I spent 10 days in Afrika Burn in 2017. This is my journey throughout those days captured in a collection of daily journal entires within a publication on Medium titled Burn, after reading.
Prelude to a strange adventure
Everyone says it will change you. They say there’s nothing like it. I’ve been asked by several people what my motivation for going was. Truthfully, it wasn’t something with a cognitive response. It was a calling in my gut, more like a gentle, pulling whisper — ‘Come. Come to the desert.’
And I’ve heard it before. For several years already. At first — an easily dismissed notion. The thought of it terrified me. Then, a twinge of contemplation. Why was it still scratching, now a bit intriguing?
When life aligns for you, all her moveable parts and plates shifting into position — it’s almost as if the surface becomes slippery, like walking on ice. So, when your heart has learnt the language of that whisper , and opportunity presents itself — you just step out onto that ice and let it take you.
For months before our departure it just felt like a constant ticking — the metronome of creeping time and the making of many, many lists on anything and everything that can become a writable surface. Suddenly, everywhere you look, someone you know is going to the Burn. Or has gone to the Burn. The soaking up of experiential information begins. Like freshly receptive neurons in the brain, a map of knowledge and self understanding of the desert takes shape — a web of fibres, some of them weave trepidation into your heart — “what have I signed up for?” Others titillate with enthusiasm. The tickle of a feather awakening something you didn’t know you were just a little bit excited to experience.
As the weeks pre-burn dissolve, the to-do list just seems to increase. Pockets of excited energy burst out of you at inopportune moments — in the middle of a mind-numbing meeting, while activating your thumb and forefinger in downward facing dog, in the queue at the pharmacy or just as you’re about to drift off to sleep, it riddles through you and you shake about like a wet dog. Eventually the corner of your lounge begins to look a bit like a yard sale of bunged-up camping gear.
Most burners go for 3–5 days, towards the middle and main portion of the event. In that amount of time you can pre make so much food prep that much of the accompanying kitchen bric-a-brac isn’t required. I was going for 10 days — the whole katooti. In the desert, where nothing is purchasable, except ice, in rationed quantities, radical self reliance is a necessity. And only when you start stripping your life down to its bare essentials, do you come to realise how much jetsam even basic existence requires.
Is this it? My strategy for survival for the next 10 challenging days? Why does it still feel too much? I read the Burn Guide, the new-timers guide and every single Bardskeeder newsletter I was being pelted with by the event organisers. Was I ready? Ready for what? I guess the answer lies in the desert.