Wasteland Weekend 2017

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Photo by Zombeite

I was quite overwhelmed and overjoyed by the amount of people who came to say hi to me having recognised me online. It really made my wasteland and I freaking love you all. <3
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So… if you want to hear what Wasteland Weekend is like- the snapshot version- here’s my account as a total newbie. This post is a little more personal.
I’ll never regain the mind-blowing wide-eyed ‘holy hell’ factor I experienced arriving at Wasteland Weekend for the first time but returning has it’s advantages: I now know it’s a stupid idea to sleep on the ground so shared an air bed, the time I spent gawking at the very existence of things like the Thunderdome could now be spent really experiencing them, I knew where the food, medical tent and notice board is, and now I knew people. That, for me, was the biggest advantage of returning; I was going home to see family. As Wasteland was five days long this year (last year was three), this was not only exciting but lucky for me that I knew more about what to expect. I’m not sure that ‘newbie Faith’ would have survived!

This years event was held in its brand new home in another corner of the Mojave- bought as a permanent location for the ever-growing numbers attending. Honestly, I’m a little nervous to see what the future will hold the more people attend- will it lose its immersiveness? Will the family atmosphere become more like an occasion full of those distant relatives you make small talk with before sticking like glue to your favourite sibling? Will Wasteland Weekend set so much of a good example in an increasingly scary world that it will attract a year-round population of friendly postapocalyptic ‘lifers’? And are there really THAT many postapocalyptic, guzzoline-powered, eccentric and occasionally bloodthirsty types in the current dying world? Only time will tell. This year, visitor count reached around 3850!

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Photo by ShotbyJonny

Just like last year, I arrived at night and saw the sun rise over the desert. I signed in, got my wristband (this time a friend and fellow Brit was attaching them so I got hugs too), set up camp and immediately brought out handfuls of peanut butter filled pretzels to barter. The event itself was laid out in the same familiar way as 2016’s which meant I already knew my way around (though still managed to lose my actual camp multiple times as more people arrived over the course of the day, adding and blocking landmarks.)

I spend most of Thursday greeting and hugging friends- like Maee and Micah from my “Little Walks” post and their tribe ‘Junktown’, costumier and kickass cosplayer Meisha, my adopted tribe The Lone Wolves….. and my own Wasteland Warriors several of whom flew out for the event! It was surreal and wonderful having my own tribe out in the desert with me- especially Tina- the member who invited me to join in the first place just eighteen months ago, and we only just met- how crazy is that?! I went exploring with new stuntman friend Blake who just over a week before had taken me to visit a steampunk cafe in the real world- now half naked, war painted and wielding a formidable homemade bullwhip with an antler for a handle. (You should all check out his work). We met The Rustorationists tribe where I lost no time in joining their religious cult and rushing off to complete some tasks in hope of earning a metal rosary.
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Is this rusty enough, guys? 😀
Photo by Shot by Jonny

The sun made my tent into a saunalike hell very quickly and so it was easier to get up and find shade elsewhere, flitting from camp to camp like a stained increasingly dirty social butterfly. Friday’s heat sent me scuttling into the shade for much of the day. Other tribes and camps were incredibly welcoming and happy to talk about the universe, rusty metal and books with me. I recovered in time to scream myself hoarse at my favourite Slag Racing (vibrator racing down a sheet of corrugated iron), catch up with Rachael (beautiful person in every way) at the Dinki-Dive, watch some shows at the Wasted Saints tribe area that were fascinating, exciting, beautiful and gross, and run into Matt and Hattie- friends that had eluded me last year- and visit the Ghoulcrest Hunting Lodge to hear some daring bounty hunting tales. I’m dying to tell a tale of my own there- one more failed bounty hunt and I’ll spin a Moby Dick style yarn of The One That Got Away…
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Knife throwing at the Wasted Saints stage- photo by Shot by Jonny

My religious cult fervour was dying down a little, partly due to the relentless sun and partly to kicking back and enjoying things. I’m always torn on tribe quests- I love the idea of doing them, earning stuff and bartering, leaving a fantastic tale attached to what I eventually bring home… but in the real world I spend vast amounts of time on goal-oriented things so in the wasteland I tend to relax and let things come to me, which they do! I now have an earpiece made of teeth, a backpack strap I really needed, SO many bottlecaps, a plectrum, a massive wooden scarab brooch and a skull and crossbones pin for my boat. And a message in a bottle… 🙂
There’s even a mobile library and curiosity shop to visit and get lost in- and a shopping area! I wish I had spent more time surrounded by books and I hope our paths cross again. I could have spent hours sitting on the step with coffee. 🙂
The thing is, time ends up being a relative concept- everybody ends up living on their own timeline unless they have alarms set for certain shows. It makes life more interesting but due to the growing size and tiny subcultures at the event, you may not see your friend all day or night unless you arrange to meet them at a certain time… which means one of you might leave somewhere mid-adventure. I’m perfectly happy running solo but if you aren’t and you want to attend Wasteland Weekend, just bear that in mind.
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Desert sunsets are SPECTACULAR!

I fell into bed around 3am but had to get up again at 7:30 on Saturday because organiser Jared had asked if I would do the honours of being a Wasteland Priestess and open the gates for the ceremony! It’s similar to the official opening on Thursday morning but as some people can only make it at the weekend, they reprise it bigger and better on Saturday. As I was wearing some elaborate and rather creepy make-up, I had to be in the chair at dawn along with a shuffling line of very tired Warboys for their daily spraying! The women at The Body Shop (where Wastelanders go for a spruce-up) did such an amazing job- I hardly recognised myself (and neither did some of my friends when I thumbed a lift!) Sadly I have lost the notes I scribbled- including the names of the awesome women who made me look amazing- Britney and… Tara? (Help!)

