Ash Dykes: the good, the bad and the ugly of Mission Yangtze

Water-to-Go ambassador, Ash Dykes, is continuing to make great progress on his current mission to trek the entire length of China’s Yangtze River. He has already passed the half-way mark and is encountering a new side of the Yangtze as he goes from very rural to more urban parts of this amazing river.

We wanted to get the thoughts of Ash after getting to the half-way point in his expedition and his observations so far. In particular, we were interested to hear about the food, the people and his observations of the Yangtze in general. It is clear that there has been a good, a bad and an ugly side of Mission Yangtze.

A lot of people in the UK and the western world are into their Chinese takeaways and have asked Ash whether or not the typical Chinese takeaway meals, are the same as the actual dishes in China. The quick answer would be “no, not really”. In China, it’s better, healthier and there is so much more choice, with the dishes being different in each province.

One of the first places Ash visited was Quinhai, a province in West China, which is one of if not the most wildest parts of Asia in general. There are a lot of locals still living the nomadic way of life, herding their yak and moving from place to place. There are a lot of mongols that Ash has come across, living with their families in nomadic tents and yurts. Up here at 4000 to 5000 metres above sea-level, they experience very extreme conditions. It is very wild and isolated. The temperature is below 0 most of the time, and in Winter it hits -30 degrees Celsius or more

So their food is very heavy and stodgy with a lot of calories to keep them energised. Qinghai Province (west China) which has more of a Tibetan food influence, is made up mainly of fats, proteins and dairy products. It’s heavy and stodgy food that is well needed for those kinds of environments, where there are harsh temperatures and it is at altitude. Ash had a lot of Yak meat, yoghurt, bread, milk, butter and tsampa (roasted flour, usually barley flour and sometimes also wheat flour. It is usually mixed with the salty Tibetan butter tea and great to actually carry with you on long hikes).

When Ash’s journey started to drop in altitude and he ventured into the Sichuan province, the food started to dramatically change. The climate was warmer, there were more plantations and vegetation, the food was far more diverse and a lot tastier, with herbs and spices added to the mix. Sichuan is famous for its spicy hotpots (originally from Chongqing) and the food here does have a kick.

Breaking into Yunnan, they have everything here with so many great dishes. They have all the vegetables, all the meats; and produce loads of meals, suited for all types of eaters. This has been Ash’s favourite cuisine of #MissionYangtze so far.

If you have been following Ash on social media, it is clear that there is an awful lot to experience and witness along the Yangtze river, much of which hasn’t been explored before. The Yangtze is officially the third longest river in the world. In fact, it is only a tad shorter than the Amazon or the Nile – only a couple of days extra walking to make up the difference according to Ash.

People assume that, because of the sheer size of it, the Yangtze is very heavily polluted but to say that, you would be very much mistaken. It perhaps is at the end of it and Ash will observe this at the end of his expedition. Ash has walked over 2000 miles so far and the river has been brown at times. But this is mainly because of the heavy storms they experience there; washing down dirt and clay off mountains in the water and turning it that colour. At the moment, Ash is happy to report that it is blue and very fresh, clean, clear.

“This is another shock. I thought I’d find polluted water – but the 2,000 miles of what I’ve done so far, has been quite fresh. It’s blue and there’s lots of wildlife. Now I’ve hit the halfway point and I’m starting to go north-east, towards Shanghai, I will start seeing a different river. I don’t look forward to seeing that. I took a last look at the Yangtze in all its health, nice and blue.”

Ash Dykes

So there is a lot of good work being done that Ash has seen and been told about by the locals. There is a lot of protection for aquatic life and endangered wildlife in particular. Ash only learned a few weeks ago that there is there is still the wild dolphin along with the Yangtze alligator that still habits there; that was originally written off as being extinct.

Ash has walked through the main Yangtze provinces of Yunan, Sichuan and Qinghai so far. Each province has its own different people, dialects, feuds, plantations and vegetation. Ash has experienced a different way of life in each of these provinces which has only furthered his knowledge of the Yangtze and China as a whole. But one thing has remained the same – the people and their manner. Wherever Ash has been, the locals have been so friendly and hospitable. He has been welcomed into the community and has been offered a place to stay and eat wherever he has been. The people always try their best to accommodate.

However, it hasn’t always been easy when the people have tried to show their kindness. This ‘kindness’ has often ended up with Ash being detained and questioned by the police! Ash has gone to such wild places that they don’t know what to do so they just end up calling the police. The police have often rocked up at 2/3 am – not to cause harm but to question him as they are worried for his safety. Ash is aware that they might not have seen a westerner before and this has been part of the confusion. The policed have taken him in but always let him go eventually. Ash has just taken it in his stride and accepted that it has just a part of mission.

One of the main aspects of Ash’s expedition was to experience the people and the different cultures along the Yangtze. Ash has been surprised at the sheer number of communities and people that live along and depend on the Yangtze. There are at least 111 cities along the Yangtze, that Ash is aware of, that have a population higher than New Zealand which is staggering. With it being so long at 4000 miles, the Yangtze caters for everyone so you find a diverse range of people that live along there.

The first half of his journey has taken him through China’s ‘wild west’, exposing him to the elements and vistas of jaw-dropping beauty. Now he’s preparing to tackle the urbanised east, where human development dominates and cities are interspersed with paddy fields.

