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This is everything you need to know if you're an AfrikaBurn virgin

2014-04-22 10:48
Cape Town - In a week’s time thousands of people will be gathering in the middle of nowhere (otherwise known as the Tankwa Karoo in the Northern Cape) for South Africa’s most unique, creative, exhilarating and exciting festival, AfrikaBurn.

AfrikaBurn is all about self-expression, creativity, art and gifting but it’s also about radical self-reliance. There’s nothing to buy at the festival other than ice which means that you need to bring everything with you (and take it back – there are no dustbins to dump your rubbish in).  

If you’re attending the event for the first time, take note of these survival essentials, to make sure you have the best festival experience.

Learn the guiding principles

There’s a lot of thought that goes into AfrikaBurn – it’s not just a music festival where you go to party. Make sure you read the 11 guiding principles and incorporate them into how you approach this event. AfrikaBurn only works because of the community that contributes to it each year, so make sure you’re a part of it. Bring something to share as a gift, whether it’s homemade crunchies, gin and tonics or your DJing skills.

Getting there

AfrikaBurn is on a farm 300km north of Cape Town. The drive is fine up until you turn off onto a 110-kilometre-long dirt road which is a notorious tyre shredder. Don’t overload your car, drive really slowly and make sure you’ve got a spare and a jack.

What to bring

The climate is harsh – expect freezing nights, hot days, wind and extreme dryness. Daytime temperatures can be in the 30s, while nights can drop to freezing. Pack for all seasons – summery clothes for the day and thick winter jackets, beanies, scarves and gloves for night. Pack your warmest sleeping bag.

Bring sealable plastic bags to keep your camera equipment dust free and bandannas and goggles for dust storms. Take lots of sunscreen and heavy duty lip ice with SPF – last year I spotted many a cracked pair of lips.

Bring shelter for your camp so you have some respite from the hot sun during the day.

Don’t forget to dress up – almost everyone does and you don’t want to feel left out. The best costumes are practical and comfortable (to allow for maximum dancing capabilities). At night LED lights make just about any outfit look amazing.

A headlamp or torch is essential.

Go hands free as much as possible and wear a backpack, sling bag or a moon bag (yes, it’s acceptable to wear these at festivals), and a water bottle holster.

Bring your own drinking water – five litres per person per day is a good amount.

Pack a first aid kit and bring things like bandages, disinfectant and rehydrate (don’t forget all those vitamins to help your body recover).


There are compost toilets and portaloos but no showers. If you want to wash, bring a portable camping shower and extra water.

Getting around

Tankwa Town is pretty huge and your feet do get tired from all the walking around, so the best thing to do is bring a bicycle – that way you get to explore more without the footache. Don’t forget your tyre repair kit – the ground is hard and stony and tyre punctures abound. AfrikaBurn is pretty much the only place where it’s acceptable to get lift from strangers: hitch rides on the many mutant vehicles (bakkies, trucks and buses converted into weird and wonderful art cars) cruising around.

Taking the party home with you

AfrikaBurn is a leave no trace event and there are no rubbish bins. You need to take every last scrap of litter back home with you down to your cigarette butts. You can’t burn your rubbish (the burnings at the event are organised burns of artworks and sculptures), so leave space in your car for rubbish bags.

For more survival tips check out the AfrikaBurn website.

AfrikaBurn takes place on Stonehenge Farm in the Northern Cape from 28 April to 4 May 2014.

*Sarah Duff is a travel writer and photographer from Cape Town who attends as many festivals as she can (AfrikaBurn is her favourite of them all).

(Photos: Sarah Duff)

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