Notes from underground

يارب يسوع المسيح ابن اللّه الحيّ إرحمني أنا الخاطئ

Archive for the tag “tap water”

A day in Maun and another boat ride

Continued from From Shakawe to Maun via Lake Ngami | Hayes & Greene family history.

After breakfast at the Island Safari Lodge at Maun, Botswana, where we were staying, we hung around for a while reading and relaxing, then later we went into town to try to get some cash money and some lunch. It seemed that none of the credit card machines at garages or other places were working. Nor was the facility to buy air time for cell phones (any offers for two P10.00 air time vouchers for Mascom in Botswana, which we are no longer able to use?). Fortunately we found a couple of working ATMs.

Maun, Botswana

Maun, Botswana

We saw a Bimbos restaurant, which we had not seen for ages, and had a look at it. It was in one of them that I had first had a shwarma, with Tony Irish, in Hillbrow, 30 years ago. But though the name remained, the franchise had gone,and there were no shwarmas, only local food like goat stew, though they did have chicken breyani on the menu as well. If they had had goat breyani I might have been tempted, but chicken breyani tends to have too many bones for the unwary.

Maun, Botswana

Maun, Botswana

We drove around the town, in a kind of figure 8, going west along the road we had come in, turning south, then north, following well-made tarred roads with streetlights, , though the roads between the houses were sandy tracks, and some houses were traditional mud and thatch, some were plastered brick, but often rondavels rather than square houses, and many, both square and rondavel, had traditional lapas outside. It seemed a quite a bit bigger than Rundu, but a much more pleasant place.

The main streets of Maun are fairly busy ...

The main streets of Maun are fairly busy …

Eventually we had lunch at Wimpys, and I had one of their standard hamburgers, which was as tough an leathery and tasteless as they had been for 50 years. “Flanagan’s Ears” as Val used to call them. Flanagan was a dog they used to have in Escombe, a sort of mongrel spaniel. We went to a Shoprite supermarket, and bought some bottled water and biscuits for our journey to Serowe tomorrow, as we don’t know what we will find along the way.

... but in between the busy streets are quiet lanes leading to houses like these

… but in between the busy streets are quiet lanes leading to houses like these

I don’t normally buy bottled water, as I regard it as a bit of a scam, and ridiculously overpriced. Well, I do buy bottled water, actually, because drinks like CocaCola and Sprite are basically bottled water with a bit of flavouring and sweetening added. I justify buying those to myself because the flavouring and sweetening does add some “value” to the product. But a litre of Coke costs about the same as a litre of petrol. The petrol had to pumped out of the ground, brought halfway round the world in a tanker, and refined in a fairly complicated process, which might justify the price. But adding flavouring and sweetening, and even a bit of fizz to water is relatively simple, and does nothing to justify the price.

tap2Some bottled water is advertised as “spring water”, and so is supposed to be more “pure” and “natural” than tap water, though I suspect that it absorbs quite a lot of impurities from the plastic bottles that it is stored and transported in. But really, how would you know? Most of it just tastes like water. And some of the bigger food firms, like Nestlé, have jumped on the bottled water bandwagon advertising a lot of bogus benefits, most of which are also available from tap water. They claim that “is filtered through the earth and stored in deep Dolomite lakes” (read “boreholes”), but Bonaqua, the CocaCola brand, is basically bottled tap water.

But when travelling in strange places, tap water is not always potable. I remember that in Moscow it wasn’t, and that’s a big city. At the Island Safari Lodge they put out a carafe of drinking water in the rooms, perhaps for such a reason, so we bought bottled water rather than taking their tap water, which could, for all we knew, have been pumped straight from the river outside. So we bought bottled water.

In the Okavango Delta a boat  is a good way to move your stuff

In the Okavango Delta a boat is a good way to move your stuff

Back at the Island Safari Lodge they advertised a sunset boat trip, and since we enjoyed the one at Shakawe so much, we booked for it. At Shakawe our main interest was that Val’s great-great-grandfather had gone up the river there in his boat, and as far as we knew he had not done such a thing at Maun, but picturing oneself in a boat on a river with tangerine trees and marmalade skies seemed quite attractive. So we went at about 5 pm.

Washing clothes at the riverside

Washing clothes at the riverside

The boatman, whose name was Cobra, was not expecting us, and thought that no one had booked for the sunset ride, but soon sorted that out, and we went up the river, much narrower and shallower here than 300 km upstream at Shakawe. We looked at jacana birds, Cobra called them “Jesus birds” because they walk across the lily pads, and look as though they are walking on water. We also saw some bee eaters perched on a tree, but not at their nests.

African Jacana -- sometimes called "Jesus birds" because they appear to be walking on water

African Jacana — sometimes called “Jesus birds” because they appear to be walking on water

Cobra said that the flat island on our right, with its grazing cows, was covered with water when the rain in Angola brought the river down in June or July. On the left bank were a lot of dead thorn trees, some with grass in upper branches, showing where the floodwaters reached, up to ten feet from the ground. There was a shed there, and I asked if that too was covered with water, and he said it housed a borehole which people had put down in a dry period, and the trees had also grown here in a dry period, and when the water covered the banks they had died, because Kalahari thorn trees can’t survive in an environment that is too wet, which would also explain the dead trees that we had seen at Lake Ngami — the water level must be rising again, and must be a lot higher than it was 10-20 years ago, though still nothing like as high as it must have been in Fred Green’s time, for him to be able to sail a boat up the Taokhe River.

