Category Archives: Adventure

THROUGH THE EYES OF THE MAASAI – 5 REASONS TO VISIT A MAASAI VILLAGE

Of Kenya’s 42 tribes the image of the Maasai is the most iconic as one of the only tribes in the country who still retain their traditional way of life – making them one of Kenya’s most famous tourist “attractions”. This has sparked debate in recent years on the negative influence to their culture versus the much-needed money that tourism brings to the poorer communities.

I spent 2 weeks living and volunteering at Maji Moto Cultural Camp; a small tourist camp within the community of Maji Moto set up by Salaton Ole Ntutu – warrior, chief and spiritual leader. Money from tourists goes straight back into Salaton’s community projects like the primary school, widow’s village, health clinic and Medungi Conservation for the protection of land and wildlife.

Salaton Ole Ntutu - Masai warrior and Maji Moto community leader, Kenya
Salaton Ole Ntutu

5 REASONS TO VISIT THE MAASAI

1. Experience real life
Salaton’s camp is in the middle of a real living community and on arrival I was greeted with songs and the iconic jumping ceremony of the warriors. From then on, to my surprise, it wasn’t all song-and-dance every day; at first I even found myself a little disappointed when I wasn’t being constantly “entertained”. But I soon realised that wasn’t the purpose of my stay – I was there to live the life of the people, a very peaceful life, and I was quickly welcomed into the community as one of the family.

I milked goats, carried water, made jewellery, taught English, shopped at the lively local market, sang with the warriors, relaxed with the locals and walked to school with the kids.

2. Meet real people
The great thing about staying a while and blending into the community is having the time to get to know people and build lasting friendships.

Being the only white person, or “muzungu” around for miles I was quite noticeable as a stranger in a community of around 600 people, but I was always greeted with warm hearts and big smiles. The children in particular were fascinated by me and always curious, full of energy and eager to learn my English songs!

Many adults spoke no English but we were able to connect in other ways – singing, dancing, jumping, throwing spears, sharing chores and learning from each other.

Masai woman makes jewellery at Maji Moto Cultural Camp, Kenya

3. Enjoy the Masai Mara on your doorstep
The Masai Mara is a 580 sq. mile stretch of the Serengeti – once roamed on freely by the Masai people but now a protected game reserve hosting over 95 species of mammals. Anyone visiting Kenya should experience an overnight safari – seeing the Big 5 roam and hunt in their natural habitat, standing in an open-top van while driving across the vast expanse of grasslands, sleeping in a tent beside a watering hole and waking up with the animals.

Even if you can’t manage a safari drive you will experience the sights and sounds of the wild all around you. Walking across the Loita Plains I saw wild giraffes, antelope and even a zebra carcass being eaten by vultures. I watched the sun set over the Masai Mara from the top of the Loita Hills, slept among a colony of fruit bats and woke up to a family of baboons at my door.

giraffes at the Masai Mara Kenya

4. Learn to be a warrior
Traditionally Maasai men go through 3 stages of life – childhood, warriorhood and adulthood. Once circumcised at around age 13 a Maasai boy will usually leave his community to live in the bush for 7 years – he will sleep in a cave and learn to defend himself, live off the land and learn the earth and sky from the elders who have gone before him.

On my many walks with the warriors I was shown the ceremonial and medicinal uses of the plants and which to eat when living in the wild. I also learnt the behaviour of the animals, made fire and practised my spear-throwing!

For the final part of my training I was handed a cow-skin shield and sent into a field of warriors. With no prior warning they started hurling sticks at me – fast and hard! Myself and 2 Maasai girls did lots of screaming while hiding behind shields before we went in for an attack! After 10 minutes of war we called peace and danced around to warrior songs.

Masau warriors jumping at Maji Moto, Kenya

5. Relax
As a westerner accustomed to fast-paced life, stressful work and a constant stream of available entertainment it can be a struggle to get used to a lifestyle born out of pure outdoor living. But once you embrace the peace of your surroundings, laid-back ways of the locals, lack of media and love of nature you can find a new sense of relaxation.

The sleep I had at Maji Moto was the best I’ve had in years – you spend your entire day outside among the trees, your nights by the fire looking up at billions of bright stars, no TV or iPhone keeping you up until the early hours of the morning, the stress that normally floats around your head all night lifts away and you can just drift off in the pitch-black dark of night to the sound of birds, insects and the occasional hyena.

I was told that the Masai have no recorded history of stress-related illness and most of the people I met across Kenya really did live by “hakuna matata” – no worries.

