AfrikaBurn 2024: 29 April to 5 May

The King Bee

‘Why are you so glum Oliver?’ asked Herme back in November.
‘I’ve had to give away my bee hives,’ he replied. ‘The bees went rogue and nearly killed a couple of my
neighbours.’
So began another grand adventure.

‘Why don’t you take your knowledge and skills to AfrikaBurn?’, said Herme. ‘Each one teach one, and the theme is CREATION. Without bees civilisation would not exist. We’d all starve.’

Four months later an incredible structure is in my garden and the party is in full swing. Oliver the structural engineer has created a masterpiece. Everything is thoroughly tested including lights and solar power. The unsuspecting guests do not know where this beautiful creation is headed.

Carmel the Temple Queen sees a picture of the icosahedron. ‘I want one.’ She says.
Oliver offers a copy in exchange for our crate getting to Quaggafontein in her large truck and trailer. The pieces of the puzzle are coming together.

Let us introduce ourselves dear Burners. We are two pre-geriatric pensioners. Oliver made sure Pipe Dreams in 2019 (and the subsequent two Temples from Carmel) did not fall down and kill anyone. I’m Solar Santa (since 2018) trying to demonstrate that even old fools can use solar energy for electricity and that petrol generators are so yesterday. But enough guff. Lets enjoy our adventures in 2024.

Oliver the King Bee
Photo op on Playa

After 1200 kilometres of dodging truck convoys to and from Joburg the arrival in Quaggafontein was routine. Never exceeding 50km/h on the R355 meant that all tyres were intact. Take heed, virgin Burners, the Survival Guide is written in blood and shredded tyre fragments. Two weeks before our arrival anxiety levels were high as 60mm of rain washed down the Ongeluks river. Our gallant CIA boffin, The Tim, managed to park his 4 x 4 in the chest high water and nearly drown himself in the process. But fear not, both he and the bakkie survived after being rescued.

We find our site between 5 (ish) and 6 (ish) on Big Bang. Wow. Prestige neighbours. Scallywags (Julia’s hard working gate crew), Thomas’ Gooi Mielie art build team and the newly revived Prometheus the butterfly. The wind is blowing so the desert gods are greeting us once again with clouds of dust. But we know this is just to show us what crap weather looks like so we’ll double enjoy the good days to follow.

Oliver has spent 5 months and a small fortune building a superb icosahedron. We rescue our kit from the Temple site out on the playa. Carmel has delivered our baby in one piece. We give her a hug amid the pandemonium of the monster Temple build. If you’re contemplating a large scale art piece you’d be well advised to consult with her before going ahead. She has the scars to show for it.

Carmel and Dave

We watch Quaggafontein come alive. There is magic in getting to site early. DPW have been working their arses off setting up street signs and lights plus all the OCC infrastructure. Hats off to them. Seeing the stretch tents springing up like mushrooms in a previously empty desert is surreal. The size of the full-scale Burn is amazing. So much in so small a time can only be achieved by mass participation, productivity and motivation. Africa is normally a manyana (tomorrow) continent. Not here. The beehive buzzes and everyone gets stuck in.

Scrawny desert people at work

 

There are tons of art pieces all over the Binnekring. And Mutant Vehicles everywhere. The recovery from the COVID years seems complete. But I shall leave the pretty photos and burn details to others better equipped with fancy cameras to do them justice. These are stories of adventure beyond the obvious.

I’m riding my bike down the road past the OCC. A man stops me. ‘Hi, I’m Kevin. Remember me? We met in 2019 at daybreak on the Playa. I was taking photos. We had a terrific chat.’ Bingo, I have my answer. He’s here this year in the Khoisan Kaggens Theme Camp. Just then two of his campmates arrive. The real deal. Oom Daan and Willie. They are traditional healers and leaders. I ask if I can take their picture and Oom Daan asks for a copy: ‘My foon is fucked up.’ He says.
I wonder what his ancestors, who roamed this desert, would think of his technology.

Willie and Oom Daan

Two energetic youngsters arrive in our camp. ‘We’re collecting drinks for the toilet cleaning team.’
Unlikely as it may be, their team is one of the happiest and hardest working in Quaggafontein. They’re in the shit all day and yet they party as they work. Five star volunteers.

J Dawg and Techno

Two blocks up on 5 (ish) I meet up with another old friend from 2019. Alex is wearing a kilt from Pakistan! And is busy baking a fresh batch of bread for the day. Thick slices with real butter, jam, cheese, honey. You choose. Heaven.

Alex the Pakistani Scotsman, ace bread maker

Meet Jasper, Die Held van Quaggafontein (the hero of Quaggafontein). He and his team have engineered gas fired showers with organic soap. Bring your own 5 liters of water, bung it in the bucket with a little pressure pump, switch on and enjoy a hot shower. But be careful because the water runs out fast. There are 4 showers in a huge pond. The water is filtered before spreading on the road for evaporation. Genius. I have never been so clean at the burn.

