So you’re in a wheelchair and you love good ol’ folkin’ rock and blues tunes. You want to check out a blues festival but you don’t know if it will be accessible or not. Hey, why not try STRAB music festival in Ponta Malongane in Mozambique? But before you start packing just hear this cripple out first.
My disability is different from most wheelchair bound paraplegics or quadriplegics. I’m not unique but like many other cripples I have very specific requirements. Oh, you’re offended because I use the word ‘cripple’ are you? Good. I don’t like all these politically correct words carefully crafted for us. ‘Disabled’ is a useful word I guess. ‘Handicapped’ is more honest, but I detest ‘differently abled’. Soft words and euphemisms will not change the fact that we’re cripple, man. It may make some people feel better. But me? I prefer ‘cripple’ thank you. LOL!!Hope you have a wicked sense of humor otherwise stop reading now.
Anyways…lost my chain of thought…uh requirements..yes ..camping, for instance, is not an option for me. I’m stealing this from Andrew Dice Clay (Ford Fairlane) but only because it’s the best description of what camping would be like for me. It would be like masturbating with a cheese grater. Slightly amusing for everyone else but mostly painful for me. Graphic, I know. Many concertgoers at STRAB camp as near as possible to the stage area and like most camping sites there’s no accessible toilets or showers. Contrary to popular belief I don’t have strong arms and upper body strength either – so that makes things slightly more difficult. Once I’m on the floor then I’m there permanently china. This mafuta is like a magnet….dead weight….but even if you’re cripple and buff you’re still going to have to take your chances with the normal toilets and showers. So my guess is renting a chalet or house somewhere in Ponta Malongane would probably be a better option. Or would it? Just be very careful when you browse around……
Limb-Girdle Muscular Dystrophy is a son of a bitch. This shit forced me to “retire” at age thirty-eight because I couldn’t hack it in the really real day job world anymore. Long hours and severe stress caused my body to basically crash and burn. ‘Burn out’ with LGMD was not fun at all. My LMGD has degenerated over twenty years to a stage where I have to take things extremely easy and not push myself constantly the way I used to. I don’t have to tell most of you that modern life is a killer anyway – so add a disease like LGMD and you have a recipe for disaster.
But before you start feeling sorry for me, looking to send donations or prepare my eulogy…….I still have the will and energy left to do a few crazy things with some pretty awesome friends – hopefully for years to come. I had the best kind of disability insurance and I don’t have to sit and wonder all day where my next meal may be coming from. Most disabled people are not so lucky. Just think about what would happen if you lost the ability to work. I knew it was coming though. It may sound strange to able bodied people but I now have a way better quality of life. My pace may be slower and my mobility extremely limited but I’m able to enjoy the things that I never had the energy or time for when I was in the corporate prison. I can spend more time with family, friends and explore my passion for music, get involved with disability charities, travel (with assistance) and try to improve my writing ability. I created the Rollingrock Prophecies blog to keep me busy and it’s been really fun so far. The name is tongue in cheek by the way. My only religion is music but I doubt whether my “prophecies” would start any kind of spiritual “anything” other than to make people think a bit and to have serious fun with music of course.
I knew from the start that finding disabled friendly accommodation in Ponta Malongane was going to be difficult. After months of negotation with the estate agents we found a place for rent that not only fit all my requirements inside the house but all my friends’ requirements. Seven people in the house all in all. My disability blabber can get boring so “bare” with me. For starters I need a bathroom with enough space so I can put a commode over the toilet. When I transfer from my wheelchair to anything resembling a toilet I have to move over horizontally and levelly – if they’re not both on the same height then it’s the ‘I got stuck on the crapper blues’ for me. I can get on it if the toilet is lower and take a golden crap, but then what??? No can stand up, that’s what! There was no chance of an adapted shower so I took my portable electric bath chair along. Yup you guessed it…the wheelchair and the bath must also be the same height or it’s no bath – stinky cripple time. The bath chair also helps me to transfer levelly. And the same goes for the bed of course – or I’ll be writing the next bestseller ‘Rusty Bed Springs’ under my new alias “I.P. Knightley”. I know, I know….crickets in the middle of the night. I’m new at this…give me a break! But even when all of this is perfectly worked out I still struggle a fair amount. For example, it can take up to two hours for me to get ready in the mornings… I think you’re starting to get the fucking picture.
Because Ponta Malongane has mostly sand roads we drove down with a 4×4. But it’s way too high for a cripple like me so I asked one of my super cripple friends – more like Mcgyver in a wheelchair – to help me build a box to get some height when transferring into the 4×4. To get onto the box we used my old telescopic ramps that I bought a few years ago to get into an old girlfriend’s inaccessible house. I also rented a beach wheelchair in Pretoria for in case I get stuck in the sand but it turned out to be impractical for the shows. Veni Vidi Vici! But you’re probably wondering how we got all that shit there? As you do in South Africa – we got the help of Mr Venter for the extra space. A trailer may be a lot of schlep but it saved my friends some serious lifting. Without the box and the trailer the entire trip would be a huge cock up. I had more luggage than every one else combined. Being cripple is an expensive hobby let me tell you!