“The first half [of this trip] was always anticipated to be the most difficult. It’s sensitive being so close to Tibet and it’s so remote and wild. The terrain was tricky, temperatures dropped below minus 20C, there were snow blizzards and there was a threat from bears and wolves.”

Ash Dykes

The mission got off to a fairly rocky start – complications with permits, visas and his support team have pushed the challenge back by a few weeks. “On the way up the mountain I lost my videographers through a combination of altitude sickness and the extreme cold,” says Dykes. “Then, my local guide was doubled over and I checked on him, his nose was bleeding and he was struggling for breath. He’s a local Tibetan, who lives in a village at about 3,500 metres [11,500 feet] [above sea level], but even he had to turn back.” This was a big wake-up call for Ash and everyone following the expedition to realise the sheer danger and harsh conditions that is encompassed with this mission.

Despite this, Ash has carried on like the true Welsh warrior that he is and was delighted to reach the half-way mark after so many setbacks and difficulties. However, Ash will be facing a different set of challenges as he starts to travel through the more urban parts of the Yangtze. Ash still has another 2000 miles of adventuring through Chinese terrain where he will encounter fresh challenges and amazing experiences along the way. Ash is prepared for what is to come over the next several months.

“There will be different challenges – maybe snakes and spiders. I can’t go trampling on someone’s land so I’ll have to go around and that’s going to be more annoying and irritating than anything else. The river is a lot deeper, so the tributaries are wider and there’ll be more detours. The river is just under 4,000 miles but this will end up being more than a 4,000 mile trek.”

Ash Dykes

Whilst the many changes in scenery, people and food; there is one thing that remains the same on his journey that is always there – his Water-to-Go bottle. He has carried his trusted Water-to-Go for the duration of this mission and his 2 previous world firsts across Mongolia and Madagascar to keep him healthy and hydrated with safe clean drinking water.

There have been many points along this mission where he has been desperate for water and has simply filled his Water-to-Go bottle with water straight from the Yangtze itself and the 3-in-1 technology filter has allowed him to drink it straight away.

His Water-to-Go bottle has been an essential item on all of his travels to provide him with safe, drinking water wherever he is. Not only does it help him save money, but it also helps him to save weight and save the planet by not needing to purchase single-use plastic bottles that we find so often polluting our rivers and oceans.

A major part of Ash’s expedition is to travel responsibly and sustainably, and the Water-to-Go bottle allows him to do this. Ash has been explaining this to the people he meets on his journey and is trying to help them become more sustainable as a community. Water-to-Go is the ideal alternative to single-use plastic bottles and we are delighted that Ash is promoting this message on his biggest expedition yet.

Overall, Ash is pleased with how his expedition is going and everything that he is learning about the Yangtze. He is looking forward to the next chapter and will look to keep us all updated with his progress.

Keep track of Ash on his live tracker

So make sure you keep up with Ash on social media as he continues his expedition and experiences the beauties of the Yangtze and China in general.

Gap Year Travel Packing List

What to take when Travelling on your Gap Year

Are you planning on travelling during your gap year? As with any travel experience, it’s important to be well prepared and make sure you have all the necessary gear to make to most of your experience. For this reason, we have created a packing list made from the best pieces of travel kit to help you make the most of your gap year travels.

At Water-to-Go we have provided bottles to many gap year travellers over the years to keep them safe and hydrated wherever their journey takes them. We are also working with travel stores specialising in gap year travel such as the Gap Year Travel Store. We’ve used this experience and created a list of the best items for you to take whilst travelling on your gap year.

Travel Backpack

Having a durable and convenient backpack is something that will make your journey much easier and more comfortable. It’s important to make sure you get a backpack that suits your plans and is sufficient for what you need to carry, where you need to carry it and how long you’ll be carrying it for.

Osprey is a company that specialises in making innovative and high-quality backpacks. Their backpacks come in a range of sizes and are extremely durable. This means they should be able to last you whether your journey is 2 weeks or a year-long journey.

Wash Bag

Having a separate bag for your toiletries is something that will be extremely useful, especially for those going on adventurous travel experiences. A separate wash bag means you won’t be rummaging around in other bags, compartments, etc. when all you need to do is brush your teeth or wash your hands and face. It’s therefore not exactly an ‘essential’ item for your travels but it will make your travels much more convenient, especially if you’ve just come off a long day of hiking or travelling.

Osprey again makes a padded high-quality wash bag however, if you need something lighter or slightly cheaper you can easily get your hands on indivdual netted wash bags as well.

Filter Water Bottle

The last thing you want on your travels is to drink from a questionable water source and catch some form of illness, potentially ruining your experience. The Water-to-Go filter bottle will filter out well over 99.9% of bacteria, viruses, chemicals and pesticides from any non-salt water source. This means it can provide safe, clean drinking water from any river, lake, mountain stream or even bad tap water.

The bottle is also a great way to reduce your plastic footprint. Instead of buying lots of single-use plastic water bottles, the reusable Water-to-Go bottle can be used to replace them. In fact, one 200L filter can replace up to 400 single-use plastic water bottles.

Additionally, with each filter being able to process 130 or 200 litres of water (dependent on filter size) the bottle will only cost you around 5p per litre. So you can also save yourself some extra money to spend on your travels.

Medication for your Destination

It’s important to be prepared medically for whichever country you are visiting, especially if you are travelling to countries like Africa where there is the risk of diseases such as Malaria.

