With over half of our ticket holders coming from overseas, there are a few extra challenges that come with participating in AfrikaBurn namely … How the flip do you get from Timbuktu to Tankwa Town and how can you make sure you have enough ‘stuff’ to survive in the harsh desert. Woohoo, you're finally on the way to ticking that bucket list experience off, you've bought that coveted ticket to AfrikaBurn and you're one step closer to living your desert dreams. But wait what now?? Things can get overwhelming FAST and you haven't even stepped foot into the Tankwa Karoo desert yet. Please go through the safety manual in the seat pocket in front of you by reading through the guide below to start on your journey into the unknown.
You can read advice from our international AfrikaBurn community below:
The runway to Tankwa Town
1. Research Stage: Understanding AfrikaBurn
It's always best to start with the basics, you better know what you signed yourself up for! Buckle up and make sure your armrest is down, because AfrikaBurn might be a bumpy ride. You've already made it through customs and onto Quaggapedia so this website is a great place for you to start. The AfrikaBurn Resource Community will allow you to ask questions (and get answers) to many of the unknowns you might have in preparing for this epic adventure.
First things first: AfrikaBurn is not a music festival, it is a co-creation between all participants and that includes -you! We are all responsible for making this giant crazy fun event happen together and there are no spectators at AfrikaBurn. Have you read up about all of the eleven principles of AfrikaBurn? It's a great way to know what the fuss is all about. One of the most special things about AfrikaBurn is the 'Gifting' culture. There are also some very basic 'rules' to AfrikaBurn. AfrikaBurn also have its own weird 'slang'. Lekker, do you now know how not to be a Sparkle Pony making MOOP? You're ready for the next step!
2. What experience are you hoping for?
Having a think about what you're wanting your AfrikaBurn to be is a great way to prepare for the next steps. But be mindful: the Burn never gives you what you want, but often what you need! Are you coming solo, with a group of friends, or with your family? Each situation has a different type of preparation that comes with it. It'll be much easier to connect with an existing camp if you're flying solo than if you're in a group of 15. What do you want to do at AfrikaBurn? Do you want to volunteer, create art, join/set-up a theme camp, or be completely self-reliant ... there are many twists and turns to what will make your experience completely unique. You don't have to join a theme camp to take part in AfrikaBurn, you can just as easily set-up camp with your little group of friends to take part ... you are co-creating AfrikaBurn, you decide your contribution.
3. Getting ready before you leave home
Wondering what you need to prepare to survive the desert? Look no further than here. Oh, and here. Ok, we lied - Look here too!
4. When you land in South Africa
You might be landing at Cape Town International airport, which means you are about 4-5 hours drive away from Quaggafontein, the home of AfrikaBurn. Should you be landing (and departing) from Johannesburg International (in Gauteng province), then you will have an epic road trip of over 1200km to get yourself to AfrikaBurn. Many local Burners make their way to AfrikaBurn from Gauteng, and most do it in at least 2 days. There are quite a few Burner-friendly guest houses along this route and finding these could be as easy as posting on the Q&A Space for Burners group.
5. Road to the Burn
Shake, rattle and roll! Yup, even though the first part of your journey will be on main highway roads, wherever you arrive from you will have to endure at least a portion of the infamous R355 road, the longest gravel road in South Africa. So infamous that it has a whole page dedicated to telling you what it is all about. Skip reading this at your own peril! Yes, people have died on this road. Seriously!
If you’re driving, don’t forget to make a stop at the Tankwa Padstal. You’ll be passing it on your way to the burn. In addition to being your last chance for wifi, coffee, tyre repair, and that toothbrush or fairy light that you forgot, it’s a tradition to take a break here and support the locals. Plus you’re bound to meet other burners, both on the way in and on the way out. Take your time and enjoy!
6. Arrival in Tankwa Town
Welcome Home! You made it! Get the low-down on what to expect on your arrival in Tankwa Town here.
7. Setup Camp
Here are some good tips on setting up camp in Tankwa Town.
8. The Burn itself
Nestled in-between the beautiful Karoo mountains lies Tankwa Town, a city that comes to life each year in the South African desert.
Well, semi-desert, technically. And the sand is just sand, not powder that’s intent on getting everywhere and never getting off again (we’re looking at you, Black Rock).
The temporary city of Tankwa Town is laid out as the face of a clock - a melted Dalí version of a clock. Along the binnekring (inner ring in Afrikaans) you’ll find many of the theme camps, offering drinks, dancefloors, workshops, pancakes, bad advice, warm showers (an absolute understatement of the AfrikaBurn shower experience), performances and burlesque shows, and much much more. Take your time, go explore. You’re bound to find a few favourite spots.
Inside the Binnekring is where most of the artworks are found. Do yourself a favour and make it a priority to go adventuring and exploring the artworks. Before they burn. And as they burn. Enjoy the sight, or perhaps even a ride on the many fabulous mutant vehicles that roam the Binnekring, both in the day and at night. Speaking of night, be sure to bring lights with you. It gets dark out there. Speaking of dark, the South African desert night sky is something to look forward to seeing!
At some point, you’ll need to use a toilet. Unlike many other burns and festivals that use generic portapotties that get really stinky in the warm sun, AfrikaBurn acknowledges that the toilet experience should be a pleasant one. An extraordinary one even. One where you can sit in fresh air and enjoy the stunning view of the mountains. And tents. And other people. Perhaps you’ll even receive a friendly nod from a passer-by. It’s a throne, a loo with a view, and it’s amazing. Treat the throne with respect: remember to always close the lid and the door. This is important.
