Trekking to Tankwa
My tale of AfrikaBurn 2017
Packing for 9 days in the desert ain't no joke. One finds himself running around frantically thinking, 'Oh my god what am I going do with out my sparkly gum boots on the odd chance of a down pour?' Yes, a down pour in the middle of the Karoo.
Ref: the great flood of 2012.
Fitting 6 people's luggage in a 14 hundred Nissan bakkie, a little Suzuki and a trailer felt like a giant game of Tetris which only took a little over 2 hours to complete. With a kiss to the pooches, padkos, and a spliff in hand we were off.
With not much distance to cover on our first day, we had a slow and steady drive to the mining town of Kimberly where four star seems to be on a very different grading scale to that of jozi. But when considering the lack of luxuries that awaited us, clean sheets and electricity were more than enough.
The next day was again slow and steady with the exception of naked swims in roadside farm dams and pitstops in which we tried to buy every last slab of chocolate en route.
We finally made it to the wonderful Karoo town of Williston where these ex burners and owners of 'Die Ark' guest house are so much more than your cool, crazy artistic aunt and uncle that never decided to 'grow up'. Just don't call Elmarie 'tannie,' she might take your head off.
At this point one has to make a fuss over tannie e's amazing homemade boerekos and you can guarantee there's lamb on the menu. We were treated to her lamb pie with green pepper and the tastiest gravy you've ever put to your lips, accompanied with ouma's sweet pumpkin and cinnamon pie, roast potatoes and mixed garlic veggies. And for dessert; homemade chocolate tart with crunchy a buttery base, topped with hazelnuts and vanilla ice cream. Needless to say, it hit the right spot of every cell in our bodies.
The next morning, following a scrambled egg and lamb sausage brekkie, we were back on the final stretch to tankwa.
The last bit of civilization: Calvinia. This allowed one final opportunity to buy another pack of emergency wet wipes, skimpy white rugby shorts and a 'just in case' bottle of chocolate tequila.
The last hurdle was a treacherous 50km tyre munching dirt road that has claimed many a 1400 and Land Rover's tyre alike. The treacherous trip takes us just under 4 hours (which is apparently the longest dirt road in the country #funfact.) With extra slow driving in the cabbie, we finally made it.
As we arrive, we are greeted by the most vibrant and colorful bunch of humans, who dressed to the nines, pumped full of 'hippie juice' and love. From the greeters to the ticket angels, they made arriving in Tankwa feel like you just arrived at your childhood friends mom's home.
Because we were one of the first 1000 people on site, we had to locate our camp, our 100L's of water and Bedouin tent riggers (the only actual luxuries my camp mates allow) in terms of 'plug and play' burning. So with a couple of missions and 3 hours in the blazing hot sun we had a space to create a home for the next 10 days!
This year home was slightly different to other years in the sense that we were staying with my ranger homies, headed by the flooze and her trusty team. Our camp became kind of an orphanage or sorts. We were adopting burners from Australia to Cape Town to London and all over the U.S of A, and in the true essence of the Afrika Burn spirit we made our circle a little bigger and a little cozier.
While 'rules' don't come to mind when you think of AfrikaBurn, there are suggestions:
1) radical self reliance - bring your own shit and don't be a sponge! This means you gotta bring everything. There is nothing there for you to buy. No water, no boerie roll, nada, niks, nothing. (The others can be found in a link at the end of the article)
So in order to give a complete picture of the week I'll break down the burner terminology for you.
The playa - pronounced 'pliar', is the word they use for the center ring of the larger camp site and where everything actually happens.
Theme camps - Amazing humans work all year fundraising and building a space for everyone to go and chill, meet other humans from around the world and - I truly mean the entire *bleeping globe, to share and to generally get up to all kinds of mischief.
These are chill spaces from sunrise and banging parties from sunset. They all offer amazing experiences which forms part of gifting (another principle).
Gifting- giving someone something you've made or bought for no monetary exchange, just simply because you are both awesome. These range from sunrise espressos at one camp and pancakes at another, to morning to margaritas and a full piece orchestra playing at sunset.