The medication you’ll need will vary depending on the country you’re travelling to. Make sure to consult your GP or visit a travel clinic to recommend the medicines/ vaccinations you will need for your travels. Their’s nothing worse than your experience being ruined because of an illness.

Insect Repellent Spray

On a similar topic to medication, making sure you protect yourself from insect bits will be very important in certain countries. In hotter countries, especially African countries, where insects tend to get a bit bitey making sure you fend them off will make your trip much more enjoyable.

We also briefly talk about insect repellent clothing later in this blog, which is just another way you can protect yourself against bites.

Essential Items for Travel

Make sure you double and triple check the essential items that you will need for your travels. Some essential items you will likely need are:

  • Passport
  • Visa
  • Money in the correct currency (make sure to check first)
  • Any relevant insurance or other important documents
  • Flight tickets or other tickets you may need
  • Personal medication (i.e. inhaler, epi-pen, etc.)
  • Mobile phone

Be aware your particular journey may require other essential items so it’s important to prepare specifically for your travel needs.

 

Mini Padlock

Security will be vital on your travels, especially when carrying important documents like your passport, wallet, visas, etc.

Make sure to get yourself at least one mini-padlock for each bag you’re carrying with you. The locks are generally at a good price and well worth securing your important documents and expensive items. You can either go for a combination lock or a mini-padlock with a key, but make sure you keep the keys in a safe place on your person. The last thing you want is to be locked out of your own backpack!

You can also get a cable lock which is a fantastic way to keep your luggage safe on public transport. If you’re taking a long train or bus journey a cable lock can be attached to a pole or seat near you, stopping anyone from swiping your bags.

 

Lightweight Sleeping Bag

This will be a great item if you are staying in places that may not offer the best sleeping conditions, particularly if you’re camping or staying in a hostel.

Obviously, a sleeping bag is something that can be a pain to lug around all day, but you can get some great lightweight sleeping bags. This means you won’t be adding any excessive extra weight into your backpack. Some sleeping bags are able to fold up to become no bigger than a football, meaning you can save on space as well.

Appropriate Clothing for your Travels

It will be important to bring appropriate clothes for not just your destination but also the type of travel that you will be embarking on. This will be especially relevant if you are undertaking a more adventurous experience.

Rohan is a clothing company that stock clothes for the traveller and have gear appropriate for a range of different locations. They stock a range of cold weather clothing, from waterproofs to winter trekking gear as well as providing a warm weather range which includes specially designed sun-protective and insect repellent clothes.

Hopefully, this has given you some good ideas about what you need and want to take on your gap year travels. If you’re planning an adventure travel experience click here to see our 10 essential adventure travel items for more useful pieces of kit.

Water-to-Go are working with Malaria No More UK to help tackle malaria

Water-to-Go are delighted to be working with Malaria No More UK, an awesome charity working to eliminate the world’s oldest and deadliest disease. Together, we are raising vital awareness and funds for the charity’s work to save lives.

Water-to-Go and Malaria No More UK are passionate about improving world health and making the world a better place. This is a hugely exciting project for everyone involved and we want you to join us. Read on to find out why we need your help and support.

Water-to-Go have produced a special edition bottle that helps tackle malaria. We will donate £8 + VAT from every special bottle sold towards Malaria No More UK’s work in fighting this global killer. With every purchase of a limited edition bottle, you will be contributing to our project and helping change the world, one bottle at a time.

Special edition Malaria No More UK filter bottle from Water-to-Go. at least £8 + VAT from each bottle sold will go directly to Malaria No More UK and the work they do in fighting malaria.

 

Who are Malaria No More UK?

Malaria No More UK is helping lead the charge against malaria, and exists to catalyse and inspire the global partnerships, leadership and financing necessary to achieve a 90% reduction in malaria by 2030, save 10 million lives, and put us on track to make malaria no more. If efforts are maintained, we could be the generation to end malaria for good. They influence decision-makers, from governments to international bodies and leading corporations; collaborate with and support partners large and small; and raise awareness about their fight and what we can do about it.

WE HAVE A SHARED AMBITION TO IMPROVE THE HEALTH AND WELLBEING OF EVERYONE, EVERYWHERE

Water-to-Go’s mission is to protect those at risk from unsafe water supplies by offering access to safe, healthy water anywhere in the world. This is achieved by providing a unique 3-in-1 technology portable filtration system that eliminates over 99.9% of all microbiological contaminants including viruses, bacteria, chemicals and heavy metals from any non-salt water source.

Malaria No More UK’s mission is to see an end to the world’s oldest and deadliest disease, that would save the lives of millions. Around since the dinosaurs, malaria is thought to have killed up to half of all humankind. But today the disease still kills a child every two minutes, despite being entirely preventable (using bed nets, insecticide spraying and antimalarial drugs) and treatable (costing less than £1 to save a life). It still kills almost half a million people every year. Global progress against the disease – which saw 7 million lives saved and deaths reduced by 60% is under threat due to stalled funding and a decline in political attention.

We are partnering with Malaria No More UK to end this deadly disease once and for all. In the 21st Century, no child should die from a mosquito bite.

By buying a limited edition bottle, you will be contributing to our project and helping to eliminate malaria so millions can live. Your support will help change people’s lives and by working together we have the chance to be the generation that ends malaria.

L-R Joanita, Putelesi, Ignacious, Musaline. Children at the home of Joseph and Tina Gariseb pose for photos under their new net. Malaria Agents with Nets for Life distributing mosquito nets in the New Location in Tsumeb, Northern Namibia. November 16th 2010.
Picture by Zute Lightfoot www.lightfootphoto.com

Thank you in advance for your support.

