Book Beer Party in Joburg

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Sunday, 27 October, 11am!

I’ve done the lecture halls, the interviews, the festivals and the book stores. (And was left feeling rather traumatised!) This time around I’m having a party. So I’ve joined forces with artisan brewery, Smack! Republic, to launch the English translation of my novel. In other words, I will be selling books, and they’ll be selling beer! Doesn’t that just sound perfect? Rock up.

smack

www.reneywarrington.co.za

www.smackrepublic.com

Some work being created – Site Specific Day 3

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Unveiling of ‘Calling the herd’ by Strijdom van der Merwe (SITE SPECIFIC)

This sculpture is the second in the planned land art walk forming part of the Eden to Addo hike.

Why a tree?

Strijdom attended a residenchy in Japan where he saw people hugging trees 1000s of years old. He asked why. Their response was that they hold a vast history and that when they hug them the trees whisper wise words to them.

Certain trees can also ‘talk’ to one another. When an animal eats the leaves of one tree, the tree can warn other trees and they close their leaves.

Why a trumpet?

It is important to call the elephants back to the area. By blowing on one of the 5-6 nozzles at the bottom, a trumpet sound echoes through the area.

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My take on Afrika Burns…

AfrikaBurn has certainly earned a reputation. Journalists, friends and foes either love it or hate it. On the one hand it is seen as a drug-infused Sodom and Gomorrah, on the other hand as a life-altering liberation movement.

It is both and it is neither.

People

You get all sorts at the Burn. The tie-dye hippies who wanted to brush my hair (the dead stare stopped them in their tracks), the Mad Max bikers who walked around drinking champagne first thing in the morning, the yoga masters serving Zen tea, drug whores who are off their heads, clubbers who party through the night on the party bus, real dodgy-looking okes that would make me cross the road in Joburg, and even middle-aged Kruger Park types who sit and read the Sarie. The Burn brings the fringes of society together and they all seem to get along (bar the hairbrush-wielding hippies) for five days.

Dwelms 

When I told friends that I was going, most asked whether I was going to do drugs. I was shocked. Taking a Disprin is a moral dilemma for me. Going to the Burn, even though dwelms is one of the main attractions, would not sway me. And that is the crux of the matter. Yes, drugs are freely available should you choose to participate. It comes down to your choice. Whether you live in a small town, a big city or the desert for a week, it is your choice if you schnarf anything up your nose or inject anything into your veins, and what it is.

Art

The art was the biggest let-down for me – I found it mediocre. Just because it is big, does not mean it is great art. I need to clarify these statements by saying that during my four hours in Venice I spent most of my time at the Guggenheim Venice, when I walked the Camino I gave up three days of walking to visit the Guggenheim Bilboa, and when I visited the Netherlands I cycled 25 km through the Hoge Veluwe sculpture park. In other words, I intentionally expose myself to world-class sculpture and land art and have seen some jaw-dropping stuff. But the Burn is only a few years old and is showing great promise already. I would love to see what the art will be like in about five years.

Nudity

So I checked a couple of fruit arrangements and lots of titties. What’s the big deal?

Wow aspect

It’s kinda cool that one day you have a rocky dustbowl with a few shrubs and a howling wind. Two days later you find 7 000 people in the same spot! When you walk away from Tankwa town at night and look back it looks a little like freaking Las Vegas. That would make anyone smile.

Even though the art itself is not awesome, finding these massive sculptures in the middle of a dustbowl is.

The trouble that individual people go to with their mutant vehicles, costumes or products that they give away, that is awesome.

The culture of giving, of not being able to buy anything (except ice and drugs), even if it is for only a few days, that’s cool. That gives you a fuzzy feeling in a world where you have to pay for fucking everything.

Giving versus taking

The “giving” part of AfrikaBurn is lekker. A couple rocked up on bicycles with baskets full of fresh vegetables. We offered chocolates in return. We needed fresh veggies by then and they needed the energy of the chocolate to cycle further.

Our Sprocket Rocket mutant vehicle had a pap wiel one night. Our neighbours popped over with some expensive wheel gel/sealant kit. We didn’t ask for help. The next day we offered them ice old keg beer and ended up having an hour-long kuier.

You do get the odd schmuck who just rocks up and takes your beer without asking or giving anything in return. But I guess that’s life.

