It has been exactly 2 months since my last blog post. So much for writing a post per week. So much has happened that I couldn’t even begin to write it down. Well, maybe I should try:
I left Cape Town for the Tankwa semi desert and helped build and build and build and build and then build some more, the biggest thing they’d ever seen at AfrikaBurn. Subterrafuge surpassed everyone’s imagination, even the people who helped build it. Building only finished on Friday and it was supposed to burned the next day. Supposed as the wind decided otherwise. Minutes before midnight, when it was going to be lit, the wind picked up, as it does in the Tankwa Karoo. For safety reasons the burn had to be postponed, more than a few downwind tents would have caught fire. The disillusion amongst the build crew was huge, we had all been working for weeks or months towards this moment and were ready to see the sorceress completed and the towers burned.
Sunday morning everyone in Subterrafuge camp seemed to feel lost, not knowing what to think of seeing the towers still there, while we all expected without their iconic silhouettes on the horizon. By the time a decision had to be made whether they would burn that night, everyone seemed to have come to terms with the reality of it and felt it wouldn’t feel right to burn them Sunday night. So they are still standing there and probably will until next AfrikaBurn, the decision hasn’t been made, but it seems that just like The Earth Pods and Reflections, Subterrafuge will stand on the Tankwa for a year to be burned at the next AfrikaBurn…
And than there was the rest of AfrikaBurn 2014. How can words describe a burn? It was in fact my first real burn, since Nowhere is kind of a non-burn because strict Spanish fire laws forbid any burning. There was definitely a lot of fire, whether it was to keep you warm during the night, to cook on or one of the many artworks being burned. I’ve heard people who’ve been to that thing in the Nevada desert that they love how wild AfrikaBurn is. It did feel like AfrikaBurn is still potentially fatal or that you could at least lose a limb. On the other hand it felt like a real family affair. I saw a lot of kids and even full three generation families. And being part of the Subterrafuge build crew, which became my family, I felt like a lot of the people who have been building AfrikaBurn for 8 years now are my extended family.
Coming back from a burn is always kind of a shock, especially since it also meant my stay in South Africa and Cape Town was almost coming to an end. It turned out that I hid behind the lentil curtain (the exact opposite of the boereworst curtain) hiding in the green South part of the Cape Peninsula near Cape Point, where supposedly all the hippies live. Those last weeks passed by almost unnoticed, still in this out-of-time mode and before I knew it I was on the train to Jo’burg and then on the plane back to Belgium.
Being back in Europe, I am confronted with a bit of a “reverse culture shock” as a friend called it. The differences between South Africa or more specifically Cape Town and Europe are small, but those little things that are different are all the more striking because of that. I hope I can find the motivation and more importantly words to write a post about that, but that will be for a later date.
Right now my focus is on sorting out admin stuff, of which there seems to be a lot more in Europe than in South Africa (one of those differences). Preparing for Nowhere, for building a new structure with Werkhaus and building our Wonderever barrio once more. And figuring out what I want to do next, come back to grey Belgium to sort out going back to South Africa as soon as possible or staying in Spain and enjoying the European summer…
Here are some of the prettiest pictures I have found of Subterrafuge (copyright to respective owners):
I’m just back in Cape Town from a four-day working trip to the Tankwa Karoo to help build Subterrafuge. Arriving around midnight Wednesday night, driving through mud puddles from the couple of rainy days, pitching my tent in the rocky soil, it didn’t register yet but I was coming home. The last few years my home has been everywhere and nowhere. In the same way I came home driving my van onto the Monegros desert for the first time in 2012, Tankwa is one of those special places that instantly feel like home.
Arriving in what will become Tankwa Town even before DPW rock up is such a privilege. Being able to see it grow organically from the few people at our Subterrafuge camp to the thousands that will be for the burn. It doesn’t feel like work, but there is still lot to do and less than 4 weeks to do it. Those cones won’t build themselves!
