This year it was my first time going to Oppikoppi. It has been on my bucket list for a while so when I received a media-pass for the Odyssey I was beyond stoked.
So there we were three girls in a car, packed with supplies; water, food, wet-wipes, bedding and alcohol. Nervously excited we headed on the voyage to Northam. Being an Oppikoppi-virgin I wasn’t sure what to expect. I heard about how intense the dust, the dirt and the heat is and I also heard about the no-showering-clean-yourself-with-wet-wipes situation. A lot of people freak out just thinking about it and my friends thought that I would not be able to survive it, but I was kind off excited to experience being that dirty. I didn’t know if I will regret that thought later on…
I was really upset when I learned that because I am media, I would not have the privilege to receive one of the red official Oppikoppi wristbands but rather a flimsy yellow paper band. I was looking so forward to being able to keep it as proof of my first Oppikoppi, but oh well. Shortly upon arrival, while driving through the thousands of tents and campsites, I realised that I was not at all prepared for what Mordor had in store… But from the first moment my soon to be ruined old white sneakers touched the dirt I knew I would never forget that weekend.
We went exploring and I quickly learned a few very important lessons:
You will lose your friends at one point or another.
You will forget something like a bottle opener and then you will steal a knife from a nearby campsite to open your drink…
You will realise that wearing contact lenses is not such a good idea but you will do it anyway.
You will learn that everyone looks hot with sunglasses on but realise they are not the moment they take them off.
You will meet a lot of new people that you probably won’t remember or ever seen again.
You will realise that this is one of the best weekends you will ever have…
Day 1 – continues…
With a stunning sunset greeting us, we said goodnight to our first day at Oppikoppi and we were soon confronted with the fact that if you don’t have a flashlight of some sort you are going to have a bad time.
After a quick powernap in the car, we put on our warm jackets and headed out to wait for Bittereinder’s show at the Wesley Dome. We were really excited because we were told that they are going to launch some of their new songs from the album they are working on.
We were however not prepared for the large amount of bittereinders awaiting the performance. We were also not prepared for how immensely tired we were after just one day at Oppikoppi. Being the short and overeager person that I am, I pushed my way through the crowd to be able to say I was right in front while witnessing the show. Although it was my fourth Bittereinder show this year, the performance was beyond amazing. The crowd was on fire, jumping up and down, screaming and singing along.
Being really tired after the long day on the road we headed back to our campsite. We were going to embrace Oppikoppi properly and we decided to do the ‘no showering’ thing. After only one day we were pretty dusty and you do not simply just wipe dust off. We learned that it keeps coming back…
We also realised that you are able to hear everything that is going on around you and that people are really noisy – but you are well aware of the fact that you aren’t at Oppikoppi to sleep.
So after we searched for our tent in the dark the previous night, we were woken early in the morning by our neighbours asking if we wanted coffee and bacon. This being the Odyssey and all, I thought we might just be living next to the goddess of breakfast, but it only turned out that we, as students, were just not as prepared for this adventure as those campers were.
Soon we made new friends and shared breakfast after a very cold and uncomfortable night’s sleep. If you are going to sleep in a tent it is not wise at all to leave the mattresses behind because you thought it ‘won’t be that bad’. We gathered supplies and packed our backpacks with everything we might need.
All set and ready to go we left Mordor and headed to the festival. We went from one stage to another, meeting new people, listening to music, seeing fellow students and friends you haven’t seen in ages and just overall having a good time.
While my fellow dustbowl puritans quickly napped on the grass to regain some strength I headed to the media area to interview Gangs Of Ballet. They were really excited to perform at Oppikoppi again this year and to be a part of the history that is this festival.
Later we were joined by thousands of excited people waiting to see Matthew Mole perform, but we never anticipated the large crowd that would gather, and neither did he. He stopped in the middle of the show to ask the crowd if he could take a photo. I lost my friends again somewhere but the great thing about walking around alone is that people come up to you and start chatting and sooner or later you are partying with a whole new group of people.
