Kiwi Burn 2011, Cows with Guns and Other Madness

I hitched out of Paeroa, it took three rides to get to Silverdale, a little town outside of Hamilton where I was staying with a couchsurfer the night before going to Kiwi Burn. There were three people at the house I was staying at, one had gone dumpster diving and scored some bacon that he fried up for us, I sipped on some rum they offered me as well after doing a shot of rice wine they'd been gifted and were generally disgusted by.

We went into town and met a couple other people to see a movie, then headed back home were everyone wound down. The girl living there gave me a ride late to the university where I printed out my Kiwi Burn ticket, we stayed up a while talking until finally falling to sleep.

I got cleaned up in the morning and washed some clothes in the shower, letting them dry as everyone else in the house slowly woke up. I was given a ride to a good spot to hitchhike soon, the girl in the house had also gotten me my first L&P to drink and a timeout bar, something I told her I'd had once in London more than a decade ago and hadn't seen since.

I thumbed a car down that was going to Wellington, a couple with their baby in the back. That ride got me as far as a town called Tokoroa, I walked through the turn from there with my cardboard "KiwiBurn" sign hanging on my side. A van pulled off ahead and waved me down, it was a local guy who'd seen my sign. He told me about the area and said he'd take me to the KiwiBurn gate.

When we got close he showed me a camping area he said was free, driving me through so I could see it, some of his friends were there hacking away at a fallen tree eager to stock up on firewood. His kid bragged out the window about his dad's new chainsaw, they'd be coming back for their own share of the lumber.

I let out and walked to the gate, seeing tents lined up within on the farm where this KiwiBurn festival was taking place.

"You hitchhiked here? Legend.", the guy at the gate took my ticket and gave me the run down, asking about my water situation and whatnot, then passed me on to the welcome crew, a group of people with hugs and more of a rundown on the lay of the land, where to pee, where not to start fires, etc.

They had me crawl through a series of low tents with artwork and mirrors and colors and the like, "leaving the default world", popping out on the other side where I banged a gong, Kiwi Burn had begun for me.

I wandered around looking at the various campsites, aiming for the far hill with trees and shade. I started talking to a guy who called himself a slave and a girl there setting her campsite up. I set my bag down there then wandered down to the river with the girl where there was a bunch of people, she stripped down and waded into the water joining some others.

I wandered the whole farm land, up and down hills past various tents and stages being setup, then back to some camping tents where I was looking at the temple they'd built, cool looking curved pieces of wood pointing up in the sky almost like surf boards. Right then a car pulled up and out popped Nils, the couchsurfer I'd stayed with in Auckland, I'd know he'd be somewhere around.

I talked with him and his friends a bit, then headed back down to the river, which everyone called the lake since it was a big bend that pooled up like this. A few people were heading out on the Kayaks looking and talking like pirates so I joined them. These people turned out to be Jake, Eve and Charlie. We paddled around a while and they invited me to their camp, it was a tent I'd noticed coming in, a big orange one with a banner that said "SWEET AS BRO". I went and grabbed my bag from the hill and set up camp with them, I knew it would be a great five nights.

The days spiraled along, cactus boiling, joints a plenty, relentless dancing, chai tea tents, bottles of beer, fire spinning, ecstasy, cows, cows with guns, a giant wooden burning man, tabs of acid, a stolen kiss, absinthe, a pirate ship, sausage cookouts, naked people a burning sun and everything.

Perhaps the best night was the one that rained. As the sun went down things became misty with light rain, by dark it was dumping heavy and didn't let up until morning. People gathered in the larger covered tents, talking, drumming, dancing and whatever they could do. I was lit up and wild, unable to sit still for long, bouncing between every tent far and wide across the farmland.

I popped into one tent where Jake and Eve spent most of rainstorm, I pounded on the drums along with a dozen others in the tent until my mind snapped and I fled away, running across the field to the dance tent with a trampoline built in ground. They blasted colored lights across the field and it reflected in a way that made it look like the rain was every color in the rainbow. I ran down to the surf shack, just a small hut with people gathered around a DJ, someone handed me a clam filled with a drink that made my mouth go numb. I shot back to the big blue tent I'd been drumming in, soaked "like a drowned rat", Jake told me, I sipped some of their drink and raced back into the rain again, down the hill and to the camp area again, into the Chai tent. People were calmer there, in good spirits and sharing stories. I talked to people who's faces I couldn't distinguish, in that state I couldn't for the life of me see people's eyes or make sense of my words or those, but somehow I managed to focus on staring at these clay like simple featured blobs of heads and was saying words that lost meaning to me as I was saying them, but I could tell they were being interpreted as legitimate conversation so I kept at it, whatever I was doing seemed normal to them.

At last I fled from there and kept firing through the night, making my rounds at every tent ten times over. "Here for your petrol", Eve laughed, handing me her cup when I popped into that tent. It was always just what I needed every time, although the cup really was just a massive blend of mixers and liquors like absinthe, vodka and things no one there will ever recall.

One tent was blasting music, people jumping, upon entering some woman recognized me who I didn't recognize and grabbed me, guiding me inside and spinning around, "watch me dance for you", she did a strip tease and others joined in. I joined the jumping and rocking around, I tore through the tent throughout the night periodically.

I bumped into the half moon god periodically and others, he was one character who'd dropped a tab around when I did, I think it was the first time he had, but I'd met him the night before where he'd told me the name he'd been dubbed once, half moon god. That had also been a good night.

The rain kept pounding and I kept cycling, jumping and dancing from tent to tent, getting especially amped when I came to the rainbow rain strobing across the field. I was often lost, or rather disoriented, looking up at the giant cow with his gun and the big wooden man as landmarks, but it never made sense until I was back into music or some scene or another. At one point I'd completely gone to and out the front gate as if waking from a dream, I nodded and smiled at the person working the gate with a face that let them know I was deliriously lost and now found, not someone sneaking in or some such, they understood.

It was a hell of a night all and all, and as I said the next morning things had dried up. On the second to last night the man and the cow were burned, on the final night they burned the temple. Then the morning came where most everyone was packing and slowly heading for the exits. I decided to roll out with my Sweet As Bro friends. It was a tight squeeze in the small car, besides Jake, Eve and Charlie there was also The Great Scot, a big happy guy from Scotland, often seen with perfectly rolled spliffs, he also taught me about staff spinning.

Someone how we manged with bags on laps and keen tetris like packing, we were off, down to Lake Taupo, only making a stop beforehand to dump some garbage and get meat pies, awesomeness. I hadn't plans, so this worked out well. The group of them were off to stay with Jake's grandfather, I parted ways with the lot in town after cheeseburgers in a McDonalds airplane, hollowed out with tables and the like.

Now it was time to move on to the next thing, I had various ideas, but one thing was clear: my shorts were gone, and I was going to get them back.