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Dusty Disciples: The Ramfest Experience


The semester has been in full force and as the immersion process is transforming the lives of each CIEE exchange student, Cape Town is starting to feel more and more like a home away from home. Not only have I been cooking 2-3 meals a day for myself but I am beginning to diet and eat like a true South African. I can proudly say that I am more of a carnivore and the braai culture has fully affected my eating habits. I believe that I have eaten over 20 full animals since I have been here.

This weekend, a small group of us decided to venture away from our secure homes in Rondebosch and Mowbray and travel North on the N1 to Nekkies Resort in Worcester for the annual Ramfest festival. Ramfest stands for Real Alternative Music. The international headliners were “Alkaline Trio” (US) and “Funeral for a Friend” (UK). However, the international bands were not the reason that Hans, Trevor, Vir and I ventured 120 km  away from Cape Town (Yes! I now use the metric system). After renting a car and a big 4 person tent as well as enough peanut butter and jelly, hot dogs, baked beans and water to last us the weekend, we headed out in pursuit of a fun-filled weekend.

This is the second time that we rented a car from some random car rental agent. The first time was for the Garden Route in which the agent told us he gave us the car with little to no “petrol” and we could return it that way. We made note in our heads to leave the car running overnight if we wound up having any leftover gas upon our return because it was not very considerate to leave us with nothing. This second time we rented the car from this agency the man said he thinks the car has a half tank of gas...

After driving for about 45 minutes heading north on the N1 everything is going quite well. Traffic starts to slow us down a bit as there is a huge tunnel a couple of kilometres up ahead. As the tunnel approaches, Hans our trusty driver notices that the accelerator is not doing anything and after a couple of pops we come to a dead stop. Low and behold after pushing the vehicle onto the shoulder of the highway we expect that we have run out of gas. The gas meter has not changed and apparently does not even work. After five minutes of hanging out talking to other concert goers and deciding on what to do, a large Volkswagen mini-bus full of a family bursts into a white flame of smoke about 50 yards behind us and we are joined with some similar broken down acquaintances.

After making new some new South African friends, an emergency highway vehicle arrives. He pulls up in front of us and wants to tow us to a safer part of the highway. After latching us onto the tow he immediately begins driving before we can even start the car and get it into neutral - we literally thought he was going to annihilate our transmission and axel or whatever else he was about to pull away from our car. We wave him to stop and finally he helps us start the car because the wheel lock was stuck. We pay the man 100 rand to fetch us some fuel and he follows us safely through the tunnel. Thank god we did not break down in the tunnel!

Finally we make it to Nekkies, Worcester after many turn-arounds and instances where we went to stop and ask for directions and no one spoke a word of English. Low and behold we are in Afrikaans country! Nekkies is a beautiful resort, located right in the mountains alongside of a huge river. Because we arrived late we had to set up our tent in the dark and were in the biggest dust bowl I have ever camped in. Our lungs and entire bodies were coated in dirt and dust within minutes. After setting up and settling we walked over to the concert scene where three stages were setup with the most scenic mountain backdrops behind.

A collective mixture of alternative, rock and electronic music were being played on each stage. We were very interested in hearing the South African music scene. The first night was set off by Gazelle (who have two zulu back vocal women singers and a very African vibe) and Die Antwoord (craziest set I have ever seen). They have an Afrikaans/English hardcore rap style accompanied by an insane high-pitched woman rapping). We then went over to the electronic tent that apparently played until 5 in the morning.

The next day the river was the main scene. Everyone brought inner tubes and floatables, relaxed and listened to music while soaking up the sun in the river. The scene was so cool. Later that night the two international headline bands played but we were not very interested in them. The coolest performance of the second night was on the electronic stage of a couple of guys called “P.H. Fat”.

These guys would kill it in the States and would do very well on college concerts. One of the artists brought out his laptop to “show the crowd something” but as he was fiddling with it while holding the mic he dropped his laptop and the battery broke off of it. He was not a happy camper.  He wound up giving his laptop to a member of the crowd. They got the whole crowd jumping and an entire dust cloud overtook all the available oxygen.

Sunday morning we woke up and got the hell out of there. We were covered from head to foot in dust and dirt. We prayed that the car would make it home and it did! What a great journey!


20055_1270432961230_1242030024_30917106_2249651_n Bradley Elfman is a student from Syracuse University.


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