We planned to do some stage-hopping because the line-up for the night was jam packed with incredibly talented bands and musicians. We watched Gangs of Ballet, Zebra and Giraffe, Taxi Violence, Van Coke Kartel, Springbok Nude Girls and ultimately ended the night with PHFat.
The line-up kept building the vibe, with all the performances being equally insane. The crowd was having the time of their lives and some people shouted that they never want to leave…
As we tried to find our way back to our camp site, while trying not to choke on the dust and the smoke, with our feet killing us, we knew we were almost near the end, but we tried not to think about it, because tomorrow is another day and another tune. In dust we trust.
It’s hard to explain the feeling of waking up in Mordor, because only if you experienced it, you would understand. When you wake up it feels like you didn’t sleep at all and the amount of dust clinging to your body has multiplied.
We almost froze to death that night, but were too tired and drunk to do something about it. Somewhere in the early morning a guy was lost and he was stumbling through our camp-site swearing and calling out to “Michael” and it felt like he was never going to leave.
Our amazing neighbours were trying to fix our hangovers with coffee and scrambled eggs when a bunch of guys with bagpipes started playing at the campsite next to us. Now as impressed as I am with someone who knows how to play bagpipes properly, that is not a sound you want to hear before 9am. They marched through Mordor playing the bagpipes while wearing kilts and it turned out to be really cool.
While the previous day was really hot, the skies on our last day were cloudy and depressing so we decided to wait it out in the tents, knowing that it’s going to be a loooooong night. Soon the skies cleared and I headed back to the media area to interview Valiant Swart and Nomadic Orchestra. They were all stoked to be there and to be able to perform on the last night.
While I interviewed them I uhm ‘unfortunately’ missed the Naked Mile… The crowd of naked people running through Mordor apparently ran right past where we were staying and when I saw my friends again they were scarred for life because some things you just can’t un-see…
The amount of people gathered together to celebrate the incredible music in South Africa as well as the international artists that came all the way for this legendary festival amazed me.
We started our musical night with some chilled vibes with Michael Lowman and moved over to experience a colab between Albert Frost and Dan Patlansky. I have always thought that there will be a special place reserved in heaven for Dan because he never fails to amaze you with his guitar playing skills. We were going from one stage to another, the crowds were growing larger and larger, the people were getting drunker and drunker and the dust was starting to clog our lungs, but nothing was going to stop the dustbowl puritans on their last night.
We went back and forth, jumping between national as well as international acts; Cat Powers, Shortstraw, The Nomadic Orchestra, The Editors, Aloe Black, aKing, Spoek Mtambo, all building up to one of the biggest shows of the weekend: Wolfmother. The tension in the air was electric and I haven’t experienced anything quite like it. I couldn’t even try to describe it in a way that you would ever understand. You simply had to be there.
The night however didn’t stop there. Without sleeping we eventually started packing and before the sun was able to surprise us, we were already heading home. Just as well because we heard after 6 am the traffic out of Mordor was a horrible experience.
Post-Oppikoppi Depression is a real struggle…
So here I was, back in reality, sitting on the cold floor of my room because I was too dirty to sit on my bed or to touch anything. I couldn’t seem to gather the strength to go shower, knowing it would take forever to wash away the weekend. My feet were killing me and the dust was clinging to my ankles and my hair and hiding underneath my nails. I was going to have to throw away my shoes and I lost a lot of stuff along the way… There is no way that I can miss next year’s Oppikoppi and I will have to start saving immediately to join the prawnvoyage back to Northam, because just simply just can’t go there once. It was in-tents-e….
Like I have said before, it is really hard to explain what you have experienced, and everyone experiences it in a different way or on a different level. Each year is a different festival as well… All I can say is that you have to find out for yourself and I would recommend that you do so next year.
While still coughing up dust I greet you. Thank you Oppikoppi 2014, you have changed my life and gave me memories that will last me a lifetime. Till next year!