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"Wealth is Water"

Riaan from Hydro-core measuring electrical connectivity to identify cavities in the bed rock

There is an old African proverb; “Wealth is water” and another often used in Uganda; “The usefulness of a well is known when it dries up”. At Inzalo Safari Lodge, we embarked on the search of our "water wealth" over the past few weeks. Although the Sterkstoom has been flowing during the drought, we need to make sure that we will not be without water.

It all started with Riaan Louwrens (Hydrologist) exploring the area around the lodge development site in search of possible water containing cavities in the Waterberg Sandstone formation. Riaan marks two suggested drilling points, amids a visit from three of the bull elephants that regularly traverse the Sterkstoom Valley. The first point and best potential site, is only six meters off the Sterkstroom Valley Road. The second within 30 meters of the lodge infrastructure. The benefits associated with having a borehole so close to the lodge, make number two our first choice. We decide with some trepidation that this is the point at which we will sink the borehole.

Two weeks later we secure the services of Ferreira Drilling to drill the borehole. We meet them at the Main Gate around 12:00 and together we tackle the steep and winding roads through the reserve to the Inzalo Safari Lodge site. It takes a good 5 hours to cover the 30 odd kilometres from the gate through the reserve. On the way we need to deal with mechanical issues on vehicles, elephants crossing our path and other game staring at the convoy. Exhausted but satisfied we reach the Inzalo Safari Lodge site start looking for our markers of the drill site. Elephants and baboons are curious animals and between them they have shuffled the marker rocks pile. We are left with just enough time to setup the drill rig before the sun sets. Drilling will just have to to wait until the morning.

Early morning Neil, JP and the crew call the drill rig to life with a puff of dust as the compressed air clears the surface sand to expose the bed rock. The tungsten hammer keeps knocking away as it drills the 165mm diameter hole through the Waterberg Sandstone. Henriette and I setup a vantage point away from the noise and dust and wait with great anticipation. Will we be successful or are we throwing our money down a unsuccessful hole? Every now-and-then we check in with JP and the crew. 'How far are we now, 8 meters, 20 meters, 30 meters..... ?"

By 12:00 the temperature soars to 37 degrees celsius. The heat takes it toll on man and machine. The compressor on the drill rig starts to over heat. The only option is to shut it down or to find a way to cool it. JP has clearly done this before and quickly finds a solution. "Get water from the Strekstroom and cool down the radiator" - the evaporative cooling will then do its job. It works and we can keep drilling!

Based on Riaan's calculations we expect to hit the main cavity and find water around 80 meters. Great was our surprise when JP and Neil call us closer at around 45 meters - "we have just gone through a first cavity and the water will start flowing soon". To these trained ears the slightest change in the noise the machinery makes is significant. His words were still hanging in the air when drill forces the water up the borehole and it starts to spurt out at the top in an orange brown fountain. We glance at each other in bemusement, not sure what this means. Neil and JP put our minds to rest; "This is due to disturbance from the drilling into the ancient redbeds of the Waterberg. It will soon settle". And so it does!

JP's opinion is; "Dis 'n mooi gat!" (It is a great borehole). He estimates 20 000 litres per hour but Neil is more conservative in his view and estimates it at 15 000 litres per hour. He also adds "Jy sal die gat moet laat toets om te weet" (You will have to tested the borehole to know for sure). All of this water at only 52 meters! Andre Burger from Welgevonden (thinking about the practicalities of lodge infrastructure) remarks, "this is a good depth, not even one role of pipe, so you will need no joints..." This is all a bit lost on us at the moment but we are sure we will get to understand the significance as we progress. What a blessing as our estimates are that we will only need 15 000 litres per day at full occupancy!

It is almost an anticlimax as the borehole is completed in half a day (and less than half the time we anticipated). Now the moment of truth, we need to decide how we get the beats of a drill rig out of the reserve. Do we take the drill rig back through the reserve which we now know can take 5 hours or do we attempt to take her out through the Strekstroom Valley - a shortcut of only 8 kilometres. The challenge with the narrow valley road is eight low water bridges that we will need to navigate, a tricky undertaking! We decide fortune favours the brave, so Strekstroom it is!

With the drill rig safely out of the reserve we return to the old airfield at the eastern access to the Sterksroom Valley and celebrate our gains. Water is the source of live and we now have ample supply at Inzalo Safari Lodge. Thanks to Riaan, JP and Neil for completing this piece of the Inzalo puzzle!

Yay!!!, we are water wealthy and proud to call Africa home!

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