Our most precious water

Photo by mrjn Photography

Water, without a doubt, is the most important element on our planet. It is transparent, has no taste and is made up of the most abundant elements in our universe. Two Hydrogen molecules and one Oxygen molecule join together to make water. Nothing on our planet that I know of could survive without it.

I have to admit that for most of the time, I take water for granted.  I am so lucky to live in a city where my water is clean, tastes good and is abundant. When I turn on the tap, it flows without hesitation so that I can wash my clothes, my dishes, take a quick shower or luxuriate in a bubble bath. Best of all, it quenches my thirst as nothing else can

When I visited the Antarctic, I saw water as huge blocks of ice, frozen solid for millennia in the form of gigantic icebergs. I marvelled at their size and colour as I watched them slowly glide by. Then I witnessed it as a raging cataract and felt its power as it tumbled over the escarpment at Iguazu Falls.

Standing next to a fast-flowing river, it is hard to imagine that it began its life as a tiny trickle on some mountain top. Even the mighty Amazon and Nile began life as a small insignificant rivulet. It all starts with the sun melting the snow which releases the moisture which then, drop by drop, willfully pushes forward and begins its journey towards a far-off ocean.

That lowly little trickle becomes a rivulet moving forward and joining hands with hundreds of other rivulets and increasing in strength and size.

During these initial baby steps, the water tentatively creates small channels and continually builds momentum as it surges forward. Now as a crystal-clear stream, it nurtures embryonic fish eggs, frogs and countless other aquatic life, while along its banks, it waters grasses, bushes and a myriad of trees.

Mile by mile it grows and picks up speed as it hurtles down the mountain to congregate in a pristine mountain lake. This is just a moment of respite in its life, to sort of catch its breath before exiting and pressing on to its final destiny. Moving with powerful determination the river punches forward sculpting the land and moving rocks and even boulders that impede its way.

Sometimes the melting snow combines with torrential rains to cause cruel floods that destroy homes and many lives. Thankfully those occasions are rare and rivers sustain life much more than they destroy. They are welcomed where ever they roam by thirsty livestock and growing fields of vegetables and grains.

Eventually, they lose their wildness and grow old and fat and somewhat lazy as they meander through the countryside. Near the end of its life, the river branches out into its delta and then slowly seeps and mingles with the welcoming salty ocean. In places there are miles and miles of Mangroves whose roots resembling tentacles, burrow deep into the mud and give shelter to millions of tiny fish.

The oceans are a source of enjoyment for millions of people. I remember with great fondness growing up in Sydney and spending many wonderful summer hours surfing in some forgiving waves. I wasn’t good at it and it was only body surfing, but great fun all the same.

Be it river, lake or ocean, I love being on the water. When I am on the ocean, I enjoy it most when the seas are unruly because the moving waves remind me of being young and riding a rollercoaster at an amusement park. I also love standing on a high cliff to watch some enormous waves come crashing into the rocks.

The force of the crash sends water high into the air, just as if the wave was trying to climb over the cliff. The power behind those waves is tremendous and somewhat intimidating and makes me feel feeble in comparison.

Rivers also have great power which they show off most notably at places like Niagara Falls. When I visited there, I took the cruise aboard the Maid of the Mist. What a thrill that was! As we neared the falls our little boat began to rock and roll and the closer we got.

The noise from the falls became a beastly roar. It was impossible to have a conversation even with a person standing next to me.

I don’t know how close we got to the falls, but I certainly felt its mighty power as it thundered in my ears. By then the plastic raincoat I was given was completely drenched and the water from it was running into my sandals. I didn’t care because to me the experience was magical and the sandals would eventually dry.

When the boat turned away to head back to the dock, I saw many whirlpools all around us. The power of the falls churned the water into white foam as it swirled around us. I will never forget the sights and sounds of Mighty Niagara.  It certainly was one place I would have liked to revisit, but I am very thankful for every minute I spent close to that wonderful cataract.