Friday, May 4, 2012

The Amazing AfrikaBurn 2012!

I'm just going to start this post by saying flat out that AfrikaBurn was amazing and the Camp Nowhere group who took me in was wonderful! With that said, I'll start at the beginning as always.

(Also, this post is very long but mostly in terms of photos, there was just too much to share. I guess you could say it is visually overwhelming, just like the event itself!)

Leading up to the Burn, I was kind of just bumming around the apartment Chris' parents Rassie and Susan were letting me stay in, trying to get some work done on selling some gear, figuring out shipping some items home and watching TV. It was uninteresting and uneventful but all things that needed doing.

The next day, I was to meet up with the Camp Nowhere group I'd been invited to join down on the waterfront, so I took the bus downtown and simply wandered the city core for a few hours enjoying the buildings and views of the mountain in the background.

As I was heading towards the group meeting spot, I was approached by two people who asked me “Are you Scott?” I was slightly confused at first but they quickly identified themselves as Alex and Evan, two members of the group and they recognized me from the blogs I'd shared with the group online. We headed off for a few beers, then met up with the rest of the group members a little later. That evening I got to meet many of the group members who would be in our camp and we had a dinner together were we sorted out some organization and logistics.

The day after the meeting was our only day to get everything organized, which was a bit of a task because most of the group members are from London and had just flown down to Cape Town for this event! Paul and David picked me up at my place that afternoon and we set about trying to finalize everything. This meant going to the mall, buying some stereo gear, food shopping, loading a pedal powered vehicle ('The Sprocket Rocket') onto a trailer and then meeting up again at 9pm with everyone to pack up cars and trailers under street lamps in a parking lot. Given our short time frame and most of us being totally foreign to the city, we did very well!

At about 9am the following morning we were off towards the Burn but naturally had a few stops on the way for more supplies. By the early afternoon we were getting close to Tankwa Karoo, the site of the event and entered the long dirt road we had all been warned about. The road turned out to be quite good until the last stretch that had turned into a mud pit thanks to some earlier rain, but even in a loaded VW van with a trailer, Bruce expertly piloted us all to the entrance gate.

The sun was going down as we finally reached camp, but before heading in all of us new to AfrikaBurn had to hit the 'virgin bell' to announce our arrival.

Finding our allocated site in the dark was a bit of a challenge at first but we were able to figure it out and began to unpack, cook dinner and start to see just what exactly was going on at this crazy event.

That evening people took it easy, but I had to get out and walk around to see what was going, and ended up spending a bit of time at one of the parties across the circle.

This map shows just how the whole site was laid out, essentially the exact same design as the original Burning Man in Nevada.

With daylight upon us, it was time to set up camp and there was plenty to do.

But still time to sit about and chat of course!

Setting up our shade tent. The ground here is VERY hard, and about two inches down is a rock layer. Luckily for us our neighbors had a generator and a powerful drill, so we were able to drill pilot holes before pounding in the huge stakes but it was still a fair amount of work.

As we were all setting up, the rain and wind began and it simply poured. Remember we are in a semi-desert, and the usual problem here is heat and dust. In a matter of minutes everyone and everything was soaked, the ground had a few inches of rain sitting on top, the wind was snapping tent poles and most people were running for cover. A few of us, myself and Bruce in particular stayed out in the rain for a while trying to dig ditches to divert the water, which worked to some extent but it was impossible to deal with the amount of water that arrived.

The flooded aftermath, including plenty of ruined tents.

As the rain died down, I went out to wander out and see what all had happened, as well as to see the actual event grounds. Here you can see a few of the larger art installations in the center area and in the background is the c-shaped ring of tents that surrounded it all.

Me at the temple as the sun poked out again.

One giraffe was destroyed in the wind, but the way looked seemed almost intentional to me, as if it was two giraffes mourning the death of another.

The San Clan, the icon of Burns I guess you could say.

