Aaron, Jess, Bea and I headed out from our camp on our miraculously still functioning bicycles. The Mausoleum was one of the most beautiful structures I had ever seen on earth, and attending its destruction would be the perfect ending to a week of unprecedented experiences for me and my friends.
Darkness was descending as we pedaled toward the great desert Playa. A sandstorm kicked up out of nowhere, and we put on our goggles and masks and headlamps, as we had done several times in the past few days. But the airborne sand thickened to such an intensity that we soon had to abandon our bikes and set out by foot. Unable to see more than a few inches in front of our faces, our hands on each other’s shoulders so not to separate, we slowly walked in what we hoped was the general direction of the Mausoleum.
Now, the truth was, even during daylight, the Mausoleum had been extremely difficult to find in the vast desert. We kept walking, assuming we would run into some of the thousands of other Burning Man participants we believed to be nearby. But minutes turned into miles. The sand was unrelenting, and we came across no one. I drank my last sandy swallow from my water flask. We had lost all bearing of where we came from and where we were heading.
“Do you think we should turn around?” Aaron asked, slight panic creeping into his voice. It was hard for us to hear each other, both because of the sand muffling all sound except its own blowing and because we spoke through surgical masks or bandanas over our mouths.
“Does anyone even know how to get back?” asked Bea. We would have looked at each other for the answer but we could see nothing and already knew the answer was no.
* * *
The adventure began a few days before: We were lucky to find perhaps the last available RV in all of Northern California, and six of us first-timers packed up and headed out from San Francisco to Burning Man, the week-long festival-carnival in the otherwise uninhabitable desert of northern Nevada. Read the rest of the story here.