Masai people on the Loita plains, Kenya

I visited in low-season and would recommend it to anyone looking for a truly authentic experience – or if you visit around August you will have other tourists to interact with and get a chance to see the great wildebeest migration!

Get in touch at xstaticworld@gmail.com
or on Twitter @XstaticWorld

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Forgotten Photos from the Black Rock Roller Disco (Burning Man 2014)!

I got a lovely surprise today.. an email from Schwabel Studio and a project called the Human Light Suit – Eric Schwabel took my photo at the Black Rock Roller Disco (Burning Man) 7 months ago and finally gifted it back to me it true Burner style! Heading to your first Burn this year? Read about a ‘virgin burner’s’ experience here.

Eric Schwabel Human Light Suit Burning Man Black Rock Roller Disco

Eric Schwabel at Black Rock Roller Disco Burning Man 2014

WELCOME HOME – STORIES OF BURNING MAN (USA)

This week I returned from the Burning Man festival, and I’ve been racking my brains trying to figure out how to sum it up into words. No amount of survival guides, photos, videos or articles can prepare you for the moment you step out onto the playa and witness the Black Rock City skyline, or the first time you come face to face with The Man, or ride your first art car, or survive your first sandstorm, or rave your way through your first desert sunrise.

Pulse and Boom - Photo by Jim Urquhart. Burning Man. Art.
Pulse and Boom – Photo by Jim Urquhart.

I’ve heard a lot of negativity surrounding Burning Man recently, like “it’s just a bunch of hippies taking acid in the desert” or “it’s been taken over by the rich and privileged” or “it’s full of anti-establishment hypocrites.” Yep there are drugs, yep there are rich people with the luxury of WiFi and an unnecessarily large RV, and yep we’re all trying to say “fuck you” to “the man” in our own way. But whoever you are, wherever you come from, whatever your reason is for being there, it’s your burn. You can and will make it exactly what you want it to be. Nobody cares what you do or what you have in the default world. Money is nothing – you’re there in that moment and making whatever you want to out of the environment around you.

Insanity. Burning Man 2014. Art. Black Rock Desert. XSTATICWORLD.
Insanity – photo by XstaticWorld

You’re part of the environment, you’re creating every moment. From the second you receive your ticket that states ‘NO SPECTATORS’, it’s up to you to participate in the burn you want to have. Whether you want to take acid and rave until noon, do yoga as the sun rises over the temple, have an orgy, be naked all week, join the circus, make art, spin fire or just chill out with new people… you can. It’s your burn. It really is a city (I was told that on Saturday we were the 5th largest city in Nevada), and like any city there is something for everyone. We were all living our own burns alongside one another, and loving everyone along the way.

Love at Burning Man, Black Rock Desert. XSTATICWORLD.
Love – photo by XstaticWorld

What I found was a family, an appreciation for people and their stories, a love of the outdoors, a desire to create, a realisation of the things I’m capable of, 8 nights of raving and 8 days of adventure!

Burning Man 2014. Night. Rave. Fire.
The Castle – Photo by Jim Urquhart

My highlights:

Platybus and The Band
After just a couple of weeks’ preparation, leaving my job and buggering off alone, I finally touched down in Reno ready to start my journey. But the second I left the airport, saw the surrounding mountains, felt the blistering heat and spoke to the hoards of veteran burners who knew exactly what they were doing, this insane fear came over me. I’d never been more terrified in my life, and for the first time I thought “Amy, what the fuck are you doing here?” I went into a shell, and lost my ability to strike up a conversation with a stranger (generally unlike me!) But I was saved; I met Frog who told me I belonged at his camp, and so a couple of days later I arrived at Platybus and The Band. I told this new group of strangers my story, and the first thing they said was “Welcome home! Take or use whatever you want and DO NOT say thank you, because we are your family now.” And we were a family, all 120 of us from all over the world and all walks of life. We cooked and cleaned together, we got smashed together, we raved together, we jammed together, we laughed, we cried, we had a wedding (the best wedding I’ve ever been to, congratulations Felipe and Matita!). I can’t thank my Platybus family enough for their unbelievable generosity and for being the most amazing people I could have possibly found out in the desert!

Deep Playa Adventures
During the week I found a loyal adventure buddy! Stef and I set out daily on our bikes with no agenda whatsoever, just to explore. One day we ventured out to the deep playa, away from the city far out in the desert. The sand was thick in the air and we couldn’t see anything around us, until we noticed some movement off in the distance. We rode over to find an art car hosting a cheese and wine party for a small handful of burners, and after hours of riding this was the best possible thing in the world! A few minutes after we arrived, another art car showed up blasting Disney songs, and so we danced with silk to the sound of Pocahontas’s Colours of The Wind, swung on giant swings and drank wine with beautiful strangers. Riding home we saw the sun setting over the mountains, we felt the harsh winds ripping through our bikes and we smelt the dust as it covered us and everything around us. It was an unforgettable afternoon.

