Monday, February 26, 2007

Guasipati, Venezuela

Friends: The only air conditioning I've experienced since leaving Sandy's trailer has been in a couple of Cyber outlets, as Internet cafes are known here. They are a most welcome oasis. It makes a considerable difference in my body temperature and comfort to spend an hour out of the 90-degree heat.

I had an added reason to find an Internet cafe today. I needed to know how much iodine it takes to purify water, as my Katadyn filter, that has faithfully served me for nearly twenty years, stopped pumping this morning, and at a moment when I was out of water out in the middle of nowhere. The water here has been so cloudy it has taken much extra effort to pump the water and it may have worn down the crucial washer. I thought I had a spare, but I can't find it.

When my filter stopped functioning I had five bottles of tap water to purify. If need be I could have risked drinking them. I´ve already picked up some a microbe or two that has disrupted my digestive track, so what difference would a few more make. I had no idea how far it was to the next town and safe drink, as the last one marked on my map two miles back no longer existed. Fortunately, there was cloud cover and it was early enough in the day that the temperature had not climbed into the 90s yet.

The next significant town was 35 miles away. I had come 18 miles already since my 7 a.m. start. I resumed riding at a slightly slower pace so I wouldn't have to breathe so much through my mouth, drying my throat. Still I could feel the dessication setting in. After five miles I came upon a couple of guys digging fence posts. I asked if they had any water, but they didn't. But they said there was a restaurant about three kilometers up the road. It was a miracle little oasis, a recently opened stand by a young husband and wife with their two year old toddler on hand. They didn't even have a table, just two plastic chairs and a five gallon bucket to sit upon under their little awning. They had some home made juice and tamales and bananas and bottled water. So I survived this catastrophe.

My filter is literally my most valuable possession. With the towns fewer and fewer I need it more than ever. The pharmacy in this town didn't have iodine, only chlorine tablets. The local hardware store had a variety of washers, but not a precise match. I was willing to try the most similar. I also stopped at a car repair garage to see if they might have a washer. A clever mechanic wrapped some thread around my old washer, making the fit tighter. That could well work. But I need 100% confidence. I'll just have to carry a lot more purified water in my panniers to go along with the three on my frame.

Chavez ought to devote some of his billions in oil money to improving the country's water. Both Costa Rica and Panama have drinkable tap water. Even Sandy thought it ridiculous that a liter of water cost thirty times as much as a liter of gas. Not having to pump a gallon or more of water a day will save me a lot of effort and time and maybe even some money. Rather than buying a cold soda or juice, I'll buy a large bottle of cold water and do without the flavor. I had been resorting to Tang to make the lukewarm water in my water bottles more palatable. A pack of Tang good for one liter cost thirty cents. The flavoring was a treat as besides the standard orange were a whole variety of exotic flavors unknown back home--various combinations of papaya and mango and strawberry and lemon and others.

Later, George

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