There is a music festival in South Africa called Oppikoppi. It’s of the same quality (can you use the word quality to describe a music festival?) as the Reading festival in England. I have attended both, and both experiences have been a murky blur. I thoroughly enjoyed it though. My festival virginity was claimed by Oppikoppi. You always remember your first. Apparently.
PHASE 1: DECISION MAKING AND TRAIN CATCHING: It was the day before the festival when my friend, Sam, and I came up with the brilliant plan to attend. Take into consideration that MOST people plan their trip weeks if not months in advance. Its 4 days of slumming it and you would usually take provisions with, like camping gear. Nope, not us. We stuffed a few items into our backpacks and raced down to the train station for the train that was leaving in less than an hour. Being a small town, we made it in time to the station, got our tickets and plonked our very excited butts in our seats. Oppikoppi, watch out!! PHASE 1: SUCCESSFULLY COMPLETED.
PHASE 2: LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION: Where EXACTLY was Oppikoppi…………………………………………..? That’s right folks. We had no idea in which direction to go once we got to Johannesburg. I HEARD that it was in Potchefstroom, but on chatting to some people on the train, it was confirmed that it was NOT where I thought it was. This was the 90’s. No laptops or smartphones to whip out and Google. We were screwed. Luckily the people we spoke to gave us a sort of bearing to follow, so we were going on that. On arrival at Johannesburg station, which is not precisely the safest place to look like lost tourists, we woman up and make our way to the mini-bus taxi rank (dodgy!!) to get a mini-bus taxi to the next town, where supposedly it was just a short walk to the festival. It’s early afternoon by the time we arrive at our (supposed) Nirvana. With new fervor, we start asking around as to where the festival was taking place. We weren’t expecting the answer we got. “No Oppikoppi here”! So once again we get pointed on a new course.
This new route leads us to a highway of sorts OUT of town!! This is starting to look like the beginning of one of those “Wrong Turn” movies. Fortunately I am writing this and not hanging from a butchers hook in someone’s garage. Sam and I start walking. We plan to hitchhike, but if we don’t get a ride we can just walk. It can’t be that far right? I suppose being two chicks we were lucky in getting a ride fairly quickly. Our knight in shining armour turned out to be a cop who was on his way to the festival. Now what happens at the entrance of Oppikoppi is that people get searched for drugs (!!!!!) before entering the grounds. But because we were “with” the cop, we got to by-pass all the formalities. It would have been perfect if we WERE pushers. We weren’t. So now Oppikoppi is within sniffing distance. PHASE 2: SUCCESSFULLY COMPLETED.
PHASE 3: SURVIVING: WE MADE IT!! We are on haloed ground. Alive. Everyone around us are setting up camp, preparing for the long haul. We have no tent, no sleeping bags…nothing. We are just going to wing it. Who needs sleep or food at a festival anyway? Little did we know how ARCTIC it gets out in the bush at night. Profuse amounts of alchohol couldn’t numb the crippling cold. Our first night we caught a bit of sleep huddled up under a tree with a potato sack that we found. Rock and Roll. At first light and some weak sun shining through, some people were starting fires and we sidled over to defrost. We got offered beer at 5am in the morning. We made our first friends. Our 3-some under a tree with the potato sack was quickly forgotten. It’s great to be young.
By 10 am we were high on acid. Breakfast of kings. The day was made up of psychedelic awesomeness. Except for the bit of paranoia I experienced where I thought everyone was talking about me! But fortunately for my togetherness, I knew it was just the LSD, so I found it rather droll. Another thing about A is that it takes forever to wear off. I was exhausted and longed for my potato sack, but sleep evaded me. At this stage I had not seen one band play. The night is an uncertainty. The next day is pretty much the same. EXCEPT that I do get to see ONE band. Wonderful. The day of departure arrives. The site is a mess and the sight of us is even worse! Elated but a hot mess. Now to try and get back home. Let’s do exactly what we did to get there, just in reverse. Easy……. PHASE 3: SUCCESSFULLY COMPLETED.
PHASE 4: GETTING HOME: One would think that this is where our journey ends. In fact, NO. It’s not over yet. Packing up our few meager belonging, unused condoms. Yes, neither of us got laid. By choice I have to add. Not showering for a couple of days kinda kills the libido a bit. I digress…. Counting our coins, we discover that we do not have enough money for train tickets to get us back home. Shit. No bank cards, ID, nothing. Our beer soaked brains have to quickly come up with a solution. The plan was to get to Bloemfontein. Why there? Well for a few reasons. If we can get there, then its halfway home from where we currently are, and also the train tickets will be cheaper from there than from Johnanesburg. I also knew someone in Bloemfontein. I could then borrow some money and get us home. But first we need to get to there. It’s far, but home is even farther. We start our trek. First stop is to find a café and get some sort of hiking board that we can write “BLOEMFONTEIN” on. Once again, being chicks and Sam having extraordinarily large boobs, we manage to get a lift fairly quickly. Yay. Off we go. We arrive quite late in Bloemfontein; our lift-givers were rather nice people and offered us a place to stay for the night. Now I know what you are thinking. The start of another movie. But no, remember, this was the 90’s. People did that then. A bath and some decent sleep. Bliss.
The next morning, with new found pep, armed with a plan, we head off to go and find my friend the savior. We found him, but guess what, I was too proud to ask him for money. I just couldn’t do it. Lame right? I spinned some story that we were just passing through and I popped in to say hi. We left no richer and deflated. What now? I couldn’t ask for money off someone I knew, so the other plan was to ask strangers instead. Brilliant plan. Armed with Sam’s boobs and my smart mouth, we decided to approach men and not women for some quick cash. It wasn’t easy though. We walked around for about an hour mustering up the courage to approach our first dupe. But once we got going we were unstoppable. We couldn’t believe how easy it was. I can see why people make a career out of begging. Easily we reached our target (and some extra for essentials. Beer) and booked our tickets back home. We boarded the train that night and arrived back in Port Elizabeth the following morning. It felt like we travelled around the world. Well certainly from one point of South Africa to the other. PHASE 4: SUCCESSFULLY COMPLETED.
A special mention must be made to the deep pockets Bloemfontein men. Our 5am fire and beer providers. The cop hitchhiker pickerupper. The one unknown band that I saw at Oppikoppi, Sam’s chest and especially to scratchy potato sack.