Irritations

If you’re not high, but the person next to you is, it’s not always a lot of fun when they chew your ear off about random druggie shit.

You were camping on your neighbour’s stoep. They should either make the camping grounds bigger or sell fewer tickets. Our neighbours had so many tents that they could not get out of their campsite. So they used our campsite as an exit. At 2 am when a drunken cyclist cycles over your tent with you in it and then scratches your car, you don’t really give a shit that his bike has been built into a cool rhino. No, you just wanna klap him.

The hippies attempting to brush my hair without asking permission might seem to many a folk as me splitting hairs – pardon the pun – but it is my space and my body and if you want to interact with it, ask me first.

Camping

The slogan “radical self-reliance” is no joke. You’ve got to have proper camping gear.

1. A dust-proof tent is a damn good start.
2. Proper mattresses and sleeping bags will make your sleep that much more comfortable. The desert floor gets freaking cold.
3. Another essential is some sort of shade/cover. Bedouin tents are made for the desert. Use them.
4. You’ve got to try and keep your food cold. A normal cooler tucked away in a shady corner will go a long way.
5. Take food that needs little refrigeration. Apples, oranges, butternut, potatoes, tomatoes, tinned soup, tuna sachets, sour dough bread, etc, etc.

Venue

The setting is epic. Technically it is a rocky dustbowl with epic mountains in the distance, but you cannot describe it to anyone and you certainly cannot attempt to photograph it.

Facilities

The pit toilets turned out to be not the pits. It is a proper seat with a bucket of toilet paper and a bucket of wood shavings. Do your business, throw a handful of shavings down the hole and close the lid. The toilet cubicles created out of shade netting are situated on the outskirts, facing the veld – you thus have complete privacy and a kick-ass view.

There are no showers. So I built my own. I simply folded the side panels of an existing gazebo into a square and used biodegradable soap. Voila!

Weather

One night we slept in T-shirts, the following two nights in thermal underwear. (The second night in thermals we were still cold!) We had sunshine during the day, a few drops of rain and an awesome sandstorm! Be prepared for four seasons in one day.

Logistics

AfrikaBurn is rather well organised. The dos and don’ts are carefully stipulated on the website. The venue is easy to find. You get a carefully plotted map of the place as you enter. The toilets were clean and functional. There are clearly marked medics tents. The fires were managed. I had no complaints.

Suspension of reality

I guess how much you enjoy AfrikaBurn could come down to the suspension of your reality. This could affect you twofold: (1) It could be an improvement of your reality. (2) It could be a welcome break from your reality.

1. It does not matter how I explain the following statement, it is going to sound arrogant. I’m okay with that. The wife and I live really cool lives (in our eyes). I’ve published my debut novel. The English translation will soon be released. The wife makes kick-ass public art. We try and travel locally and abroad (on shoestring budgets) and check out amazing art, landscapes and people. We are completely out and proud and have an amazing circle of friends. AfrikaBurn was, therefore, not an improvement of my reality. I come back to a cool life, where I can (fortunately) be what I want to be every day.

2. Being cut off from “society”, being out in the desert in extreme circumstances, was a welcome break from my reality, though. My father has just passed away and my brother is critically ill. For five days I was forced to worry only about staying warm or cool, about drinking enough water, washing dishes with the minimum water, wearing enough sunscreen and watching an entertaining array of people, mutant cars, performance art and burning sculptures.

Conclusion

AfrikaBurn did not rock my world, but it was nice enough. I will go again, but do it the way I did it this time around – with great friends and family, without whom I would have been bored stiff.

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SPAIN Miguel

We were across the street from Miguel, having dinner at the Old Shangai restaurant. His parents were standing next to him, having drinks with friends, as is the custom in Bilbao.

Miguel’s only toy, a little racing car, was tied to his wheelchair so that he wouldn’t lose it. Miguel looked about 7 or 8 years old.

Miguel reminded me of my brother at that age.

I thought about walking over and saying hello. But thought of how protective my mother was and how little English his parents would speak. They would surely think I am a lunatic.

They couldn’t speak English, but their friends could understand a little. With gestures and simple English I explained that my brother was like Miguel and that I wanted to say hello to him. With their permission.

Once they understood, they opened their circle with pleasure, let me in and introduced Miguel to me. They even picked up the little racing car and called his attention to me. Like proud parents they wanted to show off.

