In April 2009 I noticed that there were smart new drinking water taps at the sinks of all the chalets in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park’s tourist camps. But at that point they were just for show. Well, things move slowly in a desert where a few thousand years isn’t really a long time, so I wasn’t expecting too much too quickly.
The solution up till now has been for those in the know to lug multiple canisters of fresh water with them when they come to the park. We even use our own water for boiling potatoes or pasta.
But for visitors who haven’t done their homework there’s only mineral water from the park’s three tiny shops – at quite a hefty premium. Then, one particularly hot year the tiny shops at Nossob and Mata Mata camps ran out of mineral water and tempers became frayed...
I’m pleased to see now that the new taps are gushing water. A cautious taste test reveals that there really is a difference, and I confirm my findings with camp staff. Yes, they’ve been functional for a couple of months now. The water for those taps is being run through a fancy filtration plant hidden away from view, but there are apparently still a few teething problems.
One is to provide training for the locals in how to run and maintain the system. Another, I imagine, might be to do with keeping the filters clean; the amount of gunk they must be removing from the water is probably playing merry hell with the filtration equipment. [Update in May 2011: The filters were no longer working - see comment below]
Microwave ovens have appeared in the chalets at the three main camps too, and there’s another potential technology advance in the form of an experimental toilet perched at Leijersdraai picnic site. If the test period is successful, similar toilets will replace the stinky long drops at Leijersdraai and Union’s End.
The new solar-driven flush toilets – sunlight is of course a commodity in abundant supply in the Kalahari – certainly seem to be an improvement on the odour scale. It might have its own teething problems, though – literally. The plastic cover of one of the water pipes is already showing signs of some serious chewing.
Given hyenas’ ability to chew through just about anything, from cooler boxes to car bumpers and even tyres, our money’s on them...
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