Maria Bilotte is a 38-year-old living in Argentina.
She attended the Burning Man festival in the northern Nevada desert last week.
It was her third year attending, and she said the mud didn't get in the way of her having fun.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Maria Bilotte. It has been edited for length and clarity.
I've been going to Burning Man in the Black Rock Desert since 2019. What I enjoy most is the sense of community among the people who attend — spending time with friends you've known forever and friends you've only just met.
It's like a big playground full of discovery and exploration. You get to be the true version of yourself. The art exhibitions scattered throughout the Playa are always mind-blowing.
The rain didn't ruin my experience this year
This year, I took the Burner Express, Burning Man's official transportation, from San Francisco on August 28.
The days leading up to the rain were as they had been in past years. We listened to music, viewed art installations, biked around the Playa, and spent time with each other in our camps.
On Friday afternoon, it started getting cold and windy, and then the rain started. It was light at first but then got quite heavy and continued like that through the night. I'd never seen rain at Burning Man before.
No one I was camping with was worried about it.
I had been sleeping in a tent, and friends invited me to come and stay in their RV while it rained.
The ground was becoming like clay. It was sticky, not like normal mud.
Even though we knew rain would disrupt some of the events, we relaxed and tried to enjoy each other's company.
On Saturday morning, the rain stopped for a little while, so everyone in my camp gathered outside under a structure to cook and eat together. Some of us then went for a short walk with bags over our feet.
Burning Man radio was advising us to stay in our camps, not to leave the festival, and avoid walking around the sticky ground. We were told to stay calm, keep sheltered, and be good with supplies left. But it wasn't alarmist.
Since there were no running buses and cars couldn't get out of the desert, people who needed to leave over the weekend decided to backpack across the desert until they reached the road. I had three friends who needed to catch planes and backpacked before getting picked up on the road.
When I got cell signal I was able to tell my loved ones I was OK
Those who could get cell signals started hearing news from outside Burning Man that was very different from what we were experiencing inside. They were talking about a catastrophe and painting a picture that was more dramatic than we were seeing. People said that we were stranded, that it was a national emergency, and that we needed to conserve water, food, and fuel in case.
There were people who might have been stressed, but many of us had a sense of adventure and didn't mind the rain. We knew the rain would stop, the ground would dry, and we would be able to get out. It seemed like people were generally OK. People were in good spirits. Music was playing. People danced in the mud. One camp was offering free pancakes to anyone who wanted them. People were still trying to have fun.
We had all planned to stay until Monday, anyway, after the burning of the large wooden man and the temple structure, so we had plenty of supplies to last until then. We weren't running out of food or water.
When I found a spot, I could get a little bit of signal on my phone; missed calls and text messages flowed in of people worrying about me. My parents hadn't heard about the news coming from Burning Man, so I let them all know I was OK — that everything was good. I told them: "If you hear anything, don't worry. I'm OK."
On Monday morning, I left in my friend's car. We waited over five hours before getting to the road. But this was no different from how it was in previous years — it's always been called "the exodus." When 70,000 people leave at the same time, there is bound to be traffic. It happens every year. A friend left after us, and it took her about eight hours. That's normal. We make the most of the wait, take it easy, and put on some music.
The whole weekend, in my experience, was not as bad as what people were saying.
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