The First Sandstorm
We were out at Robot Heart, a sunrise rave that changed location every day and the only way to find it was to cycle the desert in search of a giant metal heart. Around 9am I was low on water so jumped on a mobile bar for a quick drink. Suddenly the bar started moving with me propped up against it. “Shit” I thought “my friends and my bike are over there.” Before I had a chance to get off the first sandstorm of the week hit – complete white-out. My only option was to ride it out on this Indian style moving bar that continued around the desert for at least an hour. I couldn’t see a few feet in front of me, all I could see was the faint outline of anonymous heads wearing dust masks and goggles opposite. One of the heads turned and handed me a bottle of JD, not a word spoken, just a silent nod and we carried on through the desert passing abandoned bikes and art sculptures not visible until we were nose to nose with them. It was an incredibly surreal experience, silently surviving the elements with faceless strangers.

The Temple –
I ventured alone to The Temple, an incredibly intricate structure built for burners to express problems or remember lost loved ones. The energy hits you as soon as you walk through the arches – I don’t think I’ve ever physically felt the emotions of other people like I did that day. Reading the messages written all over the walls and seeing the hundreds of people sitting and remembering in silence, I was completely overcome with emotion and overwhelming gratitude for my life and the people around me. On Sunday we burnt The Temple, and unlike the chaotic and animalistic party atmosphere of burning The Man on Saturday, 60 to 70 thousand people sat and were silent. Completely un-prompted nobody spoke a word, there was no music, just the sound of the temple and everything in it turning to ash. In its final moments it swiftly and silently twisted into itself and was gone, leaving nothing but a cloud of dust. Along with the thousands around me I gasped. It was like nothing I’ve ever seen before.

Gifting –
There is a common misconception that because no money is exchanged you need to bring something to trade. This isn’t the case – people genuinely want to make you happy, which in turn makes them happy, and the happiness just rolls on and on. I was given some really beautiful gifts by people who are now extremely special to me. I was also given things by people I’d never seen before and may never see again, but they were still so exceptional, and just knowing that someone genuinely wants you to have their handmade bracelet, their amazing green socks or their deep fried Oreo, is a beautiful feeling.

Likewise, the feeling of giving someone a gift with no expectation of getting something back is like watching your best friend open a Christmas present you’ve put all your effort into. Every bar, every food stall, every party, every workshop, every rave, every thing is a gift from someone else, and not once do you find yourself thinking “Oh score, free stuff.” Instead it’s “Wow, thank you for this gift”. And it’s not just things, sometimes your gift is just a great conversation, a hug, a smile or even your nudity. It may sound like a bunch of hippy nonsense to some – and yes, you do have to spend quite a lot of money to get there and enjoy it – but once you’re in it it makes so much sense.

A long-time Platybus camp mate called Bruce told me: “The best gift you can give is to carry this principle with you in the real world. Never stop gifting.”

Gifting at Burning Man - Photo by Xstatic World
Burning Man (Photo by Xstatic World)

Every minute of every day was a highlight – from the topless mimosa breakfast party to the naked foam party, the 300-person hug, dancing on a giant fire-breathing octopus, singing Bohemian Rhapsody a cappella at church while taking holy communion of whiskey and condoms, discussing my entire life with a complete stranger on board a giant shark for 3 hours before parting ways never to speak again, the Platybus Techno Tutu Tuesday rave, the 3D maze party, dancing in the thunderstorm, climbing on some of the best artwork in the world, watching The Man burn, the roller disco, climbing a mechanical beating heart, having a snowball fight in the middle of the desert, getting high and exploring, and every moment in between.

I love you burners, See you on the playa 2015.

With love, Teapot.

Burning Man

My love goes out to Alicia Cipicchio and her family following the tragic accident at this year’s event. You will be in our thoughts.

I want to hear about your burn, please tell me your stories in the comments below or on Twitter @XstaticWorld. For more photos follow me on Instagram @XstaticGibbo.

Get in touch at xstaticworld@gmail.com

A VIRGIN BURNER – PREPARING FOR BURNING MAN

This time next week I’ll be in the Black Rock Desert (Nevada, USA) ready for a week of community, art, self-reliance and radical self expression. It’s The Burning Man Festival!

