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Cape Town trance parties


by Tamlin Wightman / 03.09.2010

I’m in the boot. A blanket covers the guy beside me and our bags. My friend’s driving. In this dark alcove my heart pounds and it feels like eternity. We pull up to the ticket station. I hear a man’s voice. I hear my friend’s voice. “One ticket please.” She puts on a good show of innocent nonchalance with her pretty peaches-and-cream face and bleach-blonde dreadlocks. He hands her a ticket and in an Afrikaans accent says, “That’ll be 250 bucks, thanks.” He adds: “You know, your tail light is broken.” His voice is louder, he’s closer.

This is it, I think, he’s going to catch us. The paranoid shouldn’t commit crime. But my friend says, “Oh yeah, I know, thanks,” and drives on before the gatekeeper can pop the boot.

She finds a shady spot by a line of trees, parks and whispers: “Come out, come out, wherever you are…” We roll out, wound up and ready to let go. We pitch tent in the setting sunlight. The poles break and we give up, decide we’ll find someone else’s tent to sleep in or crash in the car. Should we sleep at all.
This weekend’s trance party is on some farm in Franschhoek. Dried cow pats scatter the ground around groves of apple trees and vineyards.

As we head for the dance floor, the source of the beaming neon light and guttural beats, we witness the great village of party goers, hippies, rastas, dope mongers and junkies, from newbie experimental student types to hardcore aging enthusiasts who’ve been riding this wave since the 70s. And us: three long-haired kids looking to tune out to some kicking beats in nature.

Hay scatters the dance floor, its in people’s hair, down their pants and shirts. Multi-coloured cloths flap high above us in the light wind, like psychedelic swells in the ocean. Fluorescent lights search the crowd, with their fairy wings, bindis and bare feet, and illuminate the DJ box. Fire dancers and poi spinners do their thing on the outskirts, while men and women dressed as zebras on stilts wade through the throng. Music connects it all. Drugs help too.

Cape Town trance party

Booze seems contraband in this circle, along with hard chemicals. But cannabis, hash, mescaline, shrooms, sceletium… they’re everywhere – in people’s pockets, systems, cars; at the stands, which sell everything from veggie shwarmas, chai tea and chickpea fudge to bottles of magic mushrooms and honey, balloons of laughing gas and space cakes. Drugs – they’re in the air, in conversations, in smiles and glazed eyes. And no one’s trying to hide it.

I’m riding the whiskey train, feeling stealthy as I skulk through the crowd. It’s night time now. I am a stranger to this tribe, I realise. Only drugs grant me access. A pale skinny thing in hoodie and jeans offers me MDMA. I say no, he looks shocked. I ask if he has Jameson? He turns his back on me.

Then I see a guy with a glass eye and ask him about it. “I injected LSD into it back in my twenties and it got infected,” the man, who’s forty now, says. “I wanted to see if it’d work faster – the acid, not the eye.”
There’s something exciting about being on the outside, a voyeur. I’m protected from the madness. Later, on a hill, overlooking the floor, I calculate I’ve been dancing for almost 12 hours. No drugs. No food. No water. No more whiskey even. Just the energy of this music. I’m entranced. Trance music. A frolic in the cold river water in the morning with my friends freshens me up for more.

The sun rises high, the morning heats up and people strip down. Discarded clothing lies like dead bodies around the dance floor as people bounce and stomp in bikinis, shorts, skirts… Some in the sun, some in the shade of trees and some in the mud under the sprinklers.

I fill up on Jameson at the bar. It’s tough to be lucid here. I’m not a good enough actress. I spot a guy dancing with a wooden stick he beats the earth with. David Standing Deer is Native American. I try to steal his stick – hey better than his whole continent! Whiskey courage. Turns out he’s a shamanic teacher, a space clearer and runs drumming workshops and ceremonial facilitation – whatever that means. Strangely – he’s also a hairdresser and a divorcee. We share life philosophies under the big blue sky. When he wants to cuddle, I sneak away.

My hair has doubled in size, my face and feet are caked in mud. I’ve cut my toe and it’s bleeding. But the music overrides all that – so raw and primal I want to scratch its eyes out. It’s an odd feeling. Bushmen trance danced around fires. It let shamans enter the spirit realm. They used hyperventilation and herbs to reach that state, to meet their ancestors. And that’s what’s happening here. Hallucination and euphoria. Then its over.

We leave feeling at one with the universe. We really do. Another mind door blown open. But the diehards seem too far gone to have taken anything unique from it. It’s just another mindfuck. Drugs, sex and trance. Better than the smug health nuts who spend the weekend downing wheat grass and doing downward facing dog to the rising sun or the new age Chomsky’s watching movies in the peace tent about how cars are ruining our earth!

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  1. Schmatthew Schmeriksen says:

    Calling those artifice-loving boneheads “new-age Chomskys” is an insult to the man.

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  2. lol says:

    bet you’ve never read Chomsky..

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  3. Schmatthew Schmeriksen says:

    How much?

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  4. lol says:

    haha, sorry, didn’t mean you….meant Tamlin. but if i had to bet with you, not much…

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  5. Anonymous says:

    who’s the babe in the final photo?

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  6. Trance fiend says:

    Tamlin your stories Entrance me!more mahala more!

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  7. Renee de Villiers says:

    Tam Lion herself is the hottie in the last pic

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  8. steve albini says:

    what’s orange and looks good on hippies?


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  9. Giorgi Martinez says:

    What’s round and hates hippies?

    The world.

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  10. Bunny Gatsby says:

    It’s all peace, mandalas and yoghurt sandals until someone tears their cortex.

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  11. molly says:

    b-o-r-i-n-g ….
    how is this article any different to the grazillion other wide-eyed first-timer accounts of trance parties written since the early 90’s?
    not the standard I’ve come to expect from Mahala – sorry guys …

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  12. Andy says:

    it’s better written than most

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  13. Anonymous says:

    that last sentence reveals your naivety….smug, new age? get a little life experience before you comment like that girl

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  14. bahumbugga says:

    who’s this goddam Andy, anyway? ever ready with a kind word for the scribblers, he exudes a troubling proprietary quality. Is he the BAAS? If so, fuck off & do some real work, u micromanaging maggot. Leave the comment to the rest of us bitter & twisted morons. Molly takes the garland, & wins a weekend in Humansdorp.

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  15. Anonymous says:

    Tsk tsk…how the youth experience something for the first time and think how they have arrived…I am of the belief they don’t understand the experience at all. They come to get trashed and the stories related on the Monday after “said” weekend pertain to how fucked they were. Yes, you young lady may have been more present than most but do this for many years for the love of dance, the outdoors and connecting with other concious beings not there for fuckness and then we will talk!

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  16. KD says:

    You sneaked into a stomp and drank alcohol – blasphemous! And then you somehow think you know anything about the culture? Let me tell you, I only found this article because I bought a second-hand book with your name in it and out of curiousity did a search on you. You’re beautiful, and a great writer, but you’re also a frickin’ philistine! You underlined and wrote notes in margins of an excellent book – in ballpoint pen!

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  17. Misty says:

    1. If you don’t like hippies – don’t go where they go. Believe me they careless what you or the rest of the world think of them.
    2. Trance – outdoor parties have and will always be for the “1 with the earth ppl” – again you don’t like it don’t go
    3. If you have an issue with what recreational drugs that go round – don’t go
    4. If u wanna drink Jameson’s – rather go to a juppie club, where u probably belong.

    1-3 (and 4 I suppose) go for all u narrow minded kiddies out there!

    Peace ^&^

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