Water-to-Go in partnership with Oasis Overland

Water-to-Go is excited to announce a new partnership with Oasis Overland. They are an adventure tour company that operate adventure trips from 5 days to 10 months duration in Africa, South America and Asia. Travellers who join them are looking for something a bit different and something off the beaten track.

 

Oasis Overland realise the important role they have to play in ensuring that their trips are run responsibly to maximise the potential benefits to local communities and minimise the negatives. In alignment with their philosophy of responsible tourism, they have decided to partner up with Water-to-Go to ensure that their clients travel responsibly and safely as well as reducing their carbon footprint. Oasis Overland are actively promoting Water-to-Go as essential kit on their tours so that their members have access to safe, clean drinking wherever they are.

 

Water-to-Go is a supporter of Oasis Overland and has supplied Water-to-Go filtration bottles to them, and are proud to extend the association. We are giving their members an exclusive discount on Water-to-Go products and furthermore, Water-to-Go will match that percentage discount as a donation to the charities that they support. Water-to-Go is excited and delighted to support Oasis Overland as a referral partner and its efforts and goals with their charitable projects and hope that together we can make a difference.

 

This partnership will have more far-reaching effects than just to the people who go on their tours. Oasis Overland is committed to working with local operators and service providers and supporting communities with their trade. As such, Water-to-Go will be helping Oasis Overland to support the following projects worldwide:

 

 

Toilet Twinning ~ Travellers on Oasis Overland trips will be aware that they often pass through, and camp in, remote areas where toilet facilities do not exist. 

2.5 billion people across the world don’t have somewhere safe, clean and hygienic to go to the loo. That’s more than a third of the people on the planet. For people in poor communities, a hole in the ground is literally a life saver – protecting women from the risk of attack as they find somewhere private to squat, and shielding children from preventable diarrhoeal diseases.

Oasis Overland have just joined forces with Toilet Twinning to build seven new latrines for communities in Africa. Toilet Twinning raises funds to enable people living in poor communities to have clean water, a decent toilet, and to learn about hygiene – a vital combination that prevents the spread of disease, reduces the number of deaths among children, and brings hope for the future.

 

 

Hupenyu Hutsva Children’s Home in Harare, Zimbabwe –
Oasis Overland have made donations of food, clothing, computers & sports equipment to this home & are involved in ongoing projects. In 2008 we funded the installation of a bore hole to enable the Home to be far more self-sufficient in food production & enabling the children to practise essential horticultural skills. They also paid for gardening tools & seeds.

 

Since 2008, they having been running an event, fondly known by our crew as ‘Kids Week’. Essentially we use our trucks and crew to take all the children out on a day trip and end up with a big party back at the Home. Many of the children rarely leave the compound where they live & the trips have enabled them to see some of the sights their country has to offer. Our last trip was in December 2017, when we took the children to the Imire Game Reserve in our overland trucks, finishing off the event with a big party at the Home-complete with candy floss and Bouncy Castles!  We’re never quite sure who enjoys these trips out the most-the children, staff, or our crew!!!

 

 

David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Kenya ~ This trust has played a significant role in the conservation of Kenya’s wildlife and has pioneered strategies to reverse the extinction of the endangered black rhino and provides extensive rehabilitation programs for elephant, and other animal orphans. Projects include de-snaring, mobile veterinary services, animal welfare, water conservation and community outreach. Oasis Overland sponsor an elephant, Kamboyo & three of their trips visit this project.

 

Water-to-Go are delighted to be able to support several charities through our various partners and tour companies. Water-to-Go stands for so much more than just filtering water. We stand for protecting people’s health by giving everyone access to their basic rights of safe, clean drinking water anytime, anywhere; and also protecting the planet by producing an alternative to single-use plastic bottles. We seek to work together with organisations that share our aims and goals and together we can change the world, one bottle, one person at a time.

Water-to-Go supports World Oceans Day

World Oceans Day is a global day of ocean celebration and collaboration for a better future held every year on 8th June. It is a global initiative bringing communities together from across the world to fight for a healthier marine environment and to raise awareness of the crucial role the oceans play in our lives. Different themes are assigned to World Oceans Day and in 2018, the theme is Preventing Plastic Pollution. This is to bring awareness about the threats our oceans are under and to encourage solutions to ensure a healthier ocean and a better future for us all.

Numerous events are held around the world every year to mark World Oceans Day and this year is almost more poignant. As well as photo contests, fossil hunting walks, demonstrations, and concerts there will be more beach clean-ups and plastic pick-ups this year as we look to take actions to ensure the sustainable future of our ocean.

By using a Water-to-Go bottle, you can do your part to protect the World’s Oceans by using an environmentally friendly alternative to single-use plastic water bottles that contaminate our oceans. You can save money as well as saving the planet by not needing to purchase overpriced bottled water.

Water-to-Go seek to protect our customers’ health and well-being by offering safe, healthy water anywhere in the world but to also protect our planet by offering an environmentally friendly reusable alternative to single-use plastic water bottles.

Water-to-Go are working with travel companies to help fulfil their role as responsible tour operators

Water-to-Go is working with several leading companies in the area of reducing their carbon footprint, and ensuring that their clients travel responsibly and safely. Water-to-Go have recently partnered up with UK tour company, Explore, to further their philosophy of responsible tourism. Explore are actively promoting Water-to-Go as essential kit on their trips so that their customers have access to safe, clean drinking wherever they are.

