And the man, it burned…

Hi everybody,

A bit of time passed since my last post. No worries, it pretty much feels like I have never been more alive and kicking. Your beloved traveler is reporting straight from a stormy, freezing and rainy Auckland. Yep, perfect timing for an early morning breakfast writing session.

Colombian Closure

The last days in Colombia were spent as relaxed as possible when we headed towards Parque Nacional Tayrona. The second most visited park in Colombia is famous for its diverse scenery: sandy beaches, rainforest, cacti,… you name it! In the meanwhile, Roy was still by my side spending his final moments in paradise. We got to the park and settled down in a hammock at the wonderful beach of Cabo San Juan de Guía.

Parque Nacional Tayrona

On our way there, we bumped into the perfect advertisement for our prefered Colombian beer “Club Colombia”:

Club Colombia - "Paarden weten waarom"

After Tayrona, we stranded in Cartagena. A day later, Roy returned to Belgian reality. I moved on towards what would be one of the most surreal and inspiring weeks in my entire trip.

Burning Ma(d)n(ess)

In San Francisco, David and I met up again and went out for our Burning Man shopping. We got all our gear, and crashed with fellow “burners” (Burning Man slang for people that visit the festival) Kerry, Tam and Xi. They were so kind to offer us a ride in their rented and super reliable “A-team van”. Company that supplied the vehicle: “Rent-a-Wreck”. It was not that much of a surprise we nearly crashed facing a blowout of one of the front tires when driving back to San Francisco after Burning Man. Luckily, Tam’s nerves of steel got us safely on the side of the road where we successfully used our spare wheel to get things sorted again.

View over Black Rock City

As pointed out in David’s post a bit earlier, it is difficult to describe the madness of Black Rock City if you haven’t been there yourself. Anyways, allow me to give it a try while summing up various things -not all, my mother is reading this!- that alter your state of mind:

Desert Conditions

Basically you are in the middle of the desert for the whole week. This means exposure to conditions that can be called quite harsh. Daytime temperature fluctuates around 30 degrees, at night it gets freeeeezing cold. Getting back from another crazy party, finally going for some well deserved rest you usually wake up 2 hours later completely covered in sweat.

Kerry Playing Beethoving in the Middle of a Sandstorm

Artworks

The unique concept of Burning Man is that the burners theirselves construct artworks the whole year preceding the festival. Consequently, during the week you witness the most incredible craftsmanship. A huge temple made out of wood and the magnificent dancing lady sculpture are just a few examples.

The Dancing Lady Sculpture

Craziness of all Sorts

Well, don’t know what to write first in this section. Anyways, I do not get my ass whipped daily at a bar called Spanky’s wine bar. It rarely happens I encounter a panda bear in speedo. Seldomly I am wearing a lovely pink dress, sipping Guinness in an Irish pub located in the Nevada desert and usually the parties I attend do not have 4 enormous flamethrowers next to the dj-boot.

Pandabear in Speedo

The Man Burning

One would wonder how the festival gets its name. Well, that’s a difficult one. They burn a gigantic wooden man. Once again, no attempt to describe the whole process. Nevertheless, the picture might give a tiny and slight impression of this “sacred moment” in the whole Burning Man philosophy.

And the Man, it Burns!

Licence to Try Everything twice

Licence to Try Everything Twice!

Back in San Francisco

After having spent a relaxing evening and night in the Gran Sierra resort in Reno, we got back to San Francisco for a final night with the assembled A-team (David, Jan, Kerry, Tam and Xi). As almost everything is organic and healthy in San Fran we had dinner in a vegan restaurant followed by some karaoke. To my surprise I got on stage screaming out loud the desire to be taken to the next whiskey bar. Quite a challenge following my “like a virgin”-karaoke trauma.

A bit sad and lost I wandered around in “the city” the next morning. On my own again, lonely and melancholic after having said farewell to the whole crew. Luckily I got a very warm welcome at both May Jean’s and Graces places. I met May Jean while hiking in Colombia. Grace and I had a brief encounter in the Couchsurfing camp at Burning Man. I want to thank both for taking me around town and showing me the best the city has to offer!

wine and dine

May Jean drove me to the huge wine region north of the city. After having tasted several wines I could not really mark the difference between red and white anymore. A bit later I probably couldn’t identify a hot chocolate in between the Zinfandel, Syrah and Pinot Noir. However, the wines are very tasty, the weather sunny and the surroundings incredibly beautiful.

Tasting Wine in California

The whole city is packed with restaurants serving every single type of cuisine imaginable. I tasted Japanese, Chinese, Afghan and Ethiopian food. It does not happen a lot I think about heading back to Belgium. Of course, I miss family and friends -hey, common guys, I really do. One thing I have been desiring for in particular is Belgian beer. Problem solved when Grace took me to a marvelous pub that serves a nice selection of Belgium’s finest! As Grace pointed out my nationality, people instantly started asking my advice on the type of beer that would suit their taste and mood the best. Ever since, I am considering to redirect my career in the direction of “beer consulting”. Nothing like that on the corporate websites of the big-4, a shame!

Grace Tasting a Delicious Tripel Karmeliet

Back to the future

Monday at 5 pm I jumped in the plane towards Auckland. Arrival time: Wednesday 5 am… Crossing the dateline made me lose a full day! No worries, I am doing my best to catch up again.

I gathered all my courage and checked my bank statements. Immediately I started adjusting my cv, got online and began checking several job sites as the States turned out to be the opposite of budget-friendly. At the same time, I dived into all other formalities (opening bank account, requesting my tax number, cellphone,…). Horror!

To my own surprise I booked my first success on Saturday. I got my test at a Brazilian Churrascaria called Wild fire. When they asked if I had been a waiter before I did exaggerate my experience level a bit -common, who does not use a white lie applying for a job?- The managers reply: “good, you’ll need it, we expect 300 people this evening, Saturday is very busy here”. With trembling legs I started working at 5 pm. 7 hours later I got back home, exhausted and with pain in every single muscle. Nevertheless, it all went pretty smooth. The staff mainly consists of Latin American people. When they heard me speaking Spanish (“No eres Aleman??”) I conquered their hearts. Yep, lucky me again.

My plan for the coming months: working as hard and long as possible. In November I will meet up with Kerry to travel around the south island here in New Zealand. A great perspective… It’s all good!

All the best to everyone!

Tom

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