starts, I guess, around 11ish on Saturday night. I look up from web-surfing, and realise that I could start packing now. I change clothes and throw a few things in a bag, put some cold juice in a cooler box
, and am on the road before midnight. Five minutes later I realise that I have left something behind so I turn back. I am on the road again just after midnight, driving out of town to the Alien Safari
I find the party easily enough; find a good place to park with only a few false turns. It’s a clearing in the brush, full of oddly dressed people, some with deadlocks, some with short hair, some with new clean clothes, some crusty. The clearing is surrounded by fluorescent totem poles and paintings, and filled with the 4-4 chaos of the music. It is loud. The familiar smell of dust, incense and marijuana. There are quite a few stalls, most selling vegetarian food or tie-died clothes. There is, in fact, an actual VW bus with a peace sign sticker on the window at one of them.
I don't see too mnay people obviously on drugs (dope doesn't count), but there are a few writhing in Ecstacy or staring into the space of thier trip.
It’s all so familiar to me. I describe it to you, but to me it's a normal party, basically.
Despite my fears of an expensive party in a dustbowl with poor DJs, none of that came to pass.
I dance a bit, and take a look around. On one side, layers of images are projected onto the billowing fabric. The projection equipment is mounted on top of a VW bus, and the projectionist is standing with his head poking through the sunroof, bearded and smoking a cigarette. I can see how a lot of his techniques work: slides and those liquid hippie-toys. But I can’t work out how some of the images are done – looks most like 3-second animations, looped and spliced. Then I see a second person sitting in the passenger seat of the bus. He has a laptop computer. I chat with him. The machine is a mac, running flash animations of pictures that he draw and scanned, on split screen, and has a control-program on the LCD that schedules the graphics. Cool. In my day, of course, I did it the hard way and coded the animations from scratch on the DirectX API.
I remember for a bit the part that I don’t like about these parties. To much sitting around, cold bored and alone, whilst noise and people mill around. But then all life’s like that. I try to hold onto the good memories of this scene, and not I remind myself to hold onto this too – the dreariness that accompanies it.
I try to find the car again, and have to retrace my steps to the dance floor before I get it right. This place is a trackless maze – clumps of trees, paths, or what looks like paths, everywhere, soft sand and dead branches on the dry earth.
Over the ridge where that cars are, I can see to the south the twinkling lights of Cape Town, home to four million people, under the vast calm mesa of Table Mountain. Very few of them are even aware of the existence of this scene.
It gets a little colder, I am in a vest and long sleeve cotton top. I go and find the chai stall. The people being it are English, I can hear it. They speak in a dialect of English that drops off the end of most words. He asks me if my chai is “Aw roi” by which I think he means is it “all right”. On of the men, oriental, has in addition to the numerous tatoos that are common, rings in his ears - not through the earlobe, but within it. The rings are at least a two centimeters in diameter. That takes time and stretching.
Once the chai is cool enough to be drinkable, it is good. We talk a bit. The woman has a plain but open and honest face. I ask her why an English person would want to earn Rands (The SA currency is nearly valueless compared to the English). To travel she replies. She said she started travelling four years ago, by driving overland from London to Delhi. Each place they work enough to move on. It sounds like a great life, but I couldn’t do it. The man says they have come down from the Solipse party – that was six months ago, in Zambia. Chai and dancing keeps me warm enough.
There are a lot of tourists here – not just the usual holidaymakers from Joburg. I hear German and other languages. This is good. Cape Town people can be insular and pretentious.
There are so many reasons why outdoor parties are better than clubs. The sound is so much clearer. The air is always fresh, despite the best attempts of smokers of cigarettes and chillums. There is space to wave your arms around when you dance. If you want to leave the dancefloor, just walk off in almost any direction. And if you are male, the world is your urinal. Just duck behind a bush.
Dawn started earlier than I expected, but then this is within a day or two off midsummer. The lightening of the sky in the east gradually eats all the stars, and the rosy fingers reach out. There are few places I’d rather be on a Sunday morning than here, watching gloom resolve into forms, forms slowly acquire shades, shades get colour, all people dancing to this noise.
I didn't see half the people that I expected to meet here, but I did see Roger, Evan and Vana in the morning.
I leave around 8:30 am. Some friends are coming through at 10:30, but I want to sleep.