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5 November 2011 / leggypeggy

On water—consider the source

The 500-litre water tank is that big grey box on the lower left.

Water is always an issue when you’re travelling. For starters, it tastes different—sometimes better than home and often worse.

On an overland trip, the greater concern is whether it’s safe to drink.

The truck on this trip can carry up to 500 litres of water in a special tank. We fill up from a variety of sources, including from village wells, petrol stations, and creeks and streams. Whenever there has been a concern about water quality or cleanliness, Lu has to sterilise it. To be honest, I haven’t noticed whether she uses a liquid or tablets. Either way, it works.

Overall, the water has been tasty and quite good in terms of quality. For the most part, Poor John and I have used truck water all the time. Many of our fellow travellers prefer to buy bottled water, but we reckon that drinking the local water gives us a leg-up on fighting off illness. So we buy bottled water only when we are away from the truck or, as happened once, when the truck water was accidentally contaminated.

This is the way we look at it. If we ever have food or drink from a restaurant, cafe or street stall, there’s a very good chance that we will consume water that hasn’t been fully boiled or purified. So by drinking the truck water, we are adjusting to what is available locally. It’s been a good approach, as we have never had tummy issues from food or drink.

We used the same tactic in Africa.

I remember once in a petrol station in Angola when a local used sign language—I still wonder how I figured out what he was trying to tell me—made it clear that the water we were using to fill the jerry cans wasn’t safe to drink. I passed this on to everyone, but most filled their water bottles anyway. Within a day, it was obvious that the water was not good unless boiled or used for washing up only, so everyone ditched what they had taken. The lessons we learn along the way.

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