Miguel had freckles and clear, green eyes that when it eventually settled on me, were friendly. He was happy, loved.

I said, Hola, and he smiled at me. It moved me.

I sat with him for a few seconds, made sure he saw me smile then, said ‘Adios’.

Miguel waved at me.

I thanked his parents and left.

SPAIN Day 13

Bilbao has, surprisingly enough, more to offer than just the Guggenheim. The AlhondigaBilbao centre (www.alhondigabilbao.com ) we discovered late at night. It houses a cinema, cafeteria, media library, workshops, courses, conferences, etc, etc.

It is difficult to describe. It is a massive indoor space that feels like you are in an outside courtyard.

 

Yes, it makes no sense. One half has a four storey high ceiling with a gigantic screen suspended from above and two spotlights you can stand in if you feel like you need some light in your life. J

The other half has a low ceiling and is ‘held up’ by pillars decorated with various styles. Have a look.

The outside sports a beautifully decorated sidewalk and incredible public artworks.

 

SPAIN Day 12

In 2005 the Wife and I got lost in Rome. We accidentally walked straight into the Coliseum. (I know. The same happened with Euro pride in Stockholm. We merely followed the music.) What a sight, to come around the corner, look up and be overpowered by this ancient structure towering above you.

Today we got lost again. (I see a recurring theme.) I was pointing north, the Wife was pointing south. We crossed a street whilst ‘discussing’ the issue and looked right to check for oncoming traffic. We froze! We were both wrong. The auspicious, slightly arrogant, Guggenheim Balboa was on our right.

Half the fun of visiting the Guggenheim is to marvel at the architecture and I am convinced it lures visitors that would normally not rush out to art galleries. The same goes for the FNAC centre’s approach. (Yes, the abbreviation led to various hilarious Afrikaans interpretations. Fnok. Fnoek. Fnuik, etc, anything but FNAC.) It is a double storey multimedia gadget shop that sells laptops, iPods, kindles, music, etc, but that also exhibits incredible photography throughout. It was interesting to see the teenyboppers, with shopping bags in hand, stop in front of the work and discuss it with each other.

Yes, I went a little camera crazy…

Check the mist!

Love, love this spider by Louise Bourgeois. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louise_Bourgeois)

SPAIN Day 11

After 10 days on the Camino, 200km’s later, we decided to swop the old and rural for contemporary Bilbao!

 

We had to catch a bus to Lugo and there get on the midnight bus to Bilbao. We stopped for our last Camino meal. For a lactose intolerant, borderline diabetic the breakfast below could send a person off the rails. If you walk 20-25km’s a day, carrying 10odd kg’s, you seem to walk off the sugar highs and collapsing lungs. I will remember these meals with fondness. Once we’re back in South Africa we’re back to one espresso a day and oats for breakfast. L

 

Not knowing anything about Lugo I did not expect much. I was wrong. As is the case with Lucca, Italy the original city walls are still completely intact! When you enter through the four storey portals you enter another world. The following shots won’t win any photographic awards but will give you an idea of the views from the city walls.

 

 

 

The ‘washing’ shots are, I hope, have more creative merit.

SPAIN Day 10

On Day 10 we decided to walk the scenic route to the town of Samos which houses the monastery where Gregorian chant was born. The walk was exquisite, the monastery closed!

We kicked off our boots, ate some of the biscuits they bake and moved on.

 

The Wife recommended taking another scenic route to the next town, Sarria. I recommended taking the short route back as the scenic route did not go through any towns, it was rather late already and it was an additional 12km’s to the first albergue. As she is the more adventurous soul she said we will be fine, we have been so far. I listened. I shouldn’t have.

 

By the time we realised that the route had been changed (see panoramic pic above for that exact moment) and that there was indeed no accommodation available at all, it was close to 6pm. Needless to say we ‘jogged’ the last four km’s in mutual silence. I would wait for a safe haven and a cold beer before saying ‘I told you so.’

 

We reached the much dreaded albergue just to find it delightful, clean and sporting a vegetarian menu! (The disposable linen was a tad weird.) After 10 days of Iberian ham and Iberian ham, a lentil soup almost had me in tears. Needless to say the ‘I told you so’ never arrived, but the cold beer on the stoep did.

 

SPAIN Day 9

The view leading away from La Faba and up to the town of O Cobreiro.

