Ages Out of Jo’burg
Again, in typical Jai fashion, I packed my bag on the morning of our trip. As a result, I left behind my sunglasses and jacket, which I only realised when I needed them while already in the combi. Grabbing some last minute supplies, I lifted with Elouise to Dani’s place.
My single backpack, Spongebob and the crates of fruits, together with Dani’s bags and costumes already half filled the combi. And we still had to fit in five more people! So, yes, great start.
With Dani at the con, we headed off to pick up everyone else. Peter, Zaid and, self-proclaimed, Evil John were first to be picked up. Thanks to Peter’s Tetris skills, everything was repacked so that we could all snuggly fit in, albeit crosslegged in the back and with minuscule space for the poor sod who sat in the middle seat. With the packing, picking up Sheena, getting petrol and some padkos supplies, we only hit the open road at around 16:00.
The crew consisted of myself, Dani the designated driver and virgin Burner; Peter, veteran Burner at both Afrikaburn and Burning Man; Zaid, another veteran Burner who would be donning a Klu-Klux Clan outfit sometime in the week; and Sheena and John, both virgins. It is also worth noting that of the seven of us, at least three were vegan / vegetarian and the combi was well packed with non-animal derived produce.
Too Many Bananas
The drive was at least smooth up until we passed a lone town in the Northern Cape just after midnight. I was driving at the time and very close to relinquishing control of the wheel, my eyes starting to droop, when we were pulled over by a police car. Three officers approached the combi, citing a random stop and search. They checked the combi’s license and my own, and all seemed to be on the level, until one of them commented on the large amount of fruit in the back. Being the only person outside the combi at this stage, engaging with the officer, I explained that we were on our way to camp in the desert for about a week and that was our supplies.
Despite this, the police demanded to see a receipt. We had no receipt at the ready, primarily since the majority of this fruit was purchased at a farmer’s market and, secondly, because who in their right mind keeps a food receipt on hand during a road trip?
The cops would not be deterred, however. Claiming to be following the letter of the law, they declared that we were obligated to prove that we had, in fact, bought this fruit and that failure to do so could result in confiscation of the fruit and detaining us for a week. Really? There’s a law against eating copious amounts of fruit?
Apparently so, if these cops are to be believed. I heard say later that there was a problem with the fruit theft in the Ceres valley which could lend some credit to these officers’ behaviour. From our perspective, however, after being on the road for eight hours, tired and really not in the mood for peacocking shenanigans, their behaviour was very annoying. Of course, the last thing we wanted to do was give them a reason to flaunt their so-called authority, so with much nodding and agreeing to whatever arbitrary statement they vomited at us, we placated them with repeated ignorance of this law and promises that we will hold on to our fruit-based receipts with dear life from this day onwards. We were soon back on the road, our shipment of offending bananas still safe within our grasp.
Out of Gas
After that, I was released of my driving obligation and promptly fell asleep in the back seat only to awaken not an hour later to the sounds of a dying engine. We’d run out of petrol. My immediate reaction was of shock and disbelief. The tank indicated half-full during the banana debacle. Surely we couldn’t have driven it all out so quickly. It turns out, I was later to learn, that the fuel gauge was not as reliable as it should be.
Regardless of the why, we were still stranded in the middle of nowhere roughly 20 kilometres from the next town and 50 or so ahead of the previous one. Very little traffic filled the road. The only solution was for a couple of us to walk. Two people – one male, one female – was chosen as the ideal partnership. Cars and trucks were more likely to pick up a female, and was more likely to have space for at least two people.
Zaid and Sheena opted for the task and headed out. We were to learn later that they came upon a truck stopped to fix its engine. The driver initially denied them a lift but hovering nearby like homeless hobos finally engaged his pity gland and they rode to the next town. They messaged us as soon as they were on board, putting us at ease enough to get some sleep in the combi. Up until that point, we were also trying to flag down passersby to no avail.
After getting some petrol, the two lone adventurers walked back for nigh on an hour before another truck stopped for them. The good Samaritan scolded Zaid for even allowing a female to accompany him on such a long walk this late at night as he brought our heroes back to us. The small amount of petrol they were able to acquire got us to the next town where we filled up for the last leg of our adventure. The time was now close to 5am.
