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“More traffic?” There’s a collective groan. We’re edging out of Sir Lowry’s pass and yet another snaking queue of cars has manifested before us. We’re three hours into a 160km journey and are now laughingly considering pitching a tent on the side of the road with a collection of fellow Platbos-bound festival-goers and wait for the long-weekend traffic to abate.
Greenpop has hosted the Platbos Reforest Festival for eight years running and this particular time around is a special occasion. Owner Francois Krige, and the farm at large, recently celebrated both the complete removal of alien invasives, as well as reaching 50 000 trees planted on the land in the effort to reforest the area. Nestled in the picturesque hills between Gaansbaai and Hermanus, Greenpop’s unique festival drew over 600 people to Platbos this year for the Friend’s Weekend. Three days of soil, soul and sun.
In spite of the heavy traffic we arrive before dark on Friday evening. The little venue is already bustling as we haul our gear up a sandy entrance way. A little tree-fringed stage is breathing quiet tunes and a train of fairy lights lead the way into a pictorial forest clearing where a selection of activities are set up for the following two days – from pop-up theatre, TEDx talks, to screen printing and intermittent jam sessions.
The festival is waste free and we’ve been informed via an extensive pre-festival info pack that we are to bring our own eating utensils – a fact which conveniently slipped my mind despite my extensive preparations. I opt to make do with a friend’s. In addition the toilets are compost loos and the evening’s lighting is almost entirely solar-powered.
We’re roused at 6am on Saturday morning by our effervescently enthusiastic neighbours and venture down to the food court in time for a coffee before we’re ushered to the BOS stage for a Wake Up Shake Up – and trust me when I say that not even a heady dose of caffeine will get you as keyed up for a day of tree planting as this. The guided dance session ensues with growing enthusiasm and vigour. By the time the music cuts we are more than ready to take gather up our planting equipment and head for the hill.
It is quite something to watch stretch of bare land manifest into a series of calf-high sapling groves in the space of four hours. Over the course of the morning our particular group succeeds in planting nearly 1000 trees – bolstered by a parade of snack-bearers and a playlist effused by a surprisingly proficient pink speaker hanging from a nearby tree. By the time we break for lunch we’re gleefully smeared with earth. But when lunch hour concludes the morning’s exertion has caught up with us and it takes a firm nudge – and another Shake Up – to urge us back up the hill, our ranks slightly thinned. Nevertheless an hour later finds us perched on a hilltop for a triumphant group photo. We’ve collectively planted 5500 trees – and we descend, footsore but victorious in our conquest for the evening’s festivities. Two of our exuberant neighbours have gotten engaged beneath the Milkwood Tree and are armed with a deluge of champagne. There will be no rest for the wicked tonight.
Stone Jets open the live stage for the evening. Headed up by the dynamic Given Nkanyane’s arresting vocals and charismatic energy, theirs is a three-piece with a whole lot of life and a heavy dose of talent. It takes little time for the soil-weary festival-goers to draw themselves from their perches and make their way to the dance floor. They conclude and, in early honour of Earth Hour, the lights are snuffed and we’re treated to an entrancing performance by the Psycadelic Theatre.
Trenton and Free Radical follow with a rip-roaringly exuberant set. Spearheaded by Trenton Birch’s infectiously gangster-esque energy they power through a collection of old and new tracks. They’re vibrant, they are energy defined, and they’re simply oozing distinctly South Africa verve. I half wonder if Touchwood’s imminent set can top this.
Having played at Greenpop’s events since their inception, Touchwood finds their groove with gradual charm. Laced in both classical and African stylings, thanks to the Johnson twins’ adept strings and marimba work, the band unrolls a series of originals and eloquent covers, keeping the crowd happily on their feet. Greenpop co-founder Misha Teasdale concludes the evening with a clumsy but highly entertaining DJ set. By 2:30am I, among the final stragglers, make my way to the fireside for a hushed jam session before heading to bed.
Sunday dawns wearily and I spend my last hours meandering the mossy forest and giggling through a session of laughter yoga before the looming evening and promise of Monday blues draws us back to the city. Greenpop has created a uniquely cognisant festival, eco-consciously driven with more than enough spirit and polished professionalism to easily make it a calendar festival highlight. Platbos, we’ll see you in a bit.
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