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living in a desert building a temporary town

SOUTH AFRICA | Monday, 12 May 2014 | Views [425] | Scholarship Entry

Tankwa (town) day 37: lines of crew crisscross the desert picking up matter out of place. Cigarette buds and sequence, feathers and fags... truck loads of micro moop. Crews ride on trailers breaking down what they put up and packing it all away. The nights are colder and the days are shorter, the numbers are down and the faces are hard but we will not leave until we have removed every trace. DPW - these guys are the real heroes.

I am currently living in the remote Tankwa Karoo in the Northern Cape of South Africa. I am the Logistics Coordinator for the AfrikaBurn (SA's regional Burning Man event) Department of Public Works. My crew lay out the city grid, build all the toilets, lamp posts and organisational structures for the event and then breaks it all down. For almost two months we live in a small community of up to 40 people, working from sunrise to sunset under the magical Karoo skyline.

How the hell did I get here, leading this bunch of dirty hippies on what seems like a rather crazy mission?
In 2012 I decided to pack up my comfy city life and head to Europe with a full backpack and a rather empty wallet - the mission: three months on couchsurfing and three degrees of separation. In between all that I volunteered to work at Burning Man's European regional, Nowhere, which takes place in the Spanish Monegros desert.

There I met Paul, the former fearless leader of AfrikaBurn's DPW. In 2013 I joined his crew in the Karoo, building toilets, swinging sledge hammers and carrying a lot of heavy shit.

Soon after we got home to Cape Town I boarded a plane for Barcelona, returning to Nowhere as the Production Lead (and also on a mission to join the Junk Raft Armada as the official media relations / blogger on the crew). Before Nowhere we spent weeks picking up trash in Barcelona and turning it into rafts. After three weeks building, enjoying and taking down Nowhere we headed for the Rio Ebro with our Junk Rafts. We spent a month cruising down stream, performing in towns and educating people about the importance of recycling...

By the time I returned home after a month of road tripping from Spain to the Netherlands I had already kind of been appointed to manage DPW this year. What an adventure.

Here I am, broken collar bone (since day 14) and all, my crew makes me proud every day... we hope to be home in 11 days but we will do whatever it takes to reach our goal of leaving no trace.

Tags: 2014 Travel Writing Scholarship - Euro Roadtrip

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