It can also be as simple as sharing a drink (although you might wanna second guess that) or a simple gesture like helping someone find their way home.
In short DONT BE A POES, BE LEKKER! Gifts are given by individuals and theme camps alike just because people are kiff.
Artworks- amazing, impressive, considered sculptures stretching as far as the eye can see across the plyer, often really big structures but not always that we not only can climb, swing, carousel and seesaw on, under and over but are actually encouraged to do so.
They are usually built out of wood so after a week of interacting and for a little more 'cheese', 'connecting with', we watch the creators of these artworks, some taking as long as 7 months of planning and 2 months of actual in the desert construction, ceremoniously burn them to the ground.
These are known as burns. (Note: not all artworks are set ablaze.)
Mutant vehicles- cars in a variety of sizes that have been decorated and transformed into a plethora of parade like creations. Some as as small as a illuminated PACman quad bike and the tankwa taxi TukTuk, to giant ships of the desert and bus size storm trooper mobile DJ booths equipped with lights, lasers, smoke machines and death raising sound systems glide through desert creating awesome pop up parties where ever they decide to park and tear up the dust for the night.
Now let's combine 20 mutant vehicles, over 40 theme camps and 14 300 crazy cuddle puddle humans from around the globe in one space for a week and you have a recipe for all kinds of magic and mayhem.
It's impossible you give a day to day explanation of what was going on because everyone's experience is so unique. The idea of connecting with so many like minded artistic, brave, open, loving people of all shapes, colors and sizes was glorious.
Spending sunny days in the coolness of our tent, eating crap and talking even more of it cause the thought of stepping outside makes your brain melt. Riding bikes through the desert in our pop up city and visiting our burn families and all our new neighbors whom are constantly inviting you in for a drink or munch down.
Waking up at 3am with your closest friends, smashing a pot of filter coffee and heading out for a boogie with another 500 other beautiful weird and sometimes wired human souls dancing our tits off while watching the spectacular African sun rise over a dry dusty mountainous landscape. Smoking sunset spliffs with friends you never thought would make it out of the city yet alone be running around the desert in tights, knee high boots, a pirate hat and fairy lights. Cruising the playa on art cars with people that have obviously been working on the set of Mad max whilst watching massive 3 story wooden structures be set ablaze with fire so hot it glows white and if you've never seen a fire tornado take off, it really is a spectacular sight. Late night shooting star hunting complete with air mattresses, down duvet, wine and chocolate. Rainy days and puddles to splash in, solo violin sets in the desert while sipping champagne out of a tin cup are just some of the incredible experiences I was privileged to share with some of the most amazing people, some old, some new, some for a moment and some for life.
Leaving the playa is a mix of emotions and the drive home is incredibly grueling but arriving at your first point of civilization is like finding the holy grail, for some it's a toilet, for others it's a shower, for me it was wrapping my lips around a can of ice cold 100% sugar filled coke.
The burn is all about art, creativity and self expression. It's about giving, loving and kindness, as well as burning giant artworks to the ground whilst unleashing a sort of primal beast that seems to exist in all of us.
A kind of human utopia, if we were all privileged trustafarians living off our parents inheritance and didn't need money to buy water, food, shade and shit.
Alas, a week is what we had and while some feel an after-burn depression, the truth is we should all feel fucking grateful for the week we got and start planning next years shenanigins.
One thing that is certain is that the burn experience is never the same twice, and will always be amazing. Another thing you can count on is that if you don't respect the desert, she is most likely gonna eat you up and spit you out.
Questions you might be asking:
Is everyone on drugs?
Not everyone, I met a few sober burners
Do I have to give a gift?
Remember what I said, don't be a poes, be lekker.
Is it child friendly?
That's up to you and your parenting style. There are a bunch of naked humans running around but children are a number one priority of rangers and the site gets locked down if a kid is lost or missing. Would I want to be looking after a toddler in those conditions? HELL NO!
Is there cell phone signal?
Nope! so making plans is practically impossible which is part of the charm of exploring, getting lost, bumping into little sisters (big love t) and old friends.