Water-to-Go offers a brandable reusable filter water bottle which will ensure their clients and customers have no need to contribute to the blight caused by single-use plastic water bottles, also filtering out harmful contaminants.

Port of London Authority (PLA) announced plans to stop using single-use plastics for World Ocean Day by partnering up with Water-to-Go

The PLA has partnered with  Water-to-Go to provide specialised bottles to the crews of their vessels to save on their usage of single-use plastic water bottles and protect our oceans. Dave Shanks, Founder of Water-to-Go said:

“I’m delighted to see them being used on port authority vessels on the Thames.  If our assistance can help the PLA achieve its single-use plastic free goal, it’ll be a great and noteworthy result.”

“Single-use plastic bottles for water are a blight, wherever you go in the world.  Our bottles provide everyone with the chance to access clean, filtered, water on the go.”

Water-to-Go is doing its part by educating plus informing their consumers and partners on the perils of destroying marine life in the world’s oceans as well as being personally responsible for one’s usage of plastics in everyday life.

The issue of plastics pollutions has been pushed more into the public consciousness through Sir David Attenborough’s “Blue Planet II” programme and images of the catastrophic impact plastic waste is having on marine wildlife. This article by SLO Active highlights the impact of plastic pollution on our oceans and what we can do about it

Plastic Pollution – Single Use Plastic Impact on our Oceans

This has prompted actions to be taken by organisations, governments and authorities to tackle the problem. Organisations such as Surfers against Sewage and the Marine Conservation Society advocate beach clean campaigns throughout the year to protect our oceans and this is replicated all over the world.

The Ocean Project

The Ocean Project has been the global leader for coordinating and growing the event for over 15 years. The organisation was founded to advance ocean conservation in partnership with aquariums, zoos, museums, and other youth and visitor-serving organisations around the world. Back in 1999, it instigated the most comprehensive research ever carried out on the public’s attitudes to, and understanding of, oceans and the environment. This prompted a complete rethink around how aquariums and other attractions present their exhibits and how they communicate and engage visitors with conservation.

Today, The Ocean Project’s partner network numbers around 2,000 organisations. It continues to offer support with public opinion and communications research, strategic insights, and support for innovative and effective public engagement, and conservation impact.

The world’s oceans play a key role for life on Earth

70% of our planet is covered by one huge, continuous body of seawater – the ocean. It holds 1.35 billion cubic kilometres of water and plays a huge role for us and marine life. According to the UN, they are “the lungs of our planet, providing most of the oxygen we breathe, [as well as] a major source of food and medicines and a critical part of the biosphere.” In the past few decades, the threats from pollution, overfishing and other forms of exploitation to marine habitats have increased dramatically.

The Ocean Conference called for the engagement of all relevant stakeholders, bringing together Governments, the United Nations system, other intergovernmental organizations, academic institutions, the scientific community, the private sector, philanthropic organizations, civil society, mayors, children, youth and others who will utilize this momentum to galvanize action-oriented partnerships at all levels – local, national and global – that provide lasting and long-term solutions to protect our oceans.

Read more about how to mark World Environment Day with Water-to-Go and what else is being done to tackle plastic pollution in our previous blog.

Unravelling Travelling: Water-to-Go is the number 1 item in our backpack

Well hello there! We are a couple who travel and work our way around the world full time whilst running our travel website Unravelling Travelling. Our aim is to make travel more accessible by sharing tips, tricks and advice to those who may feel that travelling is out of their reach. The most common question we get asked is how expensive it is to travel, even on a budget. Whilst we focus mainly on transport and accommodation, we want to bring attention to the smaller amounts that add up, like bottled water in countries where tap water isn’t drinkable, which is why we’ve turned to Water-to-Go.

Photo credit: Ben Bardsley-Ball, Unravelling Travelling

Water-to-Go make filtration bottles which allow you to drink from any non-salt water source using filters that remove over 99.9% of bacteria. Their mission is to offer safe and healthy drinking water worldwide whilst saving you money (every backpacker’s dream) and providing an alternative to single-use plastic bottles.

Photo credit: Ben Bardsley-Ball, Unravelling Travelling

Whilst we’re travelling, it’s extremely important for us to stay hydrated, especially when we visit countries with a high humidity and temperatures way beyond those we’re used to. The lack of drinking water in many parts of the world resulted in the buying of bottled water, which had a disastrous effect on both our pockets and the environment. In the USA and Europe alone, we consume over 70 billion single-use plastic water bottles, of which only 20% are recycled. Not only does this have a detrimental effect on the environment, 1 million seabirds and 100,000 mammals die from ingesting or becoming trapped in plastic waste per year.

Photo credit: Ben Bardsley-Ball, Unravelling Travelling

A video has recently emerged of a tourist beach in Bali showing the amount of plastic contaminating our oceans. Not only is it extremely sad for the wildlife, but also affects us as travellers; it is our duty to leave our destinations as we found them. Drinking a single bottle of water does as much damage to the environment as driving a car for 1km, and for every 5 bottles made, 1 bottle full of oil is used to distribute them.

So why don’t we just reuse the first water bottle we buy when we arrive at our destination, especially as some places do provide free and safe drinking water from the tap? Because reusing our bottle can lead to physical breakdowns of plastic where bacteria can harbour leading to bacterial contamination and that is the last thing we need when we’re in the middle of a trip of a lifetime!