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Respraying in the Body Shop- photo by ShotbyJonny

After a couple of hours I had to go and have the prosthetic parts under my eyes removed… and relinquish the incredible outfit Mark Cordory made for me. I changed into an outfit I’ve only half-made but had quite a reaction, haha!
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I watched the costume competition- with awards for best original characters and cosplays. Auntie Entity won the latter (hooray!) and professional cosplayer and lovely person Vivid Vivka won the former with an elaborate swirling Maleficent-esque “Sand Witch”! There were some fantastic honourable mentions and runners-up too- like the Nuka Cola bottlecap dress lady, and Rictus Erectus.
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Photo by ShotbyJonny

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Highly commended!

I spent Saturday (and Sunday) nights watching bands and shows, screaming my head off watching my friends fight in the Thunderdome- if anyone has a playlist, I neeeeed one- and putting the world to rights. V2A are amazing as always, and just as entertaining to watch as to hear, AHTCK rocked just as hard as I remembered. The Mushroom Cloud Lounge hosted me along with many of my friends who don’t take ourselves too seriously- we ended up dancing to disco and cheesy classics for half the night and there are few better bonding experiences than communal ‘idiot dancing’.
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Or this. We take Jenga VERY seriously.

For people who haven’t attended Wasteland Weekend, I could tell you about the insane cars, our sport ‘Jugger’ which is a bit like football/wrestling/weapon fighting with a dog skull, the incredble range of oufits, the desert landscape, the armoured cars, the Gladiator fights and gogo dancing, the themed camps, the fire pit… the CARS- just like every other wasteland article does- but as I’ve already told you about all that stuff –> here<–, it’s the sense of community and the idea that somebody always has your back that sets it apart.

Yes, changes had been made- some that promise extra fun- like the fact that the inevitable has been accepted: there’s a place for Fallout fans as long as they are suitably dirty. There’s an actual vault for them! Some that embroider the fabric of the Wasteland universe- like “The Daughters of Entity”, a tribe of black badass women who are descendents of Auntie Entity from Mad Max 3. (I sadly didn’t get any pictures of the tribe but I’m very excited to photograph them next year.) And some have a greater meaning for us as wastelanders and individuals; like the beautiful and emotive shrine to the fallen- a place for us to honour our dead and beloved. While I missed the ceremony held there, I am told it was a truly powerful experience- and that is what I want to leave you with: just some examples of the spirit found here…

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Photo by Zombieite. I don’t know who these beautiful people are.

– Within hours of arriving, an RV caught fire and spread to the adjacent vehicles. So many spare sleeping bags, food and supplies were found and offered (within the hour) that the organisers had to ask people to stop offering.
– One evening, I walked towards my tent in the sunset wishing I had somebody to watch the beautiful sky with me. As though I’d said it aloud, a voice yelled “hey Wolverine!” from a nearby RV and a heap of strangers offered me some company and the view from their roof…
– … the next person who joined us on the roof was a friend. We ended up watching the sun set, putting the world to rights and planning hypothetical globetrotting. Away from the often frenzied atmosphere in the main arenas, it was the moment of stillness and feeling genuinely seen that I needed.
– There were moments during the event that I wasn’t having the world’s greatest time; my heart was taking quite a battering and I wasn’t sure if I’d be okay. Three different people offered to put a hit on whoever was upsetting me, one stood with me in the freezing cold early hours offering excellent life advice and listening to me wail- suspending their own adventures to make sure I was okay. Word passed from friend to friend until I realised I had somebody at my side with a smile and a bad joke at any given hour that I was visible. Thankyou, thankyou, thankyou. (Especially Tina, Rachael, Blake, Meisha, Moxie, and Fennec.)
– After every event, there’s a charity drive. The main rule is that guests pack out everything they bring in, leaving no trace of our presence. Our excess tins and packets go to California City based charities so nothing gets wasted and we work with the local community which in turn support us! 😀
– They support us so much, in fact, that there are welcome posters along the road near the event and one of the local restaurants stayed open to host us before we could get in the waiting line on Wednesday night… with advance performances from some of the entertainers and amazing drag artist Lady VaJayJay as compere.
– Though often photographers work to instagram algorithms (half naked women with weapons and cars = lots of views), Wasteland Weekend attendees are a hell of a lot more diverse than the popular images in google might show. While it’s often hard to tell when everybody is covered in dirt, there’s growing diversity in race, a very broad age range, groups (both on facebook and in the desert) for LGBT, curvy, kinky, geeky people and a very open friendly atmosphere.
– The simple act of being offered water by just about everybody whose shelter I visited. We look out for each other here.

I could go on but I’ve gone on enough. ;P

I left the desert riding shotgun in an orange car called “That Bitch Jackie”.

More pictures below. WASTELAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAND!!!

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Photo by Zombeite

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Photo by ShotbyJonny

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Adept Farlander- fighting while smiling, like a badass. <3 Photo by ShotbyJonny

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Photo by Crysco Nabisco

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Photo by ShotbyJonny

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Hell yes. Photo by ShotbyJonny

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Photo by ShotbyJonny

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Photo by ShotbyJonny

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Photo by ShotbyJonny

AAAAAAAND… FIGHT!
(photos by ShotbyJonny)
Blake’s the shirtless tattooed one and the diving one at the end… just before he earned himself the wasteland name ‘Slit Lid’ by slitting his eyelid open. Good thing he had an eyepatch…)
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Photo by EventMaster

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P.S. Dear Sergeant Dangernoodle, I’m glad we found you before you were mistaken for a rattlesnake. I hope you have found a nice place to curl up in the desert that isn’t near a load of people and that you live a long and happy life surrounded by food and warm sunny rocks. <3
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