Last year I went to my first AfrikaBurn, South Africa’s version of the Burning Man festival, for the first time and I had my mind blown. It was a fantastically surreal experience: an town of art and performance that sprung up in days in the middle of the desert in the Tankwa Karoo, where it seemed like you had entered a parallel pyschedelic world. I had an amazing time and can’t wait to go back this year. (Read my blog about AfrikaBurn 2012 here).
There are more people going to AfrikaBurn this year (it’s next month from 1 to 6 May) than ever before (with over 6000 tickets sold), so there are going to be a lot of newbies. AfrikaBurn is like no other festival. If you’ve been to Rocking the Daisies or Oppikoppi, and you reckon you’ve got festival organisation waxed (beer in cans, decanted spirits in plastic bottles, mixer and wet wipes), this is a whole other story.
If you’re an AfrikaBurn virgin, then this survival guide is for you. Remember to hit this gong when you enter the festival if you’re a newbie – it’s a rite of passage.
First of all, don’t try and get in without tickets. Even if you drive all the way there from Cape Town, they will not let you into the festival without a ticket. If you don’t have a ticket, they sold out weeks ago but there are ones for sale on Gumtree and AfrikaBurn’s Facebook page.
For full directions on how to get to AfrikaBurn from Cape Town, Durban, Bloem and Joburg, click here. There’s a treacherous stretch of dirt road that’s over 100km long – the only way to get to the festival. You can tackle it in a 2×4 but drive REALLY slowly. I took my Clio last year and not only did I shred a tyre (below), but I also damaged all the rims of my car, and did some internal damage. Borrow your parents’ 4×4 or your friend’s bakkie if you can. It’s essential to bring a spare tyre (and someone who knows how to change a tyre).
The other alternative is to fly – the glamorous way to arrive.
What to bring
In a word, everything. There’s nothing to buy at AfrikaBurn so you need to bring all your own food and water (budget on a minimum of 5 litres of water per person per day). It’s a good idea to make your camp really comfortable, as you need a bit of downtime in between all the exploration. Bring lots of camping chairs and cushions and try and create a shaded area (it does get hot during the day).
Apart from the obvious provisions – food, booze and water – here are some other essentials you need to bring:
Goggles and bandanna (for dust storms)
Warm clothes for the evening (it can go down to 0 degrees)
Headlamp or torch
A lot of wet wipes
Black plastic bags (you need to take all your rubbish home with you)
A basic first aid kit
A bicycle (the best way to get around)
AfrikaBurn is one giant costume party. If you’re not a dress up person, try and pretend you are just for this festival. The theme this year is Archetypes, so try and tailor your dress up accordingly. If you’re camping in a group, a communal dress up is a lot of fun and the best way to find your friends at night (I can recommend the bright blue wigs for superior people-spotting in the dark).
The onesie is a classic look
If you’re not into full dress up, bring a rad hat or headpiece. Or just paint your face.
The toilet situation at AfrikaBurn is really not bad. There are porta-loos, which are cleaned frequently and always seemed to have TP, and some outdoor loos on the perimeter of the camp which are perfect if you’re not bothered about completely private.
Don’t miss the actual burnings, which happen on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. You get a map and a programme when you get to the festival which has all the scheduled times. The burnings are amazing. There’s something very primal about watching huge structures turn into flames. Just don’t get too drunk and play with fire.
Taking time out
The great thing about where AfrikaBurn is, is that you’re able to walk away from all the craziness of the festival and spend some quiet time on your own in the desert.
There will be pop up yoga classes at the festival, so bring your yoga mat and do a bit of meditation and stretching in between all the dancing.
Accept rides from strangers
Remember what your parents told you about not ever getting into a car with a stranger? Forget that at AfrikaBurn. There are mutant vehicles – artistically converted cars and motorbikes – that cruise around the Binnekring (the inside circle of the camp) giving you lifts to nowhere in particular. Jump on to the back of a giant snail or party on the deck of a pirate ship.
The most important thing, however, is to go with an open mind and have fun. There’s nothing else like this festival in South Africa and it’s amazingly inspiring. Let me know if you’re going to AfrikaBurn for this first time this year!Google+