Photo credit: Ben Bardsley-Ball, Unravelling Travelling

Using a Water-to-Go bottle gives us access to water in the most remote regions of the world. Whether we’re near a puddle, a stream or a bucket of rain water, we use our bottles to filter it into perfectly safe drinking water. Secondly, for every 260 plastic bottles we would have to throw away, we only get through 1 filter with our bottles. Thirdly, it’s safer to drink puddle water from Thailand in a Water-to-Go bottle than it is to drink tap water from a reused plastic bottle in UK. Plus, we save a rather large sum of money.

Photo credit: Ben Bardsley-Ball, Unravelling Travelling

As backpackers, we spend the months leading up to our trip eating nothing but beans on toast and working 70 hour weeks to pay for it, but we would often forget to add ‘keeping hydrated’ to our budget. An average person is recommended to drink 2 litres of water per day. This equates to 4 bottles of water per day (assuming our bottle size is 500ml). With no access to tap water, we would then spend £4 per day minimum. On a 6 month trip, we would need to budget £744 just for water, whereas with a Water-to-Go bottle it costs £29 for a 500ml bottle and 2 extra filters, plus we save £252 per filter, assuming each filter is equal to exactly 260 plastic bottles costing £1 each. We also remove the filter and use it as our regular day to day bottle, as tap water in the UK only costs 2p per litre.

Photo credit: Ben Bardsley-Ball, Unravelling Travelling

We received these bottles as a present for Christmas 2017 and have taken them on every trip we’ve been on so far. One of these places was Malaysia, where we decided to hike Bukit Saga, just outside of Kuala Lumpar. Our 3 hour journey quickly turned into 9 hours when we got lost and we hadn’t taken food with us. Luckily what we did have was our Water-to-Go bottles which we filled every step of the way from any water source we could find. Had we bought a bottle of water from a shop beforehand instead, we would have ended up drinking from muddy, murky waters with no filtration system and potentially been extremely ill afterwards. Not something we would have relished during our first few weeks of our trip! You can read our full horror story here.

Photo credit: Ben Bardsley-Ball, Unravelling Travelling

We recently voted our Water-to-Go bottles our number 1 item in our backpack, but don’t just take our word for it; there have been incredible testimonies from people in a variety of situations and places such as a medical trip to Rwanda, a 4,500km walk the length of India, expeditions to Mongolia and Madagascar, walking the length of the Zambezi River and Kayaking the length of Angola’s Kwanza River, all of which you can read about here.

So, what are you waiting for? To all the backpackers out there, your Water-to-Go bottle will be your best friend and maybe even your life saver! Be sure to purchase a bottle and as many filters as you’ll need before you go. It’s an absolute life changer!

Photo credit: Ben Bardsley-Ball, Unravelling Travelling

Guest blog post by Li Vinall from Unravelling Travelling

All photos by Ben Bardsley-Ball, Unravelling Travelling

Water-to-Go in partnership with Explore

Water-to-Go is excited to announce a new partnership with Explore. Their small group adventure holidays have been running since 1981 and today, Explore is one of the most trusted travel companies in the UK with over 600 trips to more than 130 countries.

Water-to-Go and Explore realise the important role they have to play in ensuring that Explore’s trips are run responsibly to maximise the potential benefits to local communities and minimise the negatives. In alignment with their philosophy of responsible tourism, they have decided to partner up with Water-to-Go to ensure that their customers travel responsibly and safely as well as reducing their carbon footprint. Explore are actively promoting Water-to-Go as essential kit on their trips so that their customers have access to safe, clean drinking wherever they are.

Water-to-Go will be helping Explore fulfil their role as a responsible tour operator

Water-to-Go is a supporter of Explore and has supplied Water-to-Go filtration bottles to them, and are proud to extend the association. We are giving their customers an exclusive discount on Water-to-Go products and furthermore, Water-to-Go will match that percentage discount as a donation to the Explore Start-up Fund. Water-to-Go is excited and delighted to support Explore as a referral partner and their efforts with their charitable projects and hope that together we can make a difference.

This partnership will have more far-reaching effects than just to the people who go on their trips. Explore is committed to travelling in only a responsible and sustainable way. They ensure the local people they meet and work with along the way are well looked after and that the environment is cared for and not damaged – this includes offsetting all staff and customer flight emissions. As such, Water-to-Go will be helping Explore fulfil their role as a responsible operator.

Toilet Twinning

Explore are very proud to support Toilet Twinning and their inspirational work. Toilet Twinning is a UK based charity with one commendable goal – to flush away poverty! This fantastic charity is raising funds to enable people living in poor communities to have clean water, a decent toilet, and to learn about hygiene – a vital combination that prevents the spread of disease, reduces the number of deaths among children, and brings hope for the future. They invest time and money in working with local communities through workshops and engagement to teach people about the importance of hygiene and to have the skills to build their own latrines.

Explore Start Up

In 2016 Explore created the Explore Start Up Fund, which is the project Water-to-Go’s donations will be supporting. Each year, Explore award a donation of £1,000 to three sustainable start-ups. The business proposals come from our overseas teams around the world and the only imperative is that the ideas are sustainable, and can continue to grow and flourish without continued financial support. From looms being purchased for women’s’ cooperatives in Morocco, to bamboo plantations in Malawi, to culinary training for jam producers in Borneo the scope is wide and the project is very exciting!

