During the day the man in the shiny suit rides a bicycle everywhere, but at night he brings out the Skoroskoro – a stripped down 110cc scooter with the type of handlebars that air your armpits. There’s a big gearshift that sits higher than his knees, with an 8-ball on the end, and folding his 6-foot-something frame across this bare-bones bike makes him look like one of Ed “Big Daddy” Roth’s hotrod characters.
The Skoroskoro isn’t actually allowed at AfrikaBurn – it hasn’t been licensed – which is why it only comes out at night, but when you’re mobile you can go everywhere, and the way the desert brings the Mad Max out in you, you will want to go everywhere.
Someone who does have a ticket to ride is Julius Kliem, a 40-year-old Durbanite who owns a small steel fabrication company. Jules started building the MS Mayday in January and then drove it up all the way from Durban on the back of a flatbed truck. Some onsite assembly was required.
“A lot of the original control systems like clutch, brake, wiring, starter etcetera were adapted from the donor engine – a little Yamaha TW200 motorcycle – and the trick was keeping the boat light and easy to manage,” he says.
Steering from the rear tiller, Jules built the bike to handle like a boat.
“With a few extra sprockets I was able to increase the drive ratio from a standard 3.2:1 to 9.8:1 which gave it all the power it needed,” he says. “I was even able to use the gears a bit. Although fourth was a tad too fast…”
The result was a fun, interactive mutant vehicle that handled really well, almost pulling like a tractor in first. Sure, turning was a bit heavy, especially with a full load, but it was a huge amount of fun, both to build and drive, and Jules would do it all again in a heartbeat.
And you need only ask someone who has spent a night stomping to several DJ sets, too spent to make the long walk back to the relative comforts of their camp, what a godsend a ride in the MS Mayday, or any of the other mutant vehicles, was.
This year the theme at AfrikaBurn was The Gift, and there was nothing better than hitching a ride on a swan, a turtle, a rhino, a dragon, a mobile mirror ball, a rainbow on wheels, an alien bus, a flying carpet, a king-sized bed, a duck, a pirate ship, a serpent…