bike touring resources:: safe drinking water 


staying healthy on your bike tour 

Unless you want to find yourself squatting in a ditch doubled over with a bad case of the runs, it's important that you find sources of safe drinking water during your cycling tour.

Even in very remote parts of the world, you can almost always buy bottled water and coca-cola.  Some enterprising shopkeeper just sits and waits for a group of aid-workers or rich Western tourists in a white Land Cruiser to pull up and buy these precious fluids.

Being on a budget and environmentally conscious, most cyclists will not want to depend on bottled water.  They will want to drink the water locals drink, either directly or after first treating or filtering the water.

some serious illnesses

Think carefully before taking that first refreshing gulp.  Drinking unsafe water is the most common cause of illness amongst travelers.  Water-borne illnesses have a variety of causes. The most common of which is bacteria, such as E. coli, cholera and salmonella.  Illness can also be caused by protozoa (including giardia and cryptosporidium), viruses (like hepatitis A, polio and rotavirus) and chemical pollutants.

Sounds scary, doesn't it?

What's more, you can become ill simply because the pathogens in the water are foreign to your immune systems.   Locals have adapted to the water supply and can drink it without problems, but you'll get sick by drinking the same water.

If you want to keep the time you spend moaning and groaning in the tent to a minimum, you'll have to be sure the water you drink is safe.

what's the solution?

We hardly ever bought bottled drinking water while cycling in developing countries.   Normally we got our water from village wells or water taps that are meant to provide potable water for the local population.  In manyh parts of the third world,  this water is not safe to drink.   When we have our doubts we filter the water or purify the water using Micro-Pur tablets or Micro-pur drops.  A small bottle of drops can be used to purify 1000 liters of water.

Micro-pur is effective  against cryptosporidium, giardia, bacteria and viruses.
There's no chlorine odor or taste and the required wait time is only 15 minutes for bacteria and viruses, and a 30 minute to 4-hour wait time for cysts like Giardia and Cryptosporidia (depends on water quality).

We now use a First Need XL portable water purifier from General Ecology, Inc.  The filter weighs 16 oz., with an average flow rate of about two quarts per minute.   What I like best about the water filter is that it removes all foul tastes and odors.  The filter provides instantly purified water and removes bacteria, viruses and larger water borne pathogens.  Here in Central America, we have been using the First Need XL filter on almost a daily basis. 

One last tip:  if you're cycling in Africa, be sure to fill up on water whenever you have the chance.  It's no fun being caught out when there's a water cut (very frequent) or the pump in the next village is locked or broken.

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