The Final Stretch
Riding into the sunrise, we passed several quiet villages before hitting Calvinia close to midday, the last town before the dirt road that would lead us to Tankwa Town. We stocked up on water, I found a decent jacket at a street-side vendor, food was had, and random friends were met, all of whom were also on their way to the Burn.
We spent an hour or two in the town, and, refreshed, hopped back into the combi. It wasn’t long before our next problem unveiled itself on the dirt road; the engine overheated.
The radiator fan had given up and the water was bubbling over. The combi engine is below the boot which meant we had to unpack the entire load of fruit in order to check out what was going on. In the unpacking, we discovered that a box full of papayas isn’t the best road trip item. The weight of the fruit crushed in on themselves leaving a soft mash of papaya. Dani and Sheena made good of the situation, eating as much of the fruit as possible while we assessed the engine situation.
By this time, midway through the first day of Burn, the road was relatively busy. It was a good feeling to have virtually everybody stop and offer assistance, in stark contrast to the previous night when nobody stopped once. But with noone being very effective mechanic types (Hello, arty people!), the best that could be done was to refill the water tank and continue on our journey, taking it easy and keeping an eye on the temperature gauge.
We made it a good way further before needing to stop once again to allow the engine to cool. This time, Peter and John scanned the combi to figure out why the fan was no longer working after virtually 20 hours of travel. John discovered a loose plug dangling at the front of the vehicle. Reattaching that and swapping a few fuses seemed to fix the problem and we were home free, crossing over into the real world by 16:00, pretty much 24 hours since the start of our journey.
We stopped at the area that the combi guys were suppose to be camping. Dani and Sheena headed off to the toilets and returned wearing nothing but their boots, happily embracing the Tankwa spirit. They lopped off with John to ring the virgin bell, no doubt effectively making their mark in their naked awesomeness.
I, in turn, headed off to find Catalina and my own camping area. I’d been in communication with Rosa and Catalina during the trip; I would be sharing a tent with Catalina, and she and Rosa were convoying in with their respective drivers.
It was Rosa, on bike back, that spotted me and guided me to the camp site. After establishing where we would set up tent, I headed back to the combi with Rosa to gather my stuff, only to find a gapping empty space where the combi and its occupants were. The adventures just keep coming, don’t they?
Camping neighbours pointed us in the direction the combi had headed, stating that the boys had carried their tent off with it. They wouldn’t carry a tent very far, we figured, expecting we’d find them soon enough, but after much walking and fruitless searching in and around the dense camping area, we gave up. I resigned myself to being cold this night, clothe and sleepbag-less, and returned to camp with Rosa.
We figured that there’d be somebody to loan me something for the night, when, surprise, surprise, we passed the combi not four tents away from our camp. Fortunately! Bags and supplies reclaimed, we returned and set up our tent.
Given that Catalina and myself were in a seven-man tent, we offered Rosa the option of staying with us which she accepted. We had a mixed veg and chicken briyani supper (thanks to my trusty supply of canned fare), washed, dressed warm and the three of us went out to explore Tanwa.
We didn’t walk too far and for too long, just briefly checking out what tents and art installations were up. The girls retired early while I chose to go dancing at the Heart Space tent. Peter, John and Zaid made a brief appearance, Zaid sporting his glow in the dark penis attachment, which looked quite rad actually.
After they disappeared, I decided to check out some of the other party spaces, briefly dancing at another venue (can’t remember which one) and then watching some fire dancing performances. Here I met Jeff briefly. We barely said much to each other, commenting mainly on the danger of kids on bicycles and the cool fire dancers, but he does feature in later entries and requires some introduction.
Tiredness from the long journey demanded I gather myself toward myself and return to camp for some quality sleep. Catalina and Rosa were still awake engaged in conversation. I remember briefly joining the conversation but was very soon, very fast asleep, awakened only occasionally by the heavy rustling of the tent in the evening desert wind.
Day 2 to follow… 😉