This music festival has been going for 30 years – here’s why you should be at the next 30!

Up The Creek celebrated its 30th birthday this year and I was there to join in the jubilations. Actually, I have been joining in on the fun for around 15 years, give or take and the odd break, and I can quite honestly say it is one of my favourite festivals. It’s become an annual tradition and will continue to be so, until I can no longer make it up and down the hill to the river.

Here’s 11 reasons why I find this particular music festival so fantastic and why you should be there too.

1. They know what they are doing

They’ve been doing this festival for 30 years so they pretty much know what to expect from the 2 500 people that go there. I don’t think there’s been any major incident in those 30 years, and I happen to know some of the people who run around behind the scenes dealing with some fairly interesting situations – oh if only I could regale those stories here!

Plus they they supply free drinking water, there’s always cold beers, plenty of ice, enough food options and the loo paper never runs out. So hats off to the organisers and their team for pulling this off every year!

2. There’s camping for all comfort levels

Whether you are a glamper or a rough-it camper, there’s a patch of ground for you! The Hillbilly Hotel has those tents that are set up for you with breakfast thrown in (you pay a fair bit extra for this comfort), there are the much coveted grassy camping areas and then there’s our favourite – The Hillbilly Camp, where you can camp next to your car. The ground may be a bit rougher (take extra padding for those large stones) but it’s very useful being close to your car.

3. You can spend all day in the water

The Breede River is possibly THE highlight of this festival. In fact it’s so important that one year when the river was practically empty due to drought, the organisers asked the farmers to open up their dams so they could top up the river for the festival. 

During the day the party is at the river – so much so that they even have a River Stage for the bands playing the daytime slot. Imagine, parking off on a lilo with your beer or cocktail in the water with your mates listening to music. It is absolute bliss. Don’t forget your sunblock  – even though you probably still going to burn unless you cover up at some point.

4. You’ll never see so many varieties of floating devices in one place

It’s honestly like being at a Takealot shop! Every year there’s something new – this year it was the unicorns that took centre stage. But there were also sharks, sting rays, tucans, penguins, flamingoes and a beautiful rhino, along with all sorts of boats, lilos and floating chairs.  There was also a floating bull ring where you could try your hand at riding (the rather ferocious looking) bull which made for plenty of entertainment! 

If there’s something you fancy, go down to the river on Sunday afternoon – it’s amazing how many people simply leave their floating toys behind! I think it’s a bit naughty actually as that’s littering and not good for the environment (although they are all collected and taken away) but if you see anything you want to take home, here’s your opportunity.

5. There’s a variety of South African music

I don’t really go for the music, I tend to go more for the vibe, the river and a weekend spent camping and partying with good friends. That said, I have seen some bands that I love over the years and discoved some new bands too.  This year I thoroughly rocked out to Wonderboom (after not seeing them perform for years), Van Coke Kartel and Black Cat Bones. I also discovered a fabulous band, Flying Bantu, who are actually from Zimbabwe. I have never felt more patriotic when they played and the crowd cheered! 

I have noticed that Thursday and Friday nights are rock out out nights, Saturdays tend to be a little more chilled (everyone is zonked from being on the river all day) and Sundays tend to be a mix of blues and bands having impromptu jam sessions (actually they are probably planned!) All in all, it’s generally a good mix with something for everyone.

6. There are plenty of bars

These guys know that South Africans like to drink! There are three bars serving anything from Rubber Duck cocktails (always a winner) to brandy and coke and Savanna Light to gin and tonic. There’s also a soft-drink bar down by the river. 

Drinks aren’t overpriced (a Savanna Light was R25), but watch out, those cocktails taste so good that you may end up spending more than you thought. At R50 a go, it’s amazing how quickly you can clock up R150 in an afternoon!

7. There’s loads of free loot

I cannot tell you how many Sedgwicks branded goodies I have collected over the years – from lanterns to bandanas to wooden crates. This year I managed to come home with a Sedgwicks bag and snood to add to the collection!  I also came home with a Savanna Dry beach umbrella, a Klipdrift ice bucket, a 80’s sun visor and a waterproof pouch (most useful for my camera, phone and ciggies when around water).  All of these goodies are given away throughout the festival when you buy a drinks special, or a box of cigarettes.

8. There’s food for all diets and budgets

You are welcome to take your own food, but I can tell you from experience that it gets hot there and that ham sandwich from Woolworths is going to go off – and fast. Save yourself the time at your local mall and  just buy food at the festival.

The food trucks may change over the years, but what remains the same is that you can spend R20 or R100 on something to eat. This year I lived almost solely on potato and soya mince samoosas – R15 for two. The best damn samoosas this side of Swellendam! I also shared a really good chicken chow mein with two spring rolls (R60) and bought R60 rands worth of delicous biltong  to snack on – which also made for good padkos for the journey home.  The pizzas (from R100) were popular (you can share that) as were the burgers, chilli steak rolls and calamari and chips. I am not sure how many vegan options there were (I think my samoosas may have been vegan) but there were plenty of options for vegetarians.

9. It’s a budget-friendly festival

Having talked about all the food and drinks available at reasonable prices, if you really don’t want to fork out too much money, you can take all your own food and booze.

This is the only festival I know of where you can take your own drinks to the stage and to the river. You needn’t spend a stitch on drinks if you are well organised (ie. Lots of ice that won’t melt on the first day).  Gas cookers are allowed, so you don’t have to live on tinned tuna and baked beans – you can fry your boerie roll or make bacon and eggs in the morning. Actually, take bacon – if you don’t have any, you WILL get bacon fomo when you smell your neighbours’ bacon cooking in the morning. Thankfully we had friends arriving on the Friday and they kindly brought us bacon  and rolls for the Saturday! 

Plus, if you are on the ball, you can get Early Bird tickets and save a few hundred rand on the ticket price. That said, I suggest you put some money on your Howler account just in case you want to buy 5 Savannas to get a free Savanna ice bucket or want to nibble on a potato samoosa at 2am on Saturday morning…

10. They have ablution blocks

There are REAL ablution blocks! Complete with flushing toilets, never-ending loo paper and hot showers. There are also mirrors if you really need to do your makeup, or like me, simply to check how burnt your ears got after a day on the river. This is great news for those of us (like me) who detest those portaloos. Have you ever been to a portaloo at midday at a festival? Never again. I would rather walk another kilometre to an ablution block! Thankfully at Up The Creek you don’t need to walk very far.

11. The people are awesome

Everyone here is friendly, fun and simply out to have a great time.  You’ll make friends in the river who will buy you a Jagermeister in the bar in the evening. Your camping neighbours who lent you a mallet to put up your tent will be there at 2am inviting you to join their tequila afterparty. By the end of the festival you will probably have a new festival family and know the barmen by name. I ate so many samoosas that the samoosa guy knew me by name!

Thanks once again for a fantastic weekend Up The Creek, and here’s to the next 30 years!

Published February 2020 | Own cost