Almost twenty years ago I spent several months in the Sudan and drank from local water sources. Some were “bore holes” or wells while in one case water was procured from a hole dug into a riverbed. Unfortunately cattle were watered in an adjacent water hole with the sure possibility of animal feces and urine being leached into the water source via runoff.
Approximately one month after returning from Africa I was hospitalized with a 106’ fever, decreased liver function, respiratory and sinus infection, and partial facial paralysis (Bell’s Palsy). I was packed in an “ice blanket” for three days. After several tests (including spinal taps) the diagnosis was “unknown origin, possibly cytomegalovirus.”
It was assumed I’d contracted some virus in Africa. Whether it was from the water, I can only guess. Despite suffering no ill effects from having drunk from ditches and water holes in Kenya in 1988 while living with a semi-nomadic tribe, I’ve tried to be more careful since my hospitalization.
Since then I’ve learned my lesson. When I returned to the Sudan ten years ago I treated my water daily. A trip to Sudan a few years before that, I traveled to Africa via Pakistan and Afghanistan. In Pakistan I kept to bottled soft drinks and the occasional beer at the American Club. I did filter a few bottles of drinking water from bottled water bought in the local markets.
An old picture of James G in the Middle East wearing Safari vest #2 on one of his first overseas gigs
One of my favorite pieces of adventure gear for when I am traveling around the world chasing fortune and glory is the timeless Adventurers vest. Back when I was a kid looking at pictures of famous explorers one of the things I always took note of was what they were wearing.
I thought the [mostly British] explorers looked Pimp wearing their lapelled safari shirts, leather boots and safari vests posing for photos with spear-wielding natives – sometimes adding a double-barreled Holland and Holland slung over their shoulder just to complete the Professional Adventurer look.
As I got a little older and started following modern day explorers, foreign correspondents, mercenaries and adventurers [both real and fictional] I kept seeing these men of action wearing the same timeless Adventurers Vests.
I imagined the numerous pockets stuffed with wads of foreign currencies, a half drunken flask, packs of Lucky Strike non-filters, a scratched up Leica camera and an inch thick passport while concealing a Browning hi-power.
So when I grew-up and finally started traveling the world seeking the adventure, fortune, glory and women of questionable morals I had always dreamed about one of the first things I bought was a Safari Vest – in khaki of course.
This is about what it’s like to sleep in a transit tent in Iraq
About 4 or so years ago I was working on a gig in Iraq where I had to fly and drive to FOB’s* all around the country and stay in tents, empty buildings, transit housing and even the great outdoors. But the majority of times I ended up in a transit tent on the ass end of the base.
After spending a about a month freezing my ass off in the tents (believe it or not the AC in transit tents in Iraq is freezing) with no blanket (on some FOB’s they have 9 to 5 billeting or they don’t give linen to transient folks) I got smart and started lugging 2 furry-ass hajji blankets around with me base to base.
The problem was the 2 hajji blankets I had took up way too much space (everything I used I had to shove in a ruck) and were a bit heavy, so I decided it was time for my ass to get a real sleeping bag. It had been about 15 years since I last bought a sleeping bag so I really didn’t have a point of reference when looking for one. I basically needed one that was light and took up very little space.
I spotted an ad for a sleeping bag that was rated to 40 F and rolled-up into a pretty small package, I knew it didn’t get anywhere that cold in a tent (probably no colder than 60 F) so I ordered one up. When it arrived I was all too happy that I wouldn’t have to lug my furry bright red hajji blankets around with me anymore.
And luckily for me the day it arrived I ended up going on mission that same night to a FOB where I knew I would be staying in a cold ass tent.