Responsible Tourism

Responsible tourism is – and always has been – one of the driving principles of Explore. They care deeply about travelling in a way that positively impacts the people and places they visit. To them, responsible travel means that:-

  • They ensure people who work for Explore are treated fairly and paid a fair wage.
  • They learn about and respect the customs and culture of the country they are visiting so that they do not offend local people.
  • They ensure that local people benefit economically by employing them as leaders, guides and drivers – and by eating in local restaurants and using locally owned hotels where possible.
  • They minimise our impact on the environment by travelling in small groups, offsetting our carbon emissions, reducing waste and supporting conservation projects.

Explore have worked hard at these things to ensure they are welcomed in the places they all love to visit, meaning local people benefit and their groups enjoy a better trip. It could be through some of their great community-based tourism experiences, meeting local people or experiencing the pristine wilderness and leaving it untouched. 


Chasing Gandhi’s Shadow: Olie Hunter Smart completes his 4,500km walk the length of India

In April 2017, Olie Hunter Smart set off on a solo journey to walk the length of India to uncover untold stories of Independence and Partition that took place in 1947.  He’s just returned to the UK and shares his story with us.  You can read about the background to his journey here.

Olie’s route through India

As I stared out of the aeroplane window on my way up to Ladakh, I thought I’d bitten off more than I could chew.  Not only did the plains of India look hot, dry and particularly arid, but the Himalayas looked huge and the snowy conditions were not something I was experienced with. 

Looking down at the folds that make up the Himalayas

However, I soon became distracted by the beauty of the mountain landscape; deep purple mountains capped in white snow; huge sunny skies and crisp fresh air; and the gentle sound of prayer wheels spinning as people went about their daily routines.  It was magical.  I was excited about the long journey that lay ahead.

Mountain scenes and snowy peaks of Ladakh

After a few days of acclimatisation, I set off with a guide essential to navigating the mountain trails that would take us off the roads, following valleys and climbing high mountain passes that blocked the route south.  We carried food with us so as not to be a burden on the remote communities we passed through, increasing my already heavy bag to around 28 kilos.  Thankfully, the Water-to-Go bottles saved us valuable weight as we filled up from icy cold snow melt streams.  It was so thirst quenching!

I filled up from ice-cold streams while trekking in the Himalayas

As we emerged from the mountain trails some 5 weeks later, I waved goodbye to the guide and set off for the dusty plains of northern India.  Temperatures soared to a staggering 48 degrees so it was critical that I kept cool and remained hydrated.  I discovered this area was heavily impacted by Partition that took place following Independence in 1947.  Millions of people fled, escaping violence and persecution as Hindu ruled East Punjab and Muslim ruled West Punjab were divided.

An elder I spoke to along my route

Most nights I stayed with families which gave me the opportunity to hear elders recounting their experience of that traumatic period of history; I found myself wincing at their accounts of the brutality, the stories of families fleeing their homes never to return, or of fathers giving their children daggers to use on themselves to avoid being subjected to violence and abuse.  I was very moved by their descriptions, something I had not anticipated hearing, but that was reality for them.

Would you walk along the railway lines in India?

I followed the railway line south, it being more direct as well as keeping me off the roads and away from the dangerous traffic and pollution.  I passed through Delhi and onto Rajasthan where I continued to hear similarly tragic stories about Partition, but on occasion was pleasantly surprised to come across a few positive stories from people who had been able to change their financial situation having set up successful businesses.  Food flavours were now changing every 100 kilometres or so as the agriculture influenced the dishes I was eating.  By now I’d been on the road for almost 4 months but I was loving rural India.

I’d been looking forward to the Salt March, the inspiration for my journey, since the start.  Today the route has become somewhat a heritage route making it far easier to navigate, yet the difficulty came in each village when trying to find various plaques or statues commemorating Gandhi’s walk in 1930.  Fortunately, the locals knew it well and took great pleasure in showing me around their community, regaling historical stories to boot.  I reached Dandi where Gandhi broke the salt law, realising that I was now over half way through my journey.  It was an emotional moment.

No longer reliant on Google maps as my route was marked to Dandi!

Back on the road I worked my way down to the busting city of Mumbai.  India is well set up for constant refills of your own bottle in the hot climate, whether it be a hand pump or well in a village, a tap on a railway platform or from the increasing number of reverse osmosis stations set up in villages to provide clean water to the communities. My Water-to-Go bottle provided me with consistently good quality and safe water from whatever source I found.

I would fill up anywhere I could find fresh water along my route

By now I was beginning to get increasingly frustrated with life on the road – the hooting, incessant demands for selfies and that spicy food.  Couldn’t I just have cereal for breakfast?!  I’d been walking for 6 months, but it was only when I worked my way uphill to Pune that I realised I had spent the best part of three months in the flat plains of India.  There had been no texture in the landscape, nothing on the horizon to aim for.  I’d been missing the hills, so I made it my mission to find a place to camp next to a lake, and soon enough I found the perfect spot!

Finding a place to camp was tricky, but on occasions I found the ideal spot

I continued south, meeting some freedom fighters that had fought alongside Mahatma Gandhi in the struggle for freedom, many of whom were over 90 years old.  As I neared Mysore I was confident with my progress until one day someone asked me how I would avoid being attacked by a tiger.  Tigers?!  They’d not even crossed my mind this far south.  I carried on, getting increasingly worried as I went, trying to figure out alternative routes.  I spent half a day with all senses on edge as I walked steadily through a tiger reserve, completely petrified.