Don’t be surprised to hear bagpipes and see Celtic symbols in Galicia. I have to still look up the exact history but the Celts lived here before the Romans.

Celtic architecture!

Another portrait from my series…

A bit of an odd, perhaps even spooky, shot.

Yeah, the crocs came in handy. My Italian, expensive, uber sexy hiking boots, that I walked in for over two years, turned out to be crap!

SPAIN Day 8

Another portrait from my new series.

Hannelie helping herself to some Spanish grapes.

The Spanish love growing veggies. If there is not enough space around their houses they have a piece of land on the outskirts of town.

This walk up to La Faba is not an experience I will be able to describe in words.

We set up our rent on the top of the mountain, next to the church. Awesome experience to be woken up by an owl hooting the whole night.

SPAIN nearly became FRANCE

Hola

 

I am still unsure about whether to post this or not. A travel blog is supposed to be happy, it is supposed to promote the destination. I want to promote the Camino de Santiago as it has so far been an unforgettable walk for me. Alas there are a few things that irk me, things I wish I knew before coming on the trip.

One The original route has been changed. This was the biggest bummer for me. The albergues/hostels and people who stand to make money out of the route have formed a consortium/union/interest group that has enough power to change the route to pass certain venues or shops.

Two The prices for food and accommodation on the route are double (sometimes triple) what they are in the big cities or if you perhaps wander off the route by a block or two. A ham and tomato sandwich will cost you 4.50Euros on the route compared to 1.80Euros just a block away.

Three Unless you can live on processed white bread and lots of Iberian ham, you are going to suffer to find good quality and fresh food. We have started buying fresh fruit and nuts at the little supermarkets and staying clear away from the supposedly cheap, but wholesome menus put out everywhere for weary pilgrims. If anyone wants more tips on how to find good food, send me a message.

Four The albergues resort to aggressive marketing either by putting up hideous billboards in beautiful settings or stapling them against trees at rest areas. For goodness sake, the route passes every albergue already! The owners sometimes drive up and down the route to hand out pamphlets or accost you in the street on foot. I have just started speaking Afrikaans to them.

Five Some of the albergues have bed bugs and really, really small beds squeezed into big halls.

Six The pilgrims apparently don’t care about what they leave on the trail. You will find toilet paper on the WHOLE route, water bottles in places and even discarded hiking shoes.

Now, having gotten that out of my system, I must stress that the Camino is still worthwhile. Nowhere else will you find a walk where you can hike for months on end without having to worry about having food and accommodation handy at roughly every five kilometres. When you do hit the original sections of the Camino (hiking into Molinaseca and up to La Faba), away from the billboards, advertising and commercial aspects, it is something so magical you can’t explain it to someone who has not walked the route themselves.

SPAIN Day 7

I love this shot! If I may say so myself. (I think I just did.) It is part of a series of portraits of old people I am shooting. They seem so fragile to me.

This auntie was not happy to be photographed. She stitched it around the corner as fast as the cows would go. She is probably photographed a lot.

Okay, so perhaps not ALL the Spanish have great taste.

The walk down the mountain, on the age old trail and into this beautiful town of Molaniseca was the highlight of the first week of walking.

I love this shot too! (I can’t help it.) We have seen a lot of older people living in the small, beautiful villages. I wonder if the towns will become ghost towns once this generation passes on?

SPAIN Day 6 continued (at last, I hear you say)

Hola

Pardon the short sentences and spelling errors – I walked 26km’s today, had a beer with my Gallician broth (bean and potato soup) and might pass out over the laptop.

The view from our beautiful ‘casa rural’ at 8am in the morning.

That is the ‘bread van’. You will hear an early morning honk outside most hotels/albergues/etc and that signals the delivery of fresh bread.

Some locals walking.

This is a town. I kid you not. the red and white sign on the right signals the start of the town. The same sign with a red stripe through signals the end of the town. Most of the villages/towns have these signs at the start and the end of the town.

The Spanish countryside is full of these balconies dating from another era. Some are delapidated, others are renovated and still used. It does tranport one to another era.

If I compare the architectural flair of the Spanish countryside to say perhaps Koffiefontein in the Free State, there is obvious room for improvements.

After walking along highways, fences and even some industrial areas this is a sight to behold. This path is clearly part of an ancient route walked by many a pilgrim.