Being back in Cape Town for a couple of days I already miss Tankwa. Waking up in my little tent in the desert before sunrise, hearing the jackals howl, cooking water for coffee on a wood fire. Getting to work, cutting wood into smaller pieces for cladding of the cones, painting them, putting them on the structure using a kick-ass nail gun, standing on 4 meter scaffolding above the desert. Life doesn’t get better than that.
So I’m off to Tankwa again now, back home. I will be back in Cape Town (my home for the last 6 months) a month and a half from now, only for a couple of weeks before I’m flying back to Brussels (my first home). See you at the Burn or somewhere along the way!
In my relentless quest for couches in Cape Town to crash on, I have arrived in Table View, which for most living in the City Bowl sounds like the end of the road. Wood MyCiTi station used to be the end of the T01 bus line, and it will be one of my last stops before returning to Europe. I’ve bought my Shosholoza Meyl train ticket to Joburg yesterday for less than 2 months from now. These last months will be about AfrikaBurn and Subterrafuge so I probably will spend more time in Tankwa than in Table View.
As a farewell to Woodstock dinner I went to Jamaica Me Crazy for a Jack Black and a Trinidad Roti. The clouds were covering Devil’s Peak, but in the other direction the harbour was still visible. I’ve liked this place since first moving to the dodgiest part of lower Woodstock and have grown to love it, even more than Obz. Probably because it isn’t as hip as Kloof Nek, not as fancy as Bo Kaap and more diverse than Obz. And that it is dirtier and has more of an edge than these places, a bit like my home town Brussels.
A part of Woodstock I only discovered recently is Sit Lowery Roadtowards CBD, whit some very interesting galleries like Stevenson, Blank Projects and Goodman Gallery. Be sure to check out Wim Botha’s Linear Perspectives at Stevenson before 5 April and across the road James Webb’s The Two Insomnias at Blank Projects. Both are extremely talented South African artists. James Webb bringing two captivation sound installations: Children of the Revolution and Untitled (Al Madat). And Wim Botha with three jaw dropping installations, especially his sculptures in marble, wood, cardboard, polystyrene and a range of materials blew me away.
With the Cape Town winter knocking on the door, the weather turning wet and cold and the South-Easter Cape Doctor giving way to the north-west winds of winter. I’ve noticed I recognize faces of people back in Belgium here in Cape Town, maybe I’m subconsciously preparing myself to go back. Before that however there is a lot of building, partying and picking up MOOP in the Tankwa Karoo. The clan burns in 37 days!
Another Wednesday has come and gone without me posting anything here. I know, it’s becoming embarrassing. All I can say is that time is flying, in little over 2 months I’ll be flying back to Europe. And before that there is of course AfrikaBurn, one of the big reasons I’m here in South Africa. I’ve hooked up with Subterrafuge, in the words of Travis & the AfrikaBurn Comms team: “The biggest artwork ever to grace Tankwa Town’s skyline, subterrafuge is an artistic statement against fracking and will blow your mind when you set eyes on it.” You can bet I’m excited about this and hopefully a crew will go up to the Karoo the next week and I can join them, which will be the first time on the holy Tankwa land. Subterrafuge still needs a lot of cash so if you’ve got any to spare (even as little as 7 Euro), chip in at https://www.thundafund.com/subterrafuge
Last weekend was a blast of another kind, going on a two day surf trip to the Overberg with Papa G and his band of crazy Afrikaans boys. Had some nice surf, breathtaking views, tons of talking kak (and piele), some local craft beers and general good times. If you’re into surfing and located near Cape Town, keep an eye on Slow Tours for the next trip: https://www.facebook.com/slowdrivejourneys Also check out stock. skate co. a Woodstock based skateboarding outfit bringing out some nice skate vids: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFaMMIy4Wg-aP9UAXUVD3NA
So much else has happened, but I can’t even remember what and it’s history now anyway. So yeah, that’s it for now. If you’re going to the Old Biscuit Mill on Saturday, drop by in The Bello Studio where Subterrafuge will be raising funds by selling planks, well not really we’re keeping the planks but you can write your name or message on it and it will become part of the sculpture and raffle tickets for an AfrikaBurn ticket draw: https://www.facebook.com/events/637321312972286/?fref=ts
Today i went to the District Six Museum. If you have seen the film District Nine, this is the story of District Six but with non-humans instead of non-whites and in Johannesburg, not Cape Town. The people living in District Six were forcibly removed from 1966 onwards and most of the buildings destroyed. Until today most of the land is left undeveloped and is a wasteland, in the city bowl close to the Central Business District, the centre of Cape Town.