Dead trees along the river banks; they grew when the water level was lower

Dead trees along the river banks; they grew when the water level was lower

We turned up the left branch of the river, which was flowing more visibly, but at less than half the apparent speed at Rundu or Shakawe. Occasionally we slowed down when passing canoes with local people, to avoid upsetting them with the wash, and went quite a long way up the river.  There were several fish eagles along the banks, and pied kingfishers.

Picture yourself in a boat on a river with tangerine trees and marmalade skies: sunset over the Okavango Delta

Picture yourself in a boat on a river with tangerine trees and marmalade skies: sunset over the Okavango Delta

The sunset was beautiful, and we took several photos, but even better was the rising moon on the way back. We passed some schoolkids playing around in an old boat, though not controlling it very well, but it struck me as a nice after-school pastime.

Moonrise over the Okavango Delta

Moonrise over the Okavango Delta

How can there be so much beauty in the world?

Moonrise in the Okavango Delta

Moonrise in the Okavango Delta

And so to supper, and bed.

The next day we followed the course of the Boteti or Botletle River, where Fred and Charles Green often hunted in the 1850s, to see what its attraction was.


You can see an index to all these posts of our travelogue of Namibia and Botswana here.

Diet, fasting and the environment

I’ve read a number of blog posts recently about eating and drinking and the environment, and this one suggests that we should drink water to save water The Green Phone Booth: Drink Water!

Well, I have to admit that in addition to drinking plain water, I also drink rather a lot of tea and coffee, though one thing I try to avoid is bottled water, unless it has some flavour added.

I’ve previously blogged about the strange habit of many people of drinking bottled water, which is expensive, unhealthy, and environmentally unfriendly. Quite a lot of the bottled water that is sold is just tap water anyway, so why not drink it straight from the tap?

Blogger Clarissa gives some reasons for not drinking it straight from the tap here Does Anybody Drink Tap Water? | Clarissa’s Blog — she thinks tap water tastes horrible, and she finds that in every city she has ever lived in.

I have been warned not to drink tap water in some cities — Mosc0w and Athens come to mind — but I’ve been living in Tshwane for 30 years and I don’t think I’ve come to any harm from drinking the tap water yet. The tap water is quite safe and palatable, as it is in most South African cities.

I agree with Clarissa on one point, though. I know some people who are forever banging on about the environment, but even when they are at home they still drink bottled water.

And then, from the same source as the recommendation to drink tap water, comes this The Green Phone Booth: Four Small Changes to Make in Your Daily Life:

Eat less meat. Meat production is a major contributing factor in climate change – in fact, livestock produce as much as 18% of the planet’s greenhouse gases. Meat production also uses far more water than growing plants. I’m not a vegetarian, but I have taken steps to reduce my meat consumption. Even one veggie meal every day can make a big difference, and you may even get the chance to try some new recipes while you’re at it.

And one of the commenters on that recommended this Meatless Monday | one day a week, cut out meat, which appears to be a new secular fast. Orthodox Christians, of course have meatless Wednesdays and Fridays.

So if the secularists fast on Mondays, and the Christians really observe the fast on Wednesdays and Fridays, perhaps meat consumption could be reduced.

But there is also a downside to this: School Districts Take on ‘Meatless Mondays’ to Support Healthy and Humane Eating Habits:

Schools are in a unique and powerful position to influence students’ eating habits for a lifetime to come. These pioneering schools recognize that responsibility, and the many benefits Meatless Monday offers for our health, for our planet, and for animals.

In a country where “separation of church and state” is elevated to a sacred principle, why are they imposing the secular fast on Christians? Should they not be providing the option of Meatless Fridays for Christian pupils? And would it make any difference at all to the secularists if they fasted on Fridays instead of on Mondays — other than that that would not provide them with an opportunity to stick it to the Christians? This seems to be a case of outright religious discrimination.

But some of the arguments for this need to reduce meat consumption seem a bit odd to me. Why Meatless?:

The water needs of livestock are tremendous, far above those of vegetables or grains. An estimated 1,800 to 2,500 gallons of water go into a single pound of beef. Soy tofu produced in California requires 220 gallons of water per pound.

I’ve seen other arguments that cattle farts produce greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming, but the same would apply to any other animals on the planet, including wild animals and human beings. If we follow that line of reasoning, we should exterminate all animals, wild and tame, to save the planet — but to save it for what?

A better argument that I have seen, and one worth considering, is from a book I read recently The long road home: book review | Khanya:

Americans now wanted to eat more meat, and it paid their farmers to feed their cereals to the livestock needed to produce that meat, rather than to human beings. For the first time in history, high meat consumption in one major country would distort agricultural output all over the world.

If you want to be environmentally friendly about meat, then insist that the meat you buy comes from grass-fed and not corn-fed/grain-fed cattle.

And one last little tip: at public events caterers have learnt to be sensitive to religious diversity and provide kosher and halaal food, but most of them have never heard of nistisimo. Perhaps they had better learn it now, and provide nistisimo food on Wednesdays and Fridays for the Christians, and on Mondays for the secularists who observe Meatless Mondays. Oh yes, and even the secularists can Google for “nistisimo recipes”.

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