning, drinking beer and swimming.  Then we met Alex and got warmed up by singing Guns ‘n Roses very loudly in the car on the way to the festival.  Unfortunately we missed Run the Jewels, but arrived just in time for Bat for Lashes, who I’ve wanted to see for ages.  After that we saw Halsey, who I hadn’t heard of until then and was awesome!

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Then we watched a bit of CHVRCHES and Disclosure, who were both okay but nothing special, and then Ice Cube came on with the other remaining members of NWA.  That’s something I never expected to see in my life!  I also caught a bit of Zedd, which was very cheesy, and A$AP Rocky – equally cheesy.

By some miracle, Guns ‘n Roses actually came on stage on time!  Probably the first time ever.  Axl had fallen a few weeks before and broken his ankle, so he was in a wheelchair which was quite funny and luckily didn’t affect his singing.  I had mostly come to see Slash and Duff, but to see them all on stage together for the first time in 20 years was pretty incredible.  They were still just as good as ever, Slash was amazing, they played all their best songs and it was all round probably one of the best gigs I’ve ever been to.  I took, like, a thousand pictures and pretty much filmed almost every song!

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Day 3 – Sunday

By this point I had seen pretty much everyone I wanted to, so I didn’t rush to get to the festival early.  I bought some eggs and bacon and made breakfast in the hotel, since the room came with a kitchen and figured we might as well make use of it.  The others went off in the car before me, as I was taking my time, and then I just caught the free coach in later and met them there.  13087872_10156936967900220_3165097216644474783_nSoon after meeting them I discovered the Doo-lab, the most awesome secret dancefloor with pumping techno, water canons and insane aerial performers and dancers.  I stayed there for about 2 hours and lost the others because they wanted to go, but I didn’t mind.  I eventually retreated, soaked, to a bar next door selling craft beer.  Everyone is very friendly, so I quickly started chatting to some people and joined up with their crew.  It was two couples, whose names I don’t remember, but we all got very drunk together in the Absolut Vodka bar and took some funny booth photos together, which you can view here on my Instagram.  I’m very clearly the fifth wheel!

The day before I had matched with a girl on Tinder, so I arranged to meet her by the vodka bar.  We chatted and kissed a bit while watching Sia and Major Lazer, and I tried to convince her to come back to our hotel but she wasn’t having it.  I guess a hotel room being shared by four guys is not the most attractive proposition!  By this point I had lost everyone, so I watched Calvin Harris on my own, which was the last act and was followed by a spectacular fireworks display.  Then I called the others and met up with them near the campsite, where we had a few warm beers from the car and some food, before heading off home.

All in all it was a super cool festival, and I would definitely go again.  Quite expensive and a long way to go for just four days, but totally worth it!

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Snowbombing Festival

Snowbombing is a yearly ski, snowboard and music festival in Mayrhofen, Austria. I’ve been three times and everytime has been incredible. They always have a vast array of live acts and DJ’s, mostly British acts and often focussed around drum & bass and house music.

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The festival is sold as a package tour so your ‘entrance’ ticket is included with the accommodation you book, and then you can add on extras like ski hire, ski pass etc as you please. It’s a very good system and works well to keep the overall cost low – with the cheapest package you can do your entire holiday, with transport and accomodation, for as little as £500.


The first time I went I booked individually so I stayed in a hostel-type place which was 207255_10150540135415220_8214786_nquite nice. Two other friends of mine also decided to come so we almost had our own room, just with one other solo guest. My London housemates also decided to come and booked into a house with a full kitchen and everything, so we visited them a few times.


The natural scenery of the area is really beautiful, and because it’s held towards the end of the season in April it can sometimes be have lovely warm, sunny days. Often you will see people ski or boarding in just t-shirts and shorts, or even swimwear.

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As well as down in the town, they also organize a few music stages up on the pistes too, with DJ’s providing the music for ski competitions and various funny events like trying to ski over a pool of water. They have prizes of cash and free drinks for competitors, and anyone can compete. I got €20 for best newbie as I tried to do a trick and failed spectacularly!

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We would spend our days chilling on the mountain, drinking, dancing and occasionally doing a few runs or attempting the snowpark. At night everybody would drunkenly clamber into the lifts to heaed back down to the village, where we head off to one of the many venues after dropping off our snow gear back in the hostel.

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On Wednesdays they also do a big ‘street party’ in the centre of town with a stage and DJ’s such as Fat Boy Slim, Chase & Status or Gorgon City. The biggest act will usually play on the last day in the forest stage, and twice when I went it was The Prodigy, supported once by Beardyman.

 

 

Croatia: Split, Hvar and Plitvice


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In July 2010 six friends and I decided to go to Croatia for two weeks – exploring Hvar, Split, Plitvice and ending up at a music festival called ‘Stop Making Sense’.


Split

Some of us flew into Split together on Easyjet and met some of the others there. The first night we just had dinner, explored the small town and hung out by the ocean side – drinking and messing around in some old forts and railroad tracks.


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Hvar

In the morning we had to get up fairly early and get a ferry to the island of Hvar where we were camping for the night. The ferry took about 2 hours, during which time we relaxed on the deck tanning and drinking beer. We arrived and took a taxi to the far end of the island where we found our campsite.

One couple had booked a pre-made tent with beds, electrical point and even a fridge. The rest of set up some tents that we had brought with, although I didn’t even have a tent so I just slept in the foyer area of the others pre-made tent.


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That evening we got a taxi to the main Hvar town and had the most amazing seafood, and when I came back from the toilet everyone played a trick on me saying we had ordered shots of some crazy strong Croatian alcohol which I was scared to drink, but it turned out it was just a shot of water!


The following day we went swimming in the nearby bay and explored the island around the campsite. It was strangely very quiet around where we were, with not many people around, which was odd for high season.

Bol and Brac

The town of Bol on the nearby island of Brac was our next destination and found our apartment that we had rented for the night. Then the few of us that had licenses hired some scooters and drove around the island for a bit, before coming back and taking some of the others out on the back of the scooters.


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We chilled on Zlatni Rat beach for a bit before getting another ferry back to the mainland, where we spent the night before hiring a car in the morning and starting the drive up to Plitvice National park.

Plitvice

It was a bit further than I thought and took us most of the morning and past lunch, so, unfortunately, we didn’t have a lot of time to see the park which is huge! We rushed through and took as many photos as we could of the beautiful turquoise waterfalls. It really does look like something out of the garden of Eden!

Festival

Around 6 pm we had to leave and did the short one hour drive to Petrcane where the festival was, and then dropped the hire car off at Zadar airport. We all had booked into the hotel that also served as the site for the festival, except one other couple that had their own small apartment nearby.

I don’t remember exact details of the festival but we had some amazing sunset boat parties with DJ’s like Robodello, and at one point I went swimming at midnight which was freezing but fun.