What struck me most in the stories of District Six and its residents is their defiance and the vibrant community in this working class neighbourhood close to the harbour. First in the beginning of the 20th century, after an outbreak of the bubonic plague for which the black population was falsely blamed, they were forced to move to their ‘homelands”. In 1966 District Six was declared a white area under the Group Areas Act of 1950, and by 1982 more than 60 000 people were forcibly removed to the Cape Flats. District Six was razed to the ground except for a places of worship, today still standing in the barren land.
The stories, told by former District Six residents in interviews, are personal accounts of life under Apartheid, with pass laws limiting where people could go. But also the resistance against this, like people burning their passes. The struggle of unions and political organisations, like the Non-European Unity Movement rejecting coöperation with the government. But also the stories recalling the vibrant culture, the two cinema’s, the coon carnival, Hanover street running trough the district like its artery.
While District Six itself isn’t much more than a wasteland with a few churches and the CPUT campus on it, it is worth to drive trough, for instance with MyCiTi bus 102. The museum is definitely worth a visit to give an insight in this part of South Africa’s history. And if you are in town beginning of January, the coon festival is a part of the vibrant culture of District Six that is still alive today.
I love the ocean and for ocean lovers there is probably no better place then the Cape Peninsula, it has two*. I’ve been in my happy space the last two days. Yesterday at Cape of Good Hope, the Atlantic side, for my first open water freedive. And this morning surfing at Muizenberg, False Bay side, the birthplace of South African surfing.
Learning to freedive has been on my to-do list for a couple of years, and it was only last week, hearing about Trevor Hutton’s courses that I realized Cape Town would be the place to do it. I only found out he has held two world records talking to him during the course.
Monday was spent in the lovely Sea Point Swimming Pool learning to breathe (I’ve done it wrong the whole time), about free diving equipment (not that much, but pretty important) and equalizing (getting the pressure in your ear and in the water equalized, like when you’re in an airplane) and putting it to practice in the water. It turned out I have a good static apnea (almost 3 minutes), but some trouble with equalizing.
Yesterday was the real deal, diving in open water, after driving around to find reasonably clear water (a common effort for divers here), we (Trevor and his spear fishing buddy Craig) got into the water in the Cape Point national park (crossing hartebeest, bontebok, ostriches, baboons, turtles) and in the water at Cape of Good Hope.
Freediving here is not the “yoga freediving” (as Trevor calls it) in its birthplace the Mediterranean, you have to face the elements (Cape of Storms), fauna (sharks) and flora (kelp forest). This being the spot for my first dive at the same time spoiled me, since it’s an amazing place. Swimming under the kelp forest is both amazing and claustrophobic scary. And even though there was only about 1.5 meter swell, I got quite seasick after an hour, which was a first for me.
Despite the seasickness and my equalizing problems keeping me from diving deeper then 5 meters, I have found a new passion, that might come on par with surfing. I will make the best of the 3 months until I fly back to Europe and get as much time as I can under and on the water.
* Any Capetonian will tell you the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet at Cape Point, and not at Cape Agulhas, no matter what Wikipedia says.
This weeks Wednesday post will be a short one, I’m tired from surfing and don’t have much inspiration.