One of my favorite sculptures. (two of three pictured here.)

The dragon, damaged by the extreme weather.

Oh look, more rain! And our kitchen tent leaks!

By the evening the rain stopped for good and we were treated to a beautiful sunset.

This is Camp Nowhere's art car, the Sprocket Rocket. It was built by Wim (who I met and talked about in the last post) and attracted a lot of attention, even though it was only partly functional.

My favorite vehicle of the event, the one with the huge flamethrower!

Yours truly, the next morning.

One of the art cars covered in people

People powered two wheel vehicle.

Awesome stoves, wish I had pictures of it with flames billowing out of the top!

Another art car (tricycle?).

Giant puppets taking a break.

Paul dressed for success in front of our camp!

And a drum circle.

A nice view.

I was a bit tired that afternoon, so sitting down and enjoying some jazz was a wonderful thing to do.

Rolling art car/party at night.

The view from camp.

Our group was organized and well run, one of the things we did best was food! (the costumes were also good)

More performers.

This Washington Monument style piece was a great beacon from long distances away, all white with light projections on the side.

A living room in the desert, the TV was showing surf films when I walked by.

Green lasers to weird things to cameras...

One of the many DJ parties at night, this one under a giant crane.

The San Clan at night.

Despite the damage that happened during the wind and rain, the dragon got fixed and was breathing fire nightly! An amazing sight for sure.

And a little smaller fire with the camp that evening, roasting marshmallows.

Camp the next morning

Another instillation.

The Karoo area has some very cool geology and this piece of stone is as beautiful as any piece of art at the Burn.

Follow the path. It looks small, but if you don't hurry it takes a surprisingly long time!

Ohhh, one of my favorites and something everyone was excited to see. However it was clearly a TON of work to put together, which you will see later on...

Part of the same group, two boxing rabbits.

'Oasis Sunset.'

I remember these little peg-impression things back in elementary school, but I've never seen one this big!


And our Sprocket Rocket, this time with the sun shade on and serving coffee!

Painting sun umbrellas.

Ohh, pretty colors.

Reflections of self. (all mirrors, no photoshop here)

Take a ride on the fish-cycle!

The group relaxing at camp.

Me as navigator on the Sprocket Rocket!

That afternoon the goal was to get together 1,000 people for a photo. Lines were made on the ground where everyone was to sit, and an airplane was going to take a photo that would make the image of Nelson Mandela

“Places everyone!”

And the resulting dance party.

Just another day on the playa.

Happy people.

Smoke grenades were popular items.

Another of my favorite pieces.

And a wider view of the event.

I wish I could do that...

Dancing under another beautiful setting sun.

Gathering around a burn. For those who don't know, a major part of this event is to create a piece of art and then to burn it at the end. It is a physical and emotional release and a reminder that nothing is permanent.

Speaking of that, tonight was Saturday (not that I was keeping track...) and I guess what you could call the climax of AfrikaBurn, the burning of the San Clan. I have to say, it is intense. Essentially everyone at the Burn (5,000 this year) gathers in a circle around the tower, there is music, dancing, a powerful human-energy I've only felt a few times in my life, and then the fire is lit....

The flames illuminating the crowd.

Up it goes.

Once most of the structure was burned, the flamethrower van came in to help.

And down it went. Seconds later, the crowd all rushed towards the center to celebrate and dance.

A late night party after the burn.

And then time to sit down and unwind at the campfire with the group before bedtime.

Sunday morning was when Camp Nowhere was scheduled to pack up and head out, so it was time to get to work.

Carole picking up the last little pieces of MOOP (matter out of place, aka trash).

Saying goodbye to Paul and David.

And the van with the rest of the group taking off.

