A Journey to Afrikaburn

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.

All photos from Nicky Nicky.
All photos from Nicky Nicky.

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.

936896_10200750908326721_1774791071_n

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.

971080_10200750905566652_376589669_n

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.

942752_10200750923487100_1639448142_n

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.

944505_10200750904886635_282440591_n

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.

945738_10200750910406773_518581996_n

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.

394394_10200750928327221_499388292_n

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.

14 Responses to “A Journey to Afrikaburn”
  1. Dom Petal

    Glad you enjoyed the AfrikaBurn experience :) I hope to have my own experience of Burning Man within the next few years :)

    Reply
  2. trevor

    the MOOP left by the Bubbles and Bass crew was totally unacceptable!!they”organised”an outside contractor to pick up their shit and of course that did not happen
    -not very self reliant!

    Reply
  3. MurLion

    “South Africans seem to have more inclination towards a bedtime. ”

    We’re not in bed! We’re chatting round our camp fires and waiting for the sun to come out and warm us!

    Also, MOOP was real bad this time – probably a result of expanding soo quickly. Hopefully the event won’t grow next year.

    Reply
  4. karien

    Interesting article. You’d probably be surprised to know that Bubbles n Bass left a horrendous amount of trash when they left. Their reaction was that they did not have enough place for it all when they left. Some people just don’t get it!

    Reply
    • Nicky Nicky

      well, I spoke with Bubbles and Bass guys. The contractor was supposed to pick up all the waste, but screwed up. Screwed up big time. I know B&B, they are responsible burners and what happened is really sad.

      Reply
  5. Paul Fletcher

    So pleased you enjoyed your time in Cape Town and at AfrikaBurn.The MOOP we are working on for next year.

    Reply
  6. LindaLion

    Um… am I the only one who thinks that the terms “responsible burner” and “contractor was supposed to pick up all the waste” don’t belong in the same sentence?

    Reply
  7. Another Arrogant American

    I couldn’t agree more with you, dear author. South Africans are awesome, the art here is original and clever, and Americans are spoiled. I’ve only been in the country for 7 weeks and maybe I’m a bit slow but I’m starting to get a feel for the place. It’s amazing how quickly you sussed it all out. To speak with such authority that you didn’t even need to do a fact check on gate admission numbers or consult anyone about correct names for parts of the city. As one of several Americans who were in Tankwa Town working on the setup and cleanup crew for over a month I find your tone unconsciously condescending and this article embarrassing. Unfortunately as we are deservedly world renowned for our arrogance and obliviousness it’s no longer surprising.

    An impressive total of 102 large bags of rubbish and 48 cases of empty champagne bottles were left behind at Bubbles & Bass* (who have since been renamed Rubble & Waste). No members of Afrika Burn crew were notified that a swathe of garbage would be left behind to be collected 2 days later by a hired crew. I was awed by the scale of the heap. Y’all must have MOOPed half the Binnekring, oh sorry, Esplanade, to get that much stuff.

    I will not lay the blame for your camp organizers’ egregious oversight in communication at your feet and I’m happy to hear of your concerned action on the matter. Thank you for contributing to the community by picking up MOOP where you saw it. It’s a great example of immediacy, participation and leaving no trace. I encourage everyone to follow your lead on that front. Just be a little more cautious about scolding others when you’ve been praising the worst offender. Something about glass houses and throwing stones…I forget…Oh well, moving on.

    It deserves to be noted that the airfare you call relatively affordable is 3 months salary for the average South African and actually isn’t that affordable to most Americans.

    Aaaand I’m spent.

    * In the interest of disclosure it should be mentioned that Rubble & Waste is a Plug and Play camp; which means, gentle readers, that our author may have paid someone a relatively affordable amount to plan their travel, set up their camp, tear it all down again and collect their 3 bags of MOOP. Self reliance and communal effort at their finest. Hey, at least they created some jobs, right? Right?

    Reply
    • Nicky Nicky

      Thank you for your reply. the truth is born in the argument , right ?

      I, personally, was not camping with Bubbles and Bass. I chose a small camp with awesome people, called Ray. You could see their installation with amazing lasers on the playa ( white pyramid ). So, I can’t speak for Bubbles and Bass. I hope sooner or later they will do an official statement.

      For many people the plug and play element is very convenient, when you travel 20+ hours to participate in the burn. And a lot of people don’t drive stick shift transmission, and can’t drive on the opposite side of the road.

      I forgot to mention that all written above is my opinion and I never had an intension to offend anyone. And yes, I am a spoiled Russian American.

      Feel free to contact me at any time and thank you for your hard work as a DPW.

      Reply
  8. Hey Nicky, this is your neighbour you met on the 2nd last day & again in Touwesrivier! Really liked this post & pics – always interesting to get a foreign perspective. Glad you enjoyed the rest of your trip – hope our gift 😉 was of respectable quality too… Love from Almareth as well!

    Reply
  9. Hey Nicky, this is your neighbour you met on the 2nd last day & again in Touwesrivier! Really liked this post & pics – always nice to get a foreign perspective. Glad you enjoyed the rest of your trip – hope our gift 😉 was of acceptable quality too… Love from Almareth as well!

    Reply
    • Nicky Nicky

      you guys were the best neighbors ever! Thanks for your gift, had a great time in Cape Town :). I will see you next year !

      Reply
  10. Jason R Burner

    Well were do I start – maybe by saying I am one of the organizers for Bubbles and Bass – and for the record I am actually South African – yes I live in the states – and have to say I really am saddened by people’s reactions to Nicks blog and other posts about Bubbles and Bass – fact is we left our MOOP packed up with someone who was meant to see it transported out of AfrikaBurn, a few hours after we left – one miscommunication led to another and we only found out about the MOOP pile that had grown and not been picked up and turned into a dumping ground on Tue – when we addressed and corrected the situation – we dont think MOOP is acceptable and did not intend to leave any trace – or not be self reliant – but things happened beyond our control once we found out we took responsibility and addressed it as best we could. However by that time it was too late and fair game to “demonize” the “American” camp, despite others taking full responsibility for the mess and acknowledging it was not our fault. Bubbles and Bass being at AfrikaBurn was my idea to share my love for Africa and AfrikaBurn with my friends and camp. It truly is disappointing to me how easy it is for people to point fingers – “plug and play” really ? Is that what a year of planing and weeks off work to make this happen is called ? Of course lets just forget the camps contribution to the community. But it seems it is far easier to point fingers blame the “Americans” than to rather find out what really happened. For any that make huge effort to travel and support another burn on a different continent I sincerely hope that you are welcomed with more open arms than the negativity you generated here. 

    Reply

Leave a Reply