Got back from Namibia, moved into Obz, where I’m house sitting a friendly Burner’s fab apartment, overlooking Devil’s Peak. Spending even more time on Lower Main Rd, mainly drinking coffee and using the internet at Hello Sailor and bolo’bolo. Went to the Karoo with lovely people, saw a lot of wildlife and even more stars including some shooting stars. Realised I still need to braai a lot before I’m even close to becoming a braai master. Took some more pix with my super cheap plastic fantastic analogue camera (none of that Lomo bull, the real crappy deal) and got my Fairphone underway from Belgium to Cape Town, so expect some pix some time soon. Lovin’ Obz and Salt River (walking home from Woodstock bus station). Doing some paid web development work and soon some paid modeling, so finally feel like I’m earning my stay in South Africa. Thinking more and more about moving to Cape Town for a more permanent stay. That a bout wraps it up for now. Check back next week or subscribe to my blog via e-mail using the form on the right at the bottom. And I’m out!
This weeks Wednesday post, is about my hitch hiking adventure to Namibia. You know it’s been an intense trip when you come back and feel like you need some quiet time to process everything, this has been such a trip. Two weeks ago I set off to hitch hike toward Namibia from Cape Town. We cheated a bit accepting a ride from Biánne’s parents to Vrededal, which is already halfway to the Namibian border.
After spending a day in this Northern part of the Western Cape with a trip to Strandfontein, the game was on and we set off riding our thumb from Ruwe on the N7, the Cape Namibia route. My only experience of hitch hiking being in European, we tried asking drivers for a ride at the gas stations. After two hours of unsuccessfully asking strangers for a ride north and finding that they either (claimed to) have a full ride or going south, back to Cape Town the gas station attendant told us they didn’t allow hitch-hiking. So we joined the people trying to get a ride on the side of the highway.
Highways in South Africa aren’t like the ones in Europe, so cars can actually stop there and this is the way everyone who lifts here does it (didn’t see any other white people try it though). After another 3 hours, one dodgy truck driver asking for a lot of money and refusing the a ride because it was only to the next town, we got in the back of a bakkie for a ride to Vanrynsdorp, the next town. This is the way to hitch, at least in this part of the country, since almost all our rides where working people who let us jump in the back of their pick-up.
This first ride was the nicest, sitting in the back of an open bakkie (most had a canopy), the wind blowing trough your hair, rolling trough the open landscape of the South African West Coast is pure bless. Two more one hour waits got us, John, giving us a ride to Bitterfontijn where he at his and his “partner” Dawn’s guest house he insisted we stayed the night. This provided him with a good excuse to offer us beers and drink some himself, telling us about his life and how the Lord provides for everything we need. “That is, the Christian god, not the one from Islam”.
Apparently we where just coping with beginners misfortune, since the next day it never took more than 15 minutes to get a ride. The first on got us to Garies (chief town of the Namaqualand) where we ate a good hearty breakfast at die Koperketel, cat lovers who spoiled their felines so much that they where as wide as high and could hardly walk. From there got a lift to the middle of nowhere in Northern Cape but before the scorching heat could take us down we got to a ride to Springbok, arriving in town around noon.
The infamous Springbok Lodge, a long-standing travellers café known for its rude service as well as its impressive mineral collection (Northern Cape being a mining region, mainly diamonds) provided us with lunch and cold beer. After that we located the Caravan Park, outside of town, where John had told us his pall Anton would take good care of us. We found him in the “office”, a thin, tall, man with glasses. In a half an hour monologue he told us all about his 250 cc motorcycle, stop and go’s on the N7, the Caterpillar 5600 with a special water tank. Maybe he had been locked up in this little office not seeing people for too long, maybe the heat that got to his head. Maybe it was growing up in a small mining town, where heavy machinery is the only exciting thing, but we found it hard to make any sense of it all.
We managed to dip into the small pool filled with green water and spent the night camping there. The 150 Rand would turn out to be the only time we had to pay for accommodation on the whole trip. The boereworst and mielies an unknown fellow camper had left in our tent provided us with a breakfast before we hit the road to finally get to Namibia. It took us 50 Rand to get to Noordoewer on the other side of the border, the only time we paid for a ride. When we finally gathered the courage to leave air-conditioned Wimpy, we got our first taste of the Namibian heat. Even in the shade the hot North Western wind would hit you in the face as if you just opened a hot oven.
