It was not just the booze talking. Five friends decided on a bibulous night in 1998 to climb the Kilimanjaro, do a safari, and afterwards spend a few nights in Zanzibar. We organised a trip on a shoestring, without the help of a travel agent, but with lots of enthusiasm and a fax machine. The trip has been the most impressive one of my life.
Mount Kilimanjaro got us close to our physical limits, while the Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Manyara, Rift Valley, and Masai Mara took us to our cognitive ones. After four days of taking pictures on the safari, we were filled to the brim with impressions. Therefore, we decided to change our strategy. We wanted to do a “walking safari”; to decelerate to a speed where it is possible to take in new impressions again.
And that’s what we did. We were driven into the bush by jeep, then left to our own devices by our guides and started walking. After a few minutes we were surrounded by a group of soldiers: we had stumbled into an area restricted for military operations. Our concept of a walking safari had clearly not reached a mature stage yet. A guide stayed back to negotiate (we had to ransom him in the evening), while the rest of the group carried on. In the middle of the bush we came across neatly planted cut flowers – a weird view, which our guide explained as an experiment of a Western company in new flower seeds. This would probably justify an own ESG Letter.
What all of this has to do with the topic of water? After two or three hours we came to a little pond and had a snack. When we were done, one of us used the little drinking water that was left in our bottle to wash his hands. What we did not know at this point was that it really was the last bit of water we had; and that the walking safari would continue for six more hours. As I said, the concept had only just been invented.
At the end of our march we came to a little village, whose specialty, as we had heard hours before, was a kind of banana beer that they villagers were brewing themselves. In a mud hut, three women were mashing bananas with their feet in tubs made from industrial plastic containers. Given that I had previously seen in a nature show on TV that saliva was often used to boost the fermentation process in such cases, I decided to skip my drink. The next day, I was also the only one who had come down with a severe illness. 14 days later, in Vienna, I was diagnosed with dysentery.
In spite of that, Tanzania has been the best trip of my life. I experienced and saw a lot. Six hours of walking during the hottest time of the day at the equator without water leaves an imprint on one’s memory that there are more intelligent things to do with water than wash your hands. Having lived through a perilous illness probably contracted through dirty water creates a live-long sense of respect vis-à-vis good infrastructure and its benefits.
Everything worked out well for me. Hakuna matata (“(there are) no problems”), as one says in Tanzania. However, many people do not live in such a privileged society as I and probably most of the readers of the ESG Letter. Therefore, it is important for us to get involved with water, the source of life, on a sustainable basis.