Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Table Mountain Water

A fine glass of a 1994 Rhine Riesling.


Table Mountain water, circa January 31st, 2010.

An anonymous commenter queried the wisdom of drinking water flowing from the mountain on our hike though Orange Kloof. With the spectre of darkest Africa, and many waterborne illnesses, bacteria, viruses and protozoa lurking in our collective consciousness, it's a reasonable question.

My own habit is formed not by science but by what I have seen other practised hikers do, over many years. Moving water, neither crossed by paths higher up nor subjected to other discernible human activity above the collection point, is safe to drink. I first drank it as a twelve year old and I am still here to tell the tale, though it may pass my lips but once or twice a year. I find it pure and delicious.

Sunday's water in Orange Kloof came from the De Villiers dam, a reservoir high above us whose sluice must have been opened to cause such a rush of water. There was no path above our source. But of course one doesn't know what could have happened out of sight. A dead animal, baboon droppings, human activity...it was just unlikely, though not impossible. On a more trafficked route like the front of Table Mountain, I would probably not drink.

But for now, Cheers!

I'd be curious to know what other Table Mountain (and Western Cape) hikers think. If you happen to read this, please add your opinion.


  1. Several years ago in New Mexico we found ourselves at the "top" of the Cimmaron River. It ran cold and clear and without a thought I filled my water bottles. Later I worried about bad bugs in it, but it was the most delicious water I ever tasted. I'd chance it again!

    Am loving your trip - vicariously!

  2. Beautiful blog Mari - I am a resident Capetonian (botanist) and I so enjoy your blog. I think that being able to drink fresh mountain water in a city is an absolute treat, and I haven't heard of anyone getting sick from Table Mtn water (I often drink from the streams in Newlands forest). Also, the deli at Monte Bello, also in Newlands, serve 'fresh Newlands water' if you ask for a glass of tap water, so if they believe that it is worth marketing there must be some value to it. I love the tannin-brown colour too.

  3. I think this "sensible" rule applies to wild water anywhere.
    Whenever I was near a high, swift stream, I drank from it. Here (coastal tropic flat land)I would not chance it!

    PS Readers who may not know me - I'm in central Qld. Australia

  4. I've drank the waters of Hell's Canyon in the west and, in the east, the Shawangunk Ridge to no ill effects. In Hells Canyon, it was dire and a must, and it could have been a really bad decision. Instead, it was simply the best water I ever had at that moment!

    Moving water, trails or activity above, animals. All good considerations. But doesn't a source like a reservoir make it even more sound?

  5. I've drunk water from Table Mountain before (the part at the top of Kirstenbosch). It was great!

  6. Water from the mountains is generally okay as (a) there's nothing above it to pollute it, and (b)as the water flows downhill, it filters through the rock.

    The water is stained brown from the roots of fynbos.


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