It turned out to be the owner of Wimpy who gave us a ride to Felix Unite (owned by his brother-in-law). Our possible CouchSurfing host at Aussenkehr was and Wula, who we could ask about a job on the Orange River was out on a river trip. So we ended up chilling by the pool drinking cheap Windhoek and Tafel lager and pitching our tent at the Felix. The next day we heard from Wula that we had just missed the river season and there ws no more work as a river guide until March.
Hiding from the sun under towels we managed to hitch a ride to Aussenkehr, which turned out to be just a Spar surrounded by straw shacks for seasonal workers, working on the grape orchards. Aimlessly walking we passed the clinic, where it was clear we where a bit lost, white people with backpacks not being a common sight. Luckily Johannes, the friendliest and most gay boy helped us out and offered us to pitch our tent at the Christian Community Centre behind the clinic.
As it turned out Antonie our CouchSurfing host passed by to drop off frozen fish at the community centre and we could spend the night at his air-conditioned guest house next to the Orange River. He managed the Cape Orchard Company, the second largest table grapes producer in the Southern Hemisphere and making up the big farm that is Aussenkehr. The next day some awkwardness occurred as it seemed we were already outstaying our welcome. Antonie dropped us of at the Norotshama River Resort to get a ride out of Aussenkehr from there.
The receptionist told us her manager was driving to Noordoewer at noon and we could probably get a ride with him. Juan, was heading to Felix Unite since he was in desperate need of some time off, his season also ending. Given the choice between trying to find a ride to Keetmanshoop (a very depressing place according to Juan) only to pay for a train or bus towards the coast seemed like the lesser option when he invited us to join him at Felix. Lost of drinks and craziness around the pool, the only sensible place to stay in 47° heat. Literally a truckload of Norwegian girls in luminescent bikinis turned up, braving the mid day sun with their Scandinavian skin. Lots of Jägerbombs with whiskey chasers gave way to dancing and playing pool at a Noordoewer shabeen.
The next day Juan invited us back to Noroshama, where we could stay for free right next to the river. It was too hot to do anything but sit in the pool or in our air-conditioned room, but I could think of worst ways to spend the days I needed to get out of RSA to get another 3 months in the country. After 3 days including a braai at Noroshama’s impressive braaiplek we got a ride back to the border with Wula. The kilometre between the Namibian and RSA border posts we walked and the South African policeman confided in us that he would love to go hitch hiking to one day.
The next three days we stayed at the farm Krisjan was taking care of on the South African side of the river. After which he gave us a ride back to Vrededal which took half a day where hitching in the other direction took us three days. Another ride with Biánne’s mom from the gas station in Ruwe where we started our adventure back to Cape Town where the 33°C heat felt refreshing after weeks of plus 40°. Lots of good times and strong impression only road tripping can give. Cape Town is a good place to come back to, almost feels like coming home.
OK, I put it out there so no coming back from it, I promised a new blog post every Wednesday. Biggest thing today is hitch hiking to Namibia. Since I am here in South Africa on a tourist visa and have been here for almost 3 months, it’s time to do a border run. Also a good reason to finally get out of Cape Town that has treated me so good that I found it very hard to leave.
So off to Namibia it is. This will be only my second real hitch hiking adventure (the first one was hitching from Brussels to Berlin) and first time in South Africa. But the road fairy is favouring me, already have a ride to Vrededal, which is half the way to Namibia. Must be good karma from picking up people roadtripping trough Europe with my van.
Not sure what to expect from Namibia, Orange River and Fish River Canyon are on the way and definitely on my list and Kolmanskop, the ghost town that is half buried in the sand is on there too. Probably try to stick to the coast since everybody has warned me that it is going to be scorching hot. I love desert and heat, those are a few of the reasons I love Nowhere, so we’ll see how this goes. Will post an update of my adventures, so check this space next week!