– words by Zane Dickens, photos by Jani-Marie Breedt
Taking all your water, food and shelter into the inhospitable desert for close on a week is an adventure you’ll learn from. The following are six things that would have been nice to know before I blundered into the desert armed to the teeth with neon and noodles.
1. Learn About The Burn
To really appreciate the burn, you need to understand it. That’s right – you’ve got homework. Read about the eleven principles of AfrikaBurn, to get your head around the spirit of it all. Knowing this will help shape your decisions so that you’re a welcome Burner, not someone looking for another place to party, make a mess and pass out.
Why you are going? The spirit of the burn for me was about trying something different, minimalism and radical self-reliance. It will likely be something different for you. But as long as it’s connected with the energy or ideals of the Burn you won’t go wrong.
Don’t skip this or you might be so overwhelmed you leave ignorant of the beauty behind the burn.
2. Take Less, Leave Nothing
This is a very obvious tip but even though it is trumpeted to all new Burners, this year had mountains of MOOP.
MOOP stands for Matter Out Of Place, anything that shouldn’t be in that environment. Which is everything you took in there. It’s more than just litter, because it includes biodegradable items as well. The best way to avoid leaving MOOP all over the place is to not have it in the first place.
We tried to keep our packaging to a minimum, preparing food in advance. A friend of mine left every single shiny crinkly bit at home – they took everything out of its packaging, and had a mountain of plastic in their kitchen. This makes you aware of just how much packaging everything has.
3. Plan Ahead, Start Early, Keep it Simple
The Burn sneaks up on you. There is more planning and stuff you need to think of than you will believe possible – until the clock starts running out and your friends are driving away and you’re chasing after them with the extra blankets you forgot to pack on that third final check.
Yes, deserts get very cold at night and can be very hot during the day. Go for layers. Your nighttime outfits generally get covered up by the heaviest thickest jacket you own. Sometimes two.
Yes, you need to bring all your own water. For drinking, washing dishes and your body. Wet wipes are stellar here for conserving.
Plan ahead – start chatting to people who know more months before, start shopping weeks before, start packing days before. Do final checks hours before. So you can gently and safely arrive at the Burn when you want to.
Rushing for any reason down that final approach dirt road is a bad idea.
If you plan ahead, get started early, and keep it simple you’ll be fine.
4. Don’t Break the Bank on Your Outfits
It’s very easy to spend a fortune on your outfits. In one way its worth it – you do want to feel a part of the desert kaleidoscope. That said, I still feel it can be wasteful and anti-burn to waste too much money on it.
I didn’t buy anything for my outfits. I made this my archetype or theme, to ‘beg, borrow and donate.’ Friends of mine gifted me the odd thing, which they kept afterwards, like a bright orange hard hat. Once at the burn we pooled all our mad clothing and made outfits from that.
If you are getting caught up in the frenzy, an archetype is key – plan your outfits around a theme. Keep an ear to the ground to hear about special events, like the Purple Wedding, so that you have any special items or colors to join in properly.
Keep it simple. Leave the feathers at home. Those things blow all over the place, and you’ll regret bringing them when you have to chase them down with a hangover.
5. Get Stuck In
The more involved you are the better your burn will be. Go to as many camps as you can. Try out all the interactive exhibits. If you find the Hate Bar, hurl abuse at the bastards. Dance on the roof of the Love Machine. Or in the hands of ‘Reflection’, because in 2014 it burns!
There are artworks all over the playa, small unobtrusive ones you can trip over, and large structures that make you gape and become your landmarks. There are little party tents everywhere and a huge party bus driving around, there are cafes and braais, even burlesque shows, and a whole menagerie of surprises I won’t ruin.
You drove out into the middle of the desert the least you can do is try everything. Don’t spend too much time at your camp, don’t get too hammered that you lounge the day away, don’t fret in front of the mirror. It’s a long drive home and the last thing you want to be thinking is “Dammit I should have…”
6. Take Pictures
Nothing fades faster than the magic of the Burn, no experience in my life has bloomed like that and faded so quickly. It leaves you feeling a sense of loss, you can’t quite understand. Especially because it is such a difficult even to put into words.
So take photos, lots of photos.
But be respectful though, especially around Critical Tits and mad hippies, not everyone wants to end up on your Facebook. People, to put it mildly, act out of character. That persona is often very private and only for the Burn. Respect that.
Those pictures though will help you keep a hold on that mad, crazy, experience that you shared with thousands of strangers and fellow Burners out in the middle of nowhere feeling something that words fall short of describing.