Writing and pictures by Solar Santa.
It is early morning on the playa. My first day back. I’m looking for Nathan the builder of SKOP. A bakkie rolls up and I can’t believe my eyes. The man himself and he has found me. He leaps out of the vehicle and gives me a monster hug. After a year he has not forgotten me. Must be the beard. His workshop in Sutherland has been burgled and his tools stolen. But he bears no malice. If the thieves are so desperate he does not mind. The man is a saint with a giant heart. He spends his days teaching creativity and building skills useful in the default world. And seeks no reward. Unconditional love in action.
A tall stranger arrives with a microphone and a recorder. Meet Steve from Norway. He is a DJ on Radio Free Tankwa and wants an interview about the Power of the Sun and its mission. Afterwards, he tells me he drives an electric car. A top of the range model. Which costs him practically nothing with huge Norwegian government subsidies and cheap electricity for fuel. We can only dream.
It is 4.30 am. I have enjoyed a rich meal with the Irish Anne and William and the American Steve and Monica the night before and my stomach got me up early. But a good chance to start taking down the myriad lights. There is no moon and the camp is very dark. Our pergola is a beacon. A lone figure hoves into sight. Well dressed in a top hat and jacket to match. An environmental consultant who enjoys my renewable platform. “Where am I?”, he asks. 6ish and Black Rock City I tell him. He stumbles back into the darkness. Five minutes later he stumbles back. “I’m f*cking lost…” he proclaims. “Where’s the Post Office? I point him to his camp 30 meters away. He will sleep till midday for sure.
There’s something for everyone in Tankwa Town. Alastair walks past. “I’ve been giving a workshop to 15 couples practising cunnilingus in the CexX tent,” he tells me. “I think I’d better go take a cold shower”. He wanders off.
I have met Carmel thanks to Oliver. She has shared a brief chat in her monster camping van with peanut butter cookies. I am surprised to find this sharp artist is a qualified chemical engineer. Oliver is the structural engineer who has helped with the design of my pergola and its installation to ensure it does not fall down in the potential raging winds. He has helped build Carmel’s art creation Pipe Dreams. Now it is time for it to burn. Luckily I am able to give her a big hug as the crowd builds. She is nervous as a kitten and asks me to please take over her anxiety for the next 20 minutes. No need to worry as the waxed paper creation goes up with a mighty whoosh.
Benjamin strolls past. A very tall American from Los Angeles he has created Stone 7 on the Binnekring. Suspended on cables, they are a challenge to cross. I am intrigued when he tells me no machine has been used to raise these heavy beasts. I decide to visit them and test myself. Climbing carefully on the slightly wobbly structure I make it over. Following me are two pretty girls with painted faces. I tell them to be careful at the top. Much later that night I am getting ready to pack up for the day when the ladies with the painted faces emerge out of the darkness. My stone friends are from France I learn. They are fun to talk to but I have to disappoint them. They want to dance with me up at the Spirit Train. My legs are finished and I can hardly stand. Regretfully I decline. But the story does not end there. On the closing day, a bakkie pulls up. My two French poppies have come to say goodbye. They promise that if they make it back next year we will go dancing together. Santa is thrilled.
My participation is once more the Power of the Sun. Electricity generated by the sun, stored in batteries and made into AC by electronic magic. I have more than doubled my capacity with more panels. And added security in the form of lock boxes. They are a big hit. Lock the box and put the key around your neck. Last year, I will now reveal, some lowlife stole 4 cellphones on different nights. Devastating. But this year I’m happy to announce not a sausage was lost. Beautiful. We built a much sturdier pergola to house all the kit and the plug points. And added a lot more lights. With a glorious flag for flying in the wind on a mast. At the top, a big red LED, below a smiling face illuminated by a spotlight. It serves its purpose in a very dark desert.
After 4 months of building the new Power of the Sun on my own, it has come together. Disassembled, it all fits into my tiny car. For months I have been communicating on sharing a site with a big theme camp. They also use solar and want to collaborate on pretty lights. With two weeks to go before departure, I try to finally get a site plan. Finally, it appears. I’ve been shunted to an obscure East facing part of the site and my tent relocated elsewhere. Angrily I request Sonica, the theme camp coordinator, to accept that I will relocate to general camping. I have not done all this work to be messed around. I am arriving early so have plenty of time to select a site which matches my needs. The phone goes. Sonica does not mince her words. “You will not be moving to general camping. I’ll find you an alternate site where I want you.” Within hours I am given two options, both good. And a request to choose quickly as I’m holding up the mapmaker for the entire Tankwa Town who is already late. I make up my mind rapidly and promise the map maker chocolate. My site is number 113. It is so tiny on the map that it cannot accommodate such a big number. The pimple on the elephant has a home. The bullet has been dodged. Sonica continues as my favourite champion theme camp coordinator.
End of Part 3.
Want more Solar Santa?
Check out last year’s story.