Ahhh but the access to the house was really special…Hahahaha..we knew that the house had stairs but when we got there the entrance to the house had seventeen MAKHULU stairs and not seven stairs as the estate agent told us. Stairway to heaven! Three of my friends had to carry me up and down the stairs. Come rain or shine, drunk or sober, we had to get in there, man……and I have a bad case of vertigo. I’m not religious but I prayed to all the gods collectively many times. Maybe one of them listened because no one got hurt. Thank (that one) god. Look, let me make this clear, you’re going to have to be more than a super cripple to do this kind of thing on your own – even if you don’t make the ‘stairway to heaven’ mistake. Ponta Malongane is a nightmare in terms of accessibility. Sand everywhere, no tar roads, no sidewalks, not even level dirt roads. So the two most important necessities to take on a trip of this nature is a die hard attitude and some awesome friends with the very same mindset. Without that you’ll be pretty fucked. Guaranteed. But you know you can’t be angry or upset at such a beautiful place for not accommodating YOU just because you happen to be cripple – so you have no choice but to ADAPT to the landscape and be ZEN my friends! The irony is that two of my friends found disabled friendly accommodation while cruising around there – so it exists!Imagine that!
So the house was sorted and after a few trials and tribulations everyone was as oiled as a Formula 1 pit crew to get me in and out the 4×4. F1 Pit Crews should try Rn’R’s and Moz beer when changing tyres and checking the cars. It works miracles! If you don’t know what an Rn’R is then you have to visit Ponta Malongane to find out. Or just google it. Actually it’s a miracle we are all still alive…hahahaha! Thank (that one) god.
A major concern for me was an upset stomach during any of the shows. The main stage area is on sand and the toilets are quite a distance away or just not accessible for me – one of my friends had to pull me backwards on the sand and it may be fun for me but probably not so much for him. The ‘magical deck’ unfortunately has no toilet – it’s somewhere downstairs I heard. I just took a leak on the sand when I came down after the entire set – what the fuck. I think I was carried down….no other way down…But neither the sand nor the toilets are cripple proof. I tried to watch what I eat and drink the first two nights at least. My body needed to adapt to the new environment and the eating and drinking habits of a holiday – never mind a music festival. On Thursday (and night) I was suffering from a terrible hangover caused by Rn’R sampling in Pretoria the night before we travelled to Moz. Genius move! Yup, I know it could have gone wrong for me but it didn’t. So there! Part of the adventure I guess.
Everyone asks me if STRAB 2015 was worth all the hassle. Being way out of my comfort zone like that? For me the answer is easy. Fuck yeaaaahhh! Just being able to get away with great friends and really chilling out in that small little town by the sea – listening to great blues music all the time…in the car…at the house…..and live on stage….I’l do it again in a heartbeat. But more than that, Ponta Malongane is like something out of a movie. Small little shack bars where locals chill with the smell of pregos, peri-peri chicken and prawns in the air. Golden sunsets, chilled out tourists and beautiful women – a true party vibe everywhere.
I’ve written a review about the superb artists I saw live at STRAB 2015 for http://www.watkykjy.co.za in Afrikaans. Lets hope they publish it next week! But for my English readers I’ll give a quick summary and lots of cool pics! There were many highlights but I think for starters – Saturday afternoon on the ‘magical deck’ was really special. My body was recovering from a hangover, the trip from Pretoria to Moz and the shock of all the transferring and I felt like a gazillion spacebucks. By then my friends were used to carrying me up and down stairs as well…LOL! Maybe they just hid the pain well. But once I got on the ‘magical deck’ everything fell into place. My first reaction was ‘this spot is magic’ and I’m not fucking leaving ever – even if the toilets were downstairs……somewhere.Marcia Moon, Jaco Mans, Basson Laubsher and the Black Cat Bones blew me away that afternoon. Man did I get a shot of the good stuff! Just that afternoon would have been worth all the trouble right there! But Saturday night was even more off the charts. Luna Paige, Crimson House with Basson Laubsher, Guy Collins, Jack Hammer, die Blues Broers, Gerald Clarke and Albert Frost. Jeeeeeezy, all these artists are phenomenal. There were many others that I missed but I’ll catch them later for sure. Hopefully I’ll see more of my cripple brothers and sisters there next time!
I have to give a big thanks to all of my friends who made it happen and those who helped me along the way. You know who you are! Crazy people! I’ve known most of them for decades, some longer than others, and they probably had no idea what was actually required to make the whole thing work. Thanks for all the love and understanding! And to the STRAB team and each and every artist that performed there!Your talent and inspiration is what made my friends and I do this slightly stupid but mostly awesome shit! Thanks a million!
Check out some of the pics we took. The bulk of the pics were taken by Wim Coetzee or me. The two pics on the ‘magical deck’ during the Black Cat Bones set were taken by Justin Lee (http://www.justinlee.co.za). Check out the STRAB facebook page for more of his gems.