Montreal Woman Braves Nevada Storm at Chaotic Burning Man Festival


Swathed in remnants of the desert, Solmaz Meghdadi, a Montreal resident, is ready to embark on her journey home from Reno, Nevada, post a week-long adventure at Burning Man. The chaotic yet life-changing experience has left her awash in indelible desert mud and a focal point of an international narrative.

Tasting the luxury of basic human amenities, a warm shower at her hotel never felt more divine, especially after escaping the arid city’s less-than-ideal washroom conditions. With cleanup trucks failing to reach the portable toilets, she recalled utilizing “camping techniques” with a certain fondness.

The unappetizing concoction of mud and muck was the unfortunate aftermath of a ferocious summer storm that engulfed Nevada’s Black Rock Desert on Friday. The downpour of 1.3 centimetres of rain transformed the sprawling pop-up city into a quagmire replete with mud up to a foot deep and widespread flooding.

Crucial roads were blocked off, and mounting tension gripped thousands of stranded participants for days on end. The yearly congregation, established on a San Francisco beach in 1986, has evolved into a bustling hub for close to 80,000 artists, musicians, and activists – a cosmos brimming with top-notch wilderness camping and avant-garde performances.

“Burning Man is quite the human experiment, with a city that exists for a fleeting moment”, exclaimed Meghdadi. The event witnesses an army of volunteers who construct the mythical city and unflinchingly disassemble it upon its culmination.

Having survived a particularly “brutal burn” last year, Meghdadi reminisced about participants bracing against extreme heat, countless dust storms and severe desert conditions. An unexpected twist of fate this year transported her back to the memory of the Quebec ice storm – a haunting scenario wherein individuals hunkered down, implementing rationing strategies for salvaging precious resources like food and water.

The torrents started when Meghdadi was at a workshop, quite a distance from her camp. The muddy terrain forced her to abandon her bike and trudge back on foot. Despite the initial downpour being capable of a quick dry-out, the persistent showers that trailed well into the night raised alarm bells regarding the certainty of when the deluge would cease.

Aside from the sanitary issues spurred by brimming porta-potties, navigating the mud-infested city became a herculean task, with shoes turning into bulky cement blocks, revertibly covered in impermeable mud. Suggestive of treading barefoot or sealing feet with Ziploc bags, the expedition beyond the campsites became a restrictive exercise.

Despite being trapped and devoid of any palpable fear, stress levels soared among participants, some of whom had flights to catch or children to return to; turning an apparently unpleasant scenario into a tight-knit community where people shared supplies and offered refuge in their respective camps.

Come Monday afternoon, conditions drastically improved. The desert regained its aridity, and paths were reopened around 2 p.m., with an estimated desertion wait time of five hours. Meghdadi, armed with an advanced ‘Burner Express’ bus pass, managed to evade the gridlock of RVs and was on her way by 4 p.m.

Although traces of tension could be discerned among those queued up to depart, Meghdadi’s overall experience remains one of growth and unexpected camaraderie after last year’s harsh conditions. Expressing her willingness to possibly take a year’s respite, she confessed, “It’s a beautiful movement, and I am definitely open to returning.”


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