I was lucky enough to acquire a ticket at the last minute and so I thought: “Bugger it, rinse out the penny pot and book that flight. I’ve got all the things I need for a festival.” How wrong I was! This is no ordinary festival, it’s a “utopian society” built on radical self-reliance, radical self expression, communal effort and participation. A 50,000 strong city built by artists and like-minded people that pops up annually in the middle of the desert, for many Burning Man is a lifestyle.

cropped-burning-man-love.jpg

The Burning Man principles include: 

Radical self-reliance:
Burning Man encourages you to “discover, exercise and rely on your inner resources.”
Be completely prepared to take care of yourself physically and mentally.

Radical inclusion:
Anyone can be part of Burning Man – whoever you are, you’ll be welcomed and respected.

Participation:
“Transformative change can occur only through the medium of deeply personal participation.” Everyone at Burning Man makes Burning Man. It’s not something to observe, it’s something to be part of – say “yes!”

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Gifting:
“The principle of Gifting is unconditional and doesn’t constitute a return or exchange for something of equal value.” Burners give gifts because they want to, and it can be in any shape or form, from giving out food and beer to lending a hand at a camp or simply offering someone a hug.

Leave No Trace:
Burners respect their environment – they come and go with no trace of ever being there.
Everything that enters Black Rock City leaves Black Rock City.

The other principles include Decommodification, Communal Effort, Immediacy and
Civic Responsibility. These are principals to carry not only for the week but in life.

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“The Black Rock Desert is trying its best to kill you” 

As a total Burning Man virgin I am in no way any kind of expert on preparing for the journey, but I’d like to list some of the survival essentials I’ve learned so far from veteran burners who’ve kindly shared their wisdom.

In the interest of radical self-reliance everyone must enter fully prepared to survive 7 days in the desert. Nothing can be bought at Burning Man (with the exception of ice and coffee) and so everything needs to come with you. You must come prepared to battle the elements: dry hot days at 4,000 feet above sea level, freezing cold nights and unpredictable weather.

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Packing list essentials

Water:
1.5 gallons of water per day is the recommended amount. As I’m flying solo to Reno from the UK and catching the ‘Burner Express’ into Black Rock City, I’ll be buying 11-12 gallons of water in the city and transporting it all to the desert in a wheelie bin! I’ve also bought a Camelback backpack that holds 1.5 litres, so I won’t go thirsty miles away from camp.

Food:
Again, I’ll buy this in Reno: lots of dried fruit, nuts and energy bars as well as tinned food and salty snacks. The salty snacks help replace electrolytes that you lose sweating in the heat.

Goggles and Dust Masks:
Sandstorms or ‘white-outs’ are regular; the best thing to do is stick your goggles and dust mask on, sit down and wait for it all to blow over.

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Home:
I’ve pre-ordered a tent for pick up in Reno as well as rebar stakes. Regular tent pegs have absolutely no use on the hardpan ground of the desert, and even if you could get them in the ground the high wind would just go ahead and blow your tent away.

Clothing (Cool/Warm) and Self Expression:
Temperatures are up to around 40 degrees (c) in the day, and plummet to under 5 degrees (c) at night. Sun hats and thermal underwear are both essential! This is a chance not for costume but for radical self-expression. The outfits I’ve bought and made for the festival are a reflection of me.

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Lights Lights Lights:
It’s important to light up at night; you can easily get hit by a bike, art car or mutant vehicle if you don’t. I’ve bought hi-vis tape to cover my coat with (as well as my tent, so nobody falls into it), UV face paint, light-up finger beams, flashing EL wire to stitch into my clothes, a head torch, a hand torch, glow in the dark nail varnish and glowing eye lashes.

First Aid:
They have emergency services in Black Rock City but in the interest of radical self-reliance you should be able to look after yourself. I’ve got all the basics and have been for a spree at the pharmacy for every pill and potion I could possibly need.

Moisture:
The alkaline desert is drying you up and the harsh sun is burning you all day, so it’s really important to keep restoring your body’s moisture. I’ve got plenty of sunscreen, high-acid lotions, lip balm and eye drops.

For the full official Survival Guide and Personal Survival Checklist visit the
Burning Man website.

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From what I’ve read this is a week of embracing life and opportunity, loving those around you and letting yourself go. I’m going alone and I plan to throw myself into anything and everything possible, not being afraid to be the best possible version of myself.

Click here for a sneaky peek at this year’s artwork or watch one of the videos below and, like me, get inspired to go!

The Fertile Desert

Oh The Places You’ll Go

Dear Virgin

Are you a virgin burner this year? Are you a veteran with some pearls of wisdom? Are you planning a burn next year? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter: @XstaticWorld

Burning Man 2013: State of the Art

My burn experience coming soon!