Welcome to the Desert

It’s 5am, Zimbabawia and I are standing in a random warehouse in the backstreets of Cape Town. Two monster overlander trucks have just pulled up, we are surrounded by hippies and misfits, my hair is fluorescent orange and dully throbbing from the 60 neat new braids.

It’s time to go to Tankwa Town.

After bidding Mumma Africa farewell, Zimbabawia and I ran around Cape Town for two days attempting to be prepared to live in the dessert for SIX weeks.

How the fuck does one prepare to live in a desert?

We got the essentials; a borrowed tent, an air bed, two children’s sleeping bags (they were significantly cheaper than an adult’s), a very modest bag of schnax – why not be healthy in the desert we thought, and a suitcase full of condoms.

So why are we going to live in the desert? Perhaps you know of Burning Man? No? Well, Burning Man is a community. A temporary city. A global cultural movement based on 10 guiding principles held in the Black Rock Desert, Nevada, America each year.

A sister event to Burning Man, AfrikaBurn is held annually in The Karoo, South Africa. Zimbabawia and I signed up to be volunteers in the creation of this temporary city. Pretty much what I’m saying is that all us hippies and misfits are about to remove ourselves from society in order to create an alternative one. Yeah cunt.

While the overlanders tore over the roads of peril, we became acquainted with Desert Fairy, her wiley hair drew attention, it turned out she had recently shaved her head and explained to us the experience of losing some of her memories after removing the hair.

After showing everyone my impressive napping skills I popped my head up to the window and spied the nothingness, the desert stretched out all around us, nothing to be seen but distant mountains, and two stretches – big canopies that go over the top of tents to give shelter from the elements.

Exiting the overlander we were whacked with what would now become a regular temperature, awkwardly lugging our belongings towards our new home, I almost gave myself whiplash doing a double take at Desert Tarzan. Desert Tarzan; the man is the exact image you are currently conjuring, yielding a sledgehammer, he was beyond tanned, had long messy hair, teeny tiny leopard print shorts, and of course, was topless to reveal flawless abs.

That night our soon to be family gathered after sunset and watched the full moon RISE!!! Have you ever seen a full moon rise? Put it the fuck on your bucket list.

As I was filled with the fullness of her light and beauty, I couldn’t understand how at 25 I was witnessing this phenomenon for the first time. And then I realised, I’ve never been somewhere with nothing blocking the horizon.

This was going to be an eventful few weeks.

The next morning Zimbabawia and I met our boss, Dreadlock Pixie Queen. So how many people have you catered for? 50? 100? Well fuck me dead, I once made a brekkie for like six of my mates, cool she responded, well today you’re making 300 pancakes.

After the initial what the fuck panic passed, we somehow whipped our assess into gear and shot out some rather smashing pancakes.

And then it was serving time.

A friend once said to me, you’re such a peacock, you like to fan out your feathers and have everyone’s eye one you. Serving pancakes that morning, I realised the kitchen was the perfect peacock platform for me. Everyone’s gotta eat right? So I joyously served every human in the desert, meeting them, greeting them, sizing them up, and laying a shit load of groundwork.

My daily peacocking gained my first target, Nimbin. A scruffy haired, tattooed, Saffa. By the time one week had passed, we had developed a flirtatious little relationship. One night, with a ladle full of lasagne, I decided to step things up a notch; he was complimenting me on the food and I replied the food isn’t as tasty as me, with a dirty grin he replied well I haven’t gotten to taste you yet. He invited me back to his tent after my shift, so I rapidly scraped lasagne trays like a horny mother fucker.

Upon entering Nimbin’s tent, it was clear that in his down time he liked to reallyyy relaxxx. He had become a totally scattered and cracked version of his meal-time self, he spent 40 minutes attempting make us a cup of Rooibos Tea. Just when I got the tea in my hand a newbie entered the tent, Wolf.

Wolf was one of the head honchos of the desert project, he asked if he was interrupting, and Nimbin and I both barked No! We hadn’t yet sustained any kind of functional conversation and so welcomed the presence of this mysterious and frankly intimidating man.

I had no problem conversing with Wolf, he was one of those men that you meet and wonder why you haven’t spent more time speaking to people who are invested in meaningful conversation and are able to self reflect. I was entirely engrossed in our dialogue, I didn’t even look in Nimbin’s direction while the cracker did god knows what. Conversation lapsed and Wolf turned to look at the moon, as if speaking to himself he murmured I’ve never spoken so honestly to someone I’ve just met. And then he stood up and left.

I was bewildered. Touched, and now left with this mess, Nimbin turned to me and said, I have to tell you, there’s a girl, I’ve been seeing her for a while, she has a kid. So then, I asked, why is it that you invited me here? You total fuckbag.

He couldn’t give me an answer.

What followed doesn’t make me proud, but this blog, among many other things is a time for me to learn about myself by reflecting upon my experiences and my actions. These reflections and generated conversations, have already and will continue to help me grow.

I didn’t leave.

The nights consumptions (after Rooibos) had rendered me very very inebriated and I certainly wasn’t in my 100% right mind. We didn’t fuck. Fucking was too much of a betrayal for him, but we did mess around.

I guess there’s something inside me that gets aroused over being wanted by men who shouldn’t have me. This is something I have inside me and though I don’t judge myself, I do question the roots of this desire.

Afterwards I thought of all the good men I’ve ever met, and wondered why the man laying next to me wasn’t one of them. I came to the conclusion that if I keep letting the bad men in, I’m not leaving space for the good ones, and with that thought I fell asleep.

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Artwork by Rachel Day @rachday_

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