Jasper, staying incognito for professional reasons, and his hard working team

A lanky figure and a pretty girl arrive at our camp. During COVID I listened to Shouting Fire on Thursdays. On my farm in the mountains where I lived alone. The DJ was Stefano and he was trapped in his campervan in Turkey during the pandemic. A well travelled Italian normally based in Norway. We shared many happy comms while he was broadcasting.

Marti and Stefano

Skippy is based in Holland to add to the Seffrican brain drain. It is Tuesday and he is wearing his favourite tutu to ensure he is fashionable for the day. The Goddess of the Tankwa adds to the happy encounter.

The Monz and Skippy

Oliver is an accomplished camper cook which I am not. He gets a wonderful respite when Ambica from next door pops in to invite us to lunch with Scallywags. Real burgers with lots of fresh trimmings and a cold fizzy drink. Julia and her team have already shared a heap of lamb chops cooked to perfection the day before. Their camp has three real chefs including Simon all the way from Argentina. The next day we enjoy a Mediterranean meal and we once again do not have any washing up to do.

Ambica and Simon

I enjoy the planet’s transition off fossil fuels. My grandbabies need to breathe without gas masks. I have been following an interesting Mutant Vehicle build in Darling. Now I try to hunt it down . The address shown on the map leads to a dead end. So I loop back to the DMV. Sally, the ever patient Ranger, tells me that the file exists that contains the secret I’m trying to crack. But it is not in alphabetical order and there are over a hundred mutant vehicles registered. The second last file reveals the lucky number. I head out and meet the first four wheeled, multi people carrier, electrically driven, 100% solar powered vehicle in Quaggafontein. QuaggasMilk is real. A repurposed milk delivery van from the 1950’s. Wim and Mari have invested creativity, effort, persistence and a can do attitude into bringing it back to life. Imagine an environmental scientist who marries a solar engineer who shares her dream. Plus a lot of very clever boffin friends with motivation to spare. I delve into the huge number of challenges they overcame. And get a ride around the playa to their other art piece called Splash. Where else in the world can such a happy meeting take place? My day is complete.

Mari and Wim with Splash and Quagga Milk

My preference for art pieces are those pretty much manufactured out of old scraps and elbow grease. The real concept of the Burn. The champion of this activity is my Burner brother Nathan. Although his scale of building is larger, the essence of his endeavours are always to build out of scraps , screws and ingenuity. And make amazing art. Here’s his latest creation, fortunately only scheduled to be burnt next year.

Nathan’s Scratch
Nathan with Roger

Similarly

Bipolar Ballet by Walter Bohmer

When touring around the Binnekring on my bike it gets hot when the wind is not blowing. My favourite rest stop is Smokescreen where my kind of gentle, old music is played. I meet Dieter who shows me the solar magic powering the whole show. I’m so pleased to see the development away from smelly and noisy generators all over Quaggafontein. And the systems can be deployed at home to keep the lights on when Eskom runs out of diesel.

Favourite rest stop. Comfy cushions.
Dieter

Brian the Brain has been busy. I find him outside the Radio Free Tankwa caravan. The broadcast is live from Holland via Starlink. BobZilla is the Shouting Fire man from Burning Man and here he is sharing AfrikaBurn from Quaggafontein. What a small world and kudos to Brian for linking us to Bob while he’s touring Holland. And thanks to Elon Musk for not cutting off Starlink at a crucial time.

The Brain at work

The show is ending and camps are being packed up. I’m up the ladder dismantling our structure when I spot a huge cloud of black smoke with raging flames at the bottom of Big Bang. Three Enviro firefighting bakkies come tearing down the road. Soon the smoke and fire are no more. The next day I encounter Robert the fire chief on the playa. Curious, I go and ask him what happened. He pulls out a charred lithium battery pack from out of a bucket of water in the back of his bakkie. His preliminary assessment is that the electric bike short circuited its battery. But the real drama followed when the trailer the bike was on preparatory to heading home also contained a 25 liter petrol can and a propane gas cylinder all nicely covered in mattresses and carpets. A recipe for disaster. The fire team did a professional job but the entire contents of the trailer were destroyed. Fortunately, due to their prompt actions, the trailer survived and no one was injured.

Rob Fire with presumed culprit

My stories would not be complete without mentioning one of the invisible team who continue to keep the wheels on. Whenever I encounter bureaucratic road blocks the Oracle of the Tankwa sorts them out. Without his help I’d simply stay home — what happens when you’re an irritable old fart in a country with steadily declining standards of competence.

The Tim with irritable old fart

I meet the new boss of the Burn. Her name is Lexy and Nicki, my former wrangler, arrives with her to say hello. The show for 2024 is a wrap and by all standards it is judged to have been a success. I wish her strength in preparing for 2025.

Lexy and Nicki

There were many more encounters during the 10 days in Quaggafontein. I hope the above paint a brief picture of some of what does happen in a dusty space, far, far, from the default world. I have filled my emotional reserves to enable survival for another year in the dreadful outside world. Toodle–oo brave Burners. Till next year.

Solar Santa
Pretoria
May 15th 2024

 

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