See You in South Africa
Sometime in December, our friend William invited us to meet him in South Africa for the Afrikaburn event in April. We figured it was a one week music event, maybe similar to Coachella, but we really had no idea. Nevertheless, we said sure, why not. We figured we would be traveling around and it would be great to see some familiar faces during our travels.
It wasn’t until we purchased the tickets online that I realized just how serious of a commitment this whole event would be. The more we looked into it, the more we realized we weren’t going to be prepared for this at all.
What is Afrikaburn?
Afrikaburn is a Burning Man event that happens annually in the Tankwa Karoo National Park in South Africa. I’m not too sure why it’s called a park because it’s straight up desert land in the middle of nowhere. Temporary artwork installations are built by the burning man community which consists fully of volunteers. It is one week where people from all over the world of all ages come to camp in harsh, unpredictable weather conditions, and lose total connection to the outside world. “Burners” as they call them, come to participate in community activities, enjoy the artworks, drive mutant vehicles, build theme camps, wear elaborate costumes, and listen to a plethora of music with live DJ sets, all happening literally 24-hours a day. Afrikaburn is a non-stop event for one entire week. At the end of the event, usually on the last night, these temporary artworks are burned down and everyone comes together to watch the fiery installations.
It’s Much More Than What It Seems!
On the surface, it sounds like it could be a douche-y music festival where people just party and get obnoxious for one week. But, as a first-time burner, I am telling you it was so much more than that. Part of attending Afrikaburn includes committing to the principles on which this event is founded on. I won’t go into detail about all of them, but you can certainly look up more information. In summary, these principles are inclusion of your peers, radical self-reliance, radical self-expression, communal effort, civic responsibility, leave no trace, participation, immediacy, and each one teach one. The idea is to actively participate in the event by meeting new people, volunteering, expressing yourself however you want (yes, even if It means prancing around naked), and explore all of the art and music surrounding you. Everything you bring with you must go back with you, including your trash. Another principle I really love about this event, is that there is no currency. This means you cannot purchase anything at the event, but you can give everything. Giving gifts to other burners like food, drinks, random gifts etc., is the norm here at Afrikaburn.
To be honest, I was really hesitant to camp for one week in the middle of the desert, let alone in a foreign country. First, I’m not much of a camper. I have maybe done it once in my life. Second, I was not looking forward to being unable to shower, and having to use port-o-potty’s for an entire week.We were told we would most likely experience extreme weather conditions from below zero at night to intense heat waves and blinding dust storms by day. No one could have been less excited and quite frankly, more scared than me.
Since Alex and I were only traveling in one carry on, we would have to purchase most of everything we needed for the event once we arrived in South Africa. Although, it wasn’t half as stressful as we thought it would be. Plus, we were happy to donate most of the stuff we purchased for the event back to the community.
The drive to Afrikaburn is supposed to be quite treacherous. The unpredictable but heavy dust storms make it nearly impossible to see the cars in front of you or behind you. The road is not paved, and your tires are more than likely to get punctured by the glass-shard type rocks on this road. As it turns out the scariest part of the actual event, was driving there and driving back.
We rented an SUV, hooked a trailer to the back of it, and off into the dust we went. Thankfully, only one of our tires got a small puncture which was easily fixed at one of the few rest stops on the way to the Burn.
Once we got our tents set up, it was one week of crazy beautiful experiences. We met people from all over the world, gave and received gifts and with generosity and kindness, volunteered at our theme camp serving coffee to our peers, drank copious amounts of champagne, saw some totally crazy and really weird shit, climbed the art installations, listened to great and horrible music non-stop, and watched the installations burn at the end of the event. All in all, it was pretty magical.