This year I had the incredible luck of attending the regional Burning Man festival in South Africa, Afrikaburn! It is the largest regional burn in the world, hosting around 7,000 participants.
There was some American presence at the festival. Bubbles and Bass had a great camp set up around 2:00 off the Binnekring (Esplanade). To jump forward, we referred to things in the Playa language. The effigy – the Man. Installation at 10:00 o’clock with nice music – Opulent Temple. ArtCar with great house music – Robot Heart, etc. The weather in Tankwa town is much more welcoming. It was generally warmer at night, and cooler during the day compared to BRC. No serious dust problems, one minor dust storm, a little rain, lots of sand and rock. We had strong winds the first three days and almost none for the weekend. It would be worth mentioning that if one were to pitch a tent, you may want to bring a drill, because wasting your stakes hammering into stone will be emotionally draining.
South Africans are great people, sweet and genuine, always ready to help and jump into intellectual discourse. As burners, they create amazing, well thought out art, and build beautiful camps. Frequently, I forgot that I was not in BRC, that’s how awesome it felt.
There are some differences with the burn in Nevada. First of all, it’s much smaller. I was able to walk from 2:00 to 10:00 in under 10 minutes. The town goes for 2-3 streets deep after the Esplanade. Also, the music scene is completely different. There was almost no dubstep, drum and bass, electro/dutch house, etc. It’s all mainly psytrance and house. Another difference is the people themselves. South Africans are very conservative. There are less naked people, or sexually provocative costumes. The Critical Tits parade had a small but lovely turn out. Depending on what you are looking to this could be a good or bad thing. It’s not that nudity or sexuality was discouraged, in fact you would be praised for being so bold. Afrikaburners were just a tad bit shy.
South Africans seem to have more inclination towards a bedtime. The playa looked dead at 5am before the sunrise. Bubbles and Bass (one of the best camps on the Playa, by the way) had to move their sunrise action from 5am to 2am. Curiously, local burners are not used to champagne in large quantities in the mornings. Americans are rather spoiled. Without imposing our own ideals (hopefully) we tried to raise the bar in our own way to bring our BRC Playa experience to the regional event.
Sadly, there was an unbelievable amount of MOOP on the playa post burn. After the main burn, I collected three full trash bags of MOOP from the ground. Some people just don’t get it, hopefully a little bit more attention will be given to the idea of leaving no trace. Another thing is the pee pee on the playa. It’s everywhere, you shine the light on the ground and suddenly it’s a dog beach. It might be the fact that there were barely any porta potties. They have these lovely loos with a view, semi-private pit toilets that are all natural and relatively clean located at the very edges of the playa.
It’s a bit pricey, but manageable, especially if you plan ahead. If you keep an eye out and book early, air fare will be around $1200-1500, ticket to the burn is a mere $50. Lodgings can be cheap if you go for hostels, but if you can afford the seaside hotels they are not that bad. If you’re the type of person who eats at a festival it’s not a bad idea to stock up, food seems to keep pretty well. I wouldn’t count on a shower, but bring your biodegradable bath products if you can, as some nice folk set up booths and even a hot shower too! But if you wanted to skip the queue you had to be exposed to an audience, naturally. I would recommend bringing your tent and mattress from home as camping stuff is crazy expensive in South Africa.
There are couple must see things in Cape Town. Hike Table Mountain and Lion’s Head to see a breath-taking view of the bay, there are safari/game reserves, penguins on the beach, and top-notch wineries. Also as notorious as South Africa is, it didn’t seem that dangerous at all. Cape town, like any other cities, has its questionable neighborhoods. If you avoid them, you will be fine, just use what’s left of your brain and be alert. Oh, and don’t take a train or any other public transportation after dark. It’s not recommended at all. For some reason, the security of the trains decided to work till 6pm, so if they decided to stay away, you should too.
In summary, AfrikaBurn is a must-experience mecca for the soul-searching burner. Especially for those who appreciate an otherworldly landscape, clever and conceptual art, culture and perhaps if you are one who gets overwhelmed by orgies and creepers.