I just want to say again thank you so much to everyone in Camp Nowhere! I came as a stranger and I like to think I left as a friend. I'd bought the event ticket and plane ticket from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania to Cape Town, South Africa just for this event with no plans and no group, and it wouldn't have been possible for me to come without all of you and your support. All of you made my first Burn an amazing experience I'll never forget. Will I make my way to Nowhere in Spain this year? Probably not, but there is always next year! Great to meet you all and I hope to run into you all again some day!

Basically solo again as the sun goes down.

Oh look, another dance party!

I'd like to learn to walk on stilts some day...

Crowds, art-cars and characters gathering for more burns Sunday night.

The monument again.

This is the Temple burn.

Next to the San Clan burning, this was the largest gathering of people in the whole event another amazing moment.

The flames were huge and intense, causing nearly everyone to try and block the heat with their hands or step back!

Down to the frame, and then to ashes.

More dance parties.

Another shot of the giant crane because I liked it so much.

Sunday night, the night of most of the burns, this poor crew was still working their asses off trying to finish the t-rex sculpture, welding, testing the moving parts, setting anchors in the ground and everything. Suffer for art I guess.

The Oasis burning.

And the crowd from a distance as it falls to the desert floor.

Late night art.

An overview of the scene that night. Intense.

Holding hands and running around the fires. It really is an event about people and community, the smiles on peoples faces showed that pretty clearly.

The Oasis reduced to embers.

The monument burning.

And the final big burn of the night, the t-rex, the boxing rabbits and the world. The rabbits were set on fire, then set to spin around at high speed; legs, floppy ears and sparks flying everywhere! The world was set on fire next, which you can see in the background.

Next was the t-rex, and this is possibly the coolest thing I've EVER seen. It 'walked'; legs moving, head turning and mouth opening, all while on fire heading across the desert floor!

Suddenly, it sped up and began to run essentially (the leg movement was amazingly realistic), crashing headfirst into the burning earth! I don't know what I expected to happen, but I honestly stood there shocked for a moment processing what I'd just witnessed.

As with the other burns, once it was 'safe' the crowd rushed forward, tightly encircling the somewhat twisted and still flaming pieces.

Stepping back to admire the scene.

Me the next morning, contemplating my next step.

I'd intended on hanging around for a few extra days to help clean up and whatnot, and I'd visited the volunteer booth to look into it but due to a few reasons it didn't end up working out very well for me and I decided it was time for me to head out as well. After all it was Monday and I'd been there since Wednesday; I was worn out (and I know I wasn't the only one), feeling a little anti-social after such an intense week(ish) and had some business to attend to in Cape Town.

Ashes from the night before and the slow winding down of the Burn.

Checking out one more piece of art before heading home, this was essentially a para scope that projected an image of the outside onto a table in a dark room, very cool.

Leaving AfrikaBurn and heading out the long dusty road back to the normal world.....

I ended up getting a ride back to Cape Town from Maarten, a great guy from the neighboring camp. I had a great time catting with him and his family on the long road back to Cape Town towing the Elvis trailer. Thanks so much Maarten!

And finally arriving home in the dark and drizzle of Cape Town, in serious need of a shower and a laundry machine.

Wow................that's finally the end.

Really, what a special event and what a special group of people I managed to meet. I've wanted to go to Burning Man back in America ever since I first heard about it about 10 years ago, but it just never happened. This year was going to be the year I went, but then I found myself in Africa instead! When I found out there was a South African Burn, AfrikaBurn, while I was somewhere in Tanzania I knew I just had to do it and boy am I glad I made it! It was my first burn, but I assure all of you it won't be my last. Thank you again everyone, I'll never forget this week.

So what is next? Haha, I still don't know. I'm just sitting around Cape Town (and again, thank you Rassie and Susan for giving me a place to stay) trying to recover, clean up, sort out some business and figure that out. I was thinking about leaving South Africa quickly, but I'm thinking I might as well stay around for a month or two, maybe find a backpackers lodge to work at so I can settle somewhere for a while and stop bleeding money!

Bye for now everyone, take care and safe travels.