Writing and pictures by Solar Santa.
The journey to the Karoo is an ordeal. But an essential rite of passage. After over a thousand kilometres of tar road, in an overloaded car, the real task arrives. 120 kilometres of corrugated, tyre eating gravel road. With not another vehicle or human in sight in a stunningly beautiful but barren landscape. The stories of stranded travellers abound. Not a place to be stuck alone. I travel carefully at 40 kilometres an hour at best. And am pleased with myself when I make the turnoff to the camp unscathed. But hold on.
The desert gods dislike arrogance. Not 100 meters from the first gate. Thump, thump, thump. No, no, no. The rear tyre is a shredded mess. It is hot, I am tired and changing a wheel not what my old body wants at this time. A big van arrives not ten seconds later. Bearing in mind that this is the first sign of help I have seen in 3 hours – a sight for sore eyes. Out jumps a stewige boertjie. “Ek is Phillip” he announces. “Kan ek jou help?” I want to kiss him but refrain. I’m not in camp yet. He swiftly gets the car jacked up and the steaming hot rim and tyre replaced with the spare. Wonderful hands. He tidies up and excuses himself. He has a long road ahead. Explain the timing of this encounter dear reader. Now I know I’m home. The Tankwa gods are looking after me already.
Jacqui gifted me a stainless steel Clan necklace a year ago. The perfect reminder of a terrific time. I seek her out to say thank you. She is dressed in a white nurses outfit with a big red cross. Busy cooking lunch for her camp, Grin and Tonic. Being a mother goose she rustles up a cold drink with ice for me. And a welcome chunk of freshly cooked boerewors. I meet Mumu in Jacquis camp. A native of Bordeaux, France she is an alpha female. I enjoy her company. She gifts me a hand-painted ceramic necklace. A Tankwa special she painted herself.
It is late at night. The burns are over for the day. A wheelchair-bound visitor arrives into the circle of light. Antony has only the use of his arms but has not slowed down. He is accompanied by gorgeous Foxy Lady. Her headdress is stunning. We discuss their nude art session at the CexX tent the next day. Foxy Lady declares all men are 30 years old. And we know where their brains are located.
The tyre shop is a distance from camp. The Tim has a Burn bakkie and generously offers me a lift to collect my Get You Home tyre. We stop on the way at the Bus. The Tim’s Lair. A sprightly young lady gives me a warm hug and a smile. Better than coffee in the early morning. Egi is from Albania via the Netherlands. An intern making Tankwa Town happen invisibly.
Dion has upgraded his tuk-tuk with a new diesel engine and two new wheels up front. Excellent workmanship. I tell him of my quest to get into the belly of the beast – the folk who invisibly bring Tankwa Town into existence before the gates open, DPW, department of public works. Once again I am amazed at what follows. His partner Gavin is Luke’s father. The co-lead of DPW no less. Days later Dion arrives at my camp. He has galloped up generously on foot to announce that Luke is at their camp briefly if I wish to meet him. Bearing in mind that Dion is my age that effort demonstrates Burner brotherly love.
Luke is surprisingly relaxed and approachable. We sit outside his caravan and he tells me of 12 Heads of Department each with their own responsibilities. They hold a Hammer Council every Tuesday to iron out problems and to coordinate their activities. In three short months, they will build a city from scratch and remove it entirely. With volunteers or altruists so poorly paid, they’d be arrested in the default world. Amazing. You have only to think of the huge number of toilets and the lighting requirements to realise that this is a major miracle. If Luke’s team were building Eskom the power stations would be completed on time and on budget five years ago. But looting does not happen in Tankwa Town. It runs on love and dedication to a mission beyond selfishness.
On holiday in Cape Town, I visited Burn headquarters to see where all the action originates. Luckily I got to meet Monique. The unbelievable Clan this year is a giant lamp with a lampshade. Days before the show opens the lights are being tested. To my enormous delight, I bump into Monique. I ask her about the strength of the structure. There are strong winds, it is a tall building and there are no cables. I tell her that I have a small gift for her and ask where I can find her. Imagine my utter surprise when a Land Rover pitches up at my site the next morning. It is the beautiful Monique herself. I suspect that her admirers generally offer gold and diamonds. My gift definitely does not originate in a jewellery store. An ordinary small cardboard box she receives gracefully. I ask her about the incredible growth from a small beginning to a world-class event and what drives her on despite the obstacles. Her biggest anxiety turns out to be the unpredictable weather which can mess up the burn schedule. Before parting, I ask her where she is on Maslow’s hierarchy. She laughs delightfully and says right at the bottom along with the rest of us in the wind and dust. No wonder I love her so much.
End of part 2.
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