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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

Brackish water is not necessarily dirty


We

were here only 3,780 feet above the sea. The heat was terrific.

[Illustration: Author's Camels being Fed in the Desert.]

Brackish water is not pleasant to drink, but it is not necessarily unhealthy. Personally, I am a great believer in the compensating laws of Nature in preference to the ill-balanced habits of civilised men, and am certain that the best thing one can drink in the desert, under the abnormal conditions of heat, dust and dryness, is salt water, which stimulates digestion and keeps the system clean. Of filters, condensing apparatuses, soda-water cartridges, and other such appliances for difficult land travelling, the less said the better. They are very pretty toys, the glowing advertisements of which may add to the profits of geographical magazines, but they are really more useful in cities in Europe than practical in the desert. Possibly they may be a consolation to a certain class of half-reasoning people. But anything else, it might be argued would serve equally well. One sees them advertised as preventatives of malarial fever, but no sensible person who has ever had fever or seen it in others would ever believe that it comes from drinking water. Fever is in the atmosphere--one breathes fever; one does not necessarily drink it. When the water is corrupted, the air is also corrupted, and to filter the one and not the other is an operation the sense of which I personally cannot see.

justify;">It has ever been my experience, and that also of others, that the fewer precautions one takes, the more one relies on Nature to take care of one instead of on impracticable devices--the better for one's health in the end. I do not mean by this that one should go and drink dirty water to avoid fever,--far from it,--but if the water is dirty the best plan is not to drink it at all, whether filtered--or, to be accurate, passed through a filter--or not, or made into soda-water!

One fact is certain, that if one goes through a fever district one can take all the precautions in the world, but if one's system is so inclined one is sure to contract it; only the more the precautions, the more violent the fever.

But to return to our specific case, brackish water is not necessarily dirty, and as I have said, is to my mind one of Nature's protections against fever of the desert. In my own case, when I partook of it freely, it decidedly kept the fever down.

We made a much earlier start, at 8 p.m., on November 13th, and I had to walk part of the way as it was too steep for the camels. We had great trouble in taking them down to the dry river-bed--which we were to follow, being quite flat and therefore easier for the animals. We went along between low hills, getting lower and lower, and some two miles from the Darband tower we emerged into the open, the river-bed losing itself here in the desert.

During the night of the 13th-14th we travelled 28 miles on the flat until we came to more low hills, which we entered by another river-bed, also dry. We had come in a north-north-east direction so far, but we now turned due east among high, flat-topped hills which resembled a mass of ruined Persian houses of a quadrangular shape, so strangely had they been carved out by the corrosive action of water. They were of solid rock, and eaten into holes here and there, which from a distance gave the appearance of windows and doors, and of caves.


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