If you’ve been to Burning Man, you’ll find many similarities with AfrikaBurn, but with its own twists, in its own geographical and cultural context, and in its own magical right. Where Burning Man has Centre Camp, AfrikaBurn has Off Centre Camp. At Black Rock City, we burn the Man, and in Tankwa Town we burn the Clan (from San/Bushmen rock art in South Africa). And if you’ve never been to any burn event before, you’re in for a treat. The rabbit hole goes deep.
With the added 11th principle of Each One Teach One, AfrikaBurn takes a friendly, inclusive approach to its participants. Not everyone knows everything about the burn. Sometimes people will be in a mental space where they aren’t able to behave in the best way. Be patient with your fellow burners, and rather than getting annoyed or angry at someone, be patient with each other and help each other. And if you’re not familiar with the principles, right now is the time to change that.
Participate, participate, participate! It's what makes the burn really fun. There are many ways to participate at the burn. You can bring your own art, help other artists or theme camps, volunteer your time and skills, dress up, dress down or help to clean up!
If you are gifting, remember to gift with consent and with MOOP in mind. Read some tips here.
If you have a bike, label it and lock it up! If you find a bike, take it to Lost and Found. However a bike is not crucial! You can easily walk where you need to be, no vast distances to traverse (yet!).
Remember to rest and drink enough water. If you feel emotionally or physically ill, you can go to off centre camp to the medical tent or The Sanctuary. Take care of yourself and others and keep the environment pristine.
Before you leave site, make sure your camp is spotless. Pick up every piece of MOOP and take it home with you.
If you have some unopened non-perishable goods or sealed water that you cannot take all the way home with you, support those that helped build the city (and will still be working in the desert long after you have arrived home (thank you DPW)) - Yes - Collexodus happens - so read all about it and lighten your load.
Drive slowly and carefully. Everyone is tired but a safe ride home is more important than a fast ride home.
Ahh the dust has settled, you're finally able to shake the dust out of your boots, ears and other body parts you did not know could store dust,... You remember what it's like to be clean again! But be aware, the effects of the Burn will still linger on for a while. If you have the time and budget, why don't you go explore all the beauty South Africa has to offer and take a little road trip? A road trip is the perfect way to ease your way back into the Default world without shattering your new vision to the harsh default lens of work or daily life responsibilities. Our advice: don't book that plane ticket back the minute the Burn ends. It might be a bit too harsh adjusting. And if you stay around long enough you might be able to catch up with your new-found friends who understand you the best and know all about what you've just gone through. There will usually be a Burner Bar in Cape Town soon after the event.
11. Living the Principles beyond the Burn
You're back in the real world, you've decompressed but you're not home yet. Don't throw your newly learned principles away: continue to take these with you and spread them in the default world!
Before you leave good old ZA, you might want to donate good-quality camping equipment after the event to a suitable local charity or fellow burners.
Enjoy your experience!
Renting an RV:
A good 'all in one' option, but often very expensive and highly limited - booked out well in advance of the event itself. A few companies offer this service in South Africa but be careful when renting as many rental companies do not allow their vehicles to go to AfrikaBurn. Many companies also do not allow any travel on dirt/gravel roads.
Getting the Burner Bus
It seems a bit excessive to rent a car just to transport you and your survival kit to AfrikaBurn, but you can take a bus if you want to save money and fuel. The 'Bus to AfrikaBurn' crew is NOT an official AfrikaBurn service, it is participant created. You can find out more about getting a bus to AfrikaBurn here: https://www.facebook.com/BUStoAfrikaBURN/
Bare minimum camping
You can hopefully figure out your own food and water ... but what do you really need to take part in AfrikaBurn, and what is 'nice to have'?
You will definitely need:
- A waterproof tent
- A mattress
- A sleeping bag & pillow (it can get very cold at night)
- Earplugs (proper rest is the best remedy to about anything, grumpy moods included)
- Something to heat water or cook on - a gas burner or similar
- A pot/kettle (or whatever you call it)
- Basic cutlery, cups and plates etc.
- Chairs and table
- A bowl to wash up in
- A head torch
- A basic first aid kit
Nice to have:
- A gazebo or shade awning
- A BBQ or Braai to cook on
- A cooler box to keep stuff cold in
If you are planning on buying your equipment in South Africa, please do so responsibly and support local businesses instead of buying disposable and creating waste. There are a number of good local camping shops that can help you out before you get to AfrikaBurn. The second-hand market is also alive and well in Cape Town and worth investigating! Please consider donating good-quality camping equipment after the event to a suitable charity.
A note about Plug & Play
We understand it can be super tempting to join an existing theme camp and contribute towards it financially in exchange for a more comfortable experience in the dust. BUT! Please don't be a part of a Plug & Play camp - these water down the whole AfrikaBurn experience. Countless individuals have paid money expecting showers, beautifully cooked meals etc. to discover that all they have been given is a tent with no shade and then watched as the theme camp lead leaves Tankwa Town in an air-conditioned limousine.
Click on the image, or visit this page to find out more: https://www.afrikaburn.org/plug-and-play-guidelines/
Other Social Media Resources
AfrikaBurn International Group (Facebook)
AfrikaBurn Theme Camps Group (Facebook)
AfrikaBurn Resources Group (Facebook)