The Law of Water

It is not written, but it is a law of the bush: If you do not know the next source of water, at peril of death do not venture from a known source further than you can return with the water you are able to take with you. One might add: and if you find a good source, drink as much as you can hold and fill every container you have to the brim.

This is a good source, and after carefully checking for signs of a resident crocodile that may have ventured this far and made its lair here, we could indulge in a leisurely waterside chat while we filled our containers.  It is time to make camp and we will sleep close by and tonight will be a night of abundance. Tomorrow, before we leave, we will re-fill and hope for the best as we venture further.

Here is a short extract from Paths of the Tracker.

The shade folded around him, soothing like cool water, and without tsetse, mercifully. Craig sank down gratefully with his back against a tree and just sat, watching Henry organise the breakfast and explain the procedures to Vasco and their new recruits.

Domingo took out a water bottle from his pack to drink, but Henry spoke sharply in Portuguese. Domingo pushed the water bottle back into the bag without drinking, looking guilty and a bit bewildered.

Craig felt sorry for him, and he was astounded at Henry’s reprimand. “How the hell can he presume to decide when people can drink water. The poor man is more than entitled to a drink after this slog with that heavy pack,” he thought, guiltily aware of the many sips he had been taking from the plastic tube that connected into the water pouch in his little endurance pack.

Henry didn’t seem to notice his sense of affront.  “One of the most important things to remember for survival in the African bush is to have good water discipline Craig,” he chatted as he unpacked the breakfast ration. “You never know when you’re going to find the next water. Even a known waterhole may be dried up, or have a dead animal rotting in it. So one has to use the water carefully. Try not to drink when you are hot and sweating. That’s like pouring water into a sieve. Rather drink as much as you can in the cool of the morning, because even when you are walking or working hard, you sweat less than in the heat of the day, so that water lasts you quite a long time before you need more.”

“These guys,” and Henry nodded towards their companions, “they no doubt think that I’m a bit crazy making such a fuss about water when they know there’s a lot around in the area. And there is, but the thing is, in a few days we may get into drier parts, and then we need to have established the habit. Else we could end up in serious trouble.”

He had finished his preparations and he came and sat down next to Craig with his back against the trunk. He said, nodding thoughtfully, “I had such an experience once. I was tracking down an elephant wounded by poachers. It ran into a very remote area where there was no water. I wasn’t paying attention, and by the second day my companions had finished all their water. We had to share what I had left between four,” and he nodded at the canvas water pouch he had given Vasco to carry. “We very nearly didn’t make it.” Craig nodded uncomfortably, acutely aware that his trail bag pouch was near empty.

1 Comment

  1. Mmmm…. nice memory of Paths of the Tracker!! Maybe an excuse for me to read it again :)

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