Should I heed the warning signs?

That night I resolved to find a driver who could shadow me for the next stretch of forest.  The following morning, he arrived and I set off, safe in the knowledge that there was an extra pair of eyes on the lookout.  Relief ran through my veins as I reached the end of the forest and the safety of a temple that night.

Kanyakumari in my sights!

Kanyakumari was in my sights, but there was one final obstacle I had to overcome – Cyclone Ockhi with her devastating wind and rain.  Having already walked through monsoon rains I was determined not to be put off by some adverse weather and ploughed on, reaching the very southern tip of India on 6th December.  After seven and a half months on foot, I’d made it!  What an incredible way to experience real India!

With nowhere else to go, I can now relax!

Olie is currently working on a documentary of his journey. 

To find out the latest, follow @oliehuntersmart on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

World Water Day 2018 – Solutions to the global water crisis

In our previous blog post, we mentioned that people all over the world are raising awareness about the importance of water and how we can solve the global water crisis as part of World Water Day 2018 which is happening on 22 March.

The United Nations has long been addressing the global crisis caused by unsafe water and sanitation and growing demands on the world’s water resources to meet human, economic and environmental needs. According to them, the answer is in nature.

A major part of the solution is to produce less pollution and improve the way we manage wastewater. We have heard it before but a circular economy is imperative to the sustainability of the planet. Prince Charles cited this when speaking at the ‘Our Ocean’ conference in Malta in October 2017. Although this talk plastic pollution in our oceans, a circular economy would affect all aspects of sustainable development. He highlighted that “this economic approach has to be a critical part of establishing a more harmonious relationship between humankind and the ocean that sustains us all.”

A more circular and therefore more sustainable economy requires us to value wastewater for its potential, rather than discard or ignore it. More than just an alternative source of water, safe wastewater management could help protect our ecosystems and give us energy, nutrients and other recoverable materials.

UN Water

Around 1.9 billion people live in areas where water is already scarce and this is just not acceptable. It is largely as a result of unfortunate natural disasters that cause absolute devastation in certain parts of the world. Even people who live in areas where there is running water, over 2 billion of them live without safe drinking water at home; affecting their health, education and livelihoods. We explored the importance of water as an essential building block of life in our previous blog post. This crisis will have far more consequences than we realise unless we pull together to address the problem. Hopefully, through World Water Day and the upcoming High-Level Political Forum later this year, the United Nations and other authorities will be able to address any issues and accelerate the progress of the Sustainable Development Goals.

We have to make safe, clean water for health and sanitation universally available all over the world and this starts with addressing how wastewater is managed according to the UN. We are getting to a stage where we have to think twice about how we use natural resources and how we can be more efficient as a global economy. Furthermore, as mentioned earlier, a circular economy would help accelerate progress and help us all commit to a sustainable future. These resources need to be recovered, recycled and reused instead of just thrown away.

The availability of safe and sufficient water supplies is inextricably linked to how wastewater is managed. Increased amounts of untreated sewage, combined with agricultural runoff and industrial discharge, have degraded water quality and contaminated water resources around the world.

UN Water

Another sustainable solution to our water crisis and plastic pollution is Water-to-Go. Our reusable filter bottle is the perfect alternative to single-use plastic bottles and gives you guaranteed access to safe, clean drinking water from any non-salt water source in the world.

Our unique 3-in-1 filters eliminate well in excess of 99.9% of microbiological contaminants including viruses, bacteria, chemicals and heavy metals from water leaving you with clean, safe water anytime, anywhere.

Find out in our next blog post what Water-to-Go are doing to help and progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals. Find out more about the Sustainable Development Goals here in this video.

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World Water Day 2018 – why water is an essential building block of life

In our previous blog post, we mentioned that water is an essential building block of life. It is more than just essential to quench thirst or protect health; water is vital for creating jobs and supporting economic, social, and human development.

People all over the world are raising awareness about the importance of water and how we can solve the global water crisis as part of World Water Day 2018 (22 March). You can read more about World Water Day 2018 in our previous blog.

Here at Water-to-Go, we know all about the importance of water and want everyone to see the benefits of drinking plenty of it. We all know that every person in the world needs clean contamination free water to survive so, at Water-to-Go, we want to give the World safe clean water that they can afford.

Water is the key to life — every system in our body depends on it. It is the solvent that transports many essential molecules and other particles around the body. Therefore, water helps carry nutrients to our cells, helps rid toxins from our organs, and keeps our nose, ears, and throat moist. Water makes up around 70% of us. It helps the body function, maintaining physical and mental health.

Around 1.9 billion people live in areas where water is already scarce. We have a very privileged life in Europe and the developed world as we have safe, clean water at our fingertips. Many people in the world, as we are all too aware, don’t have this luxury and we need to tackle this problem. This then affects their health and, as a result, affects their education, work and development.

It takes huge amounts of water to grow food for example. Globally we use 70% of our water sources for agriculture and irrigation, and only 10% on domestic uses. So, a huge part of the day for people in third-world countries is spent collecting water for domestic use as well as agriculture.

Women and children spend 258 million hours every day collecting water. This is time that could be spent working, caring for family, or attending school. Less time getting water means more time for life.

Water.org

The United Nations have realised that we need to accelerate progress and development in third-world countries with regards to improving water and sanitation. As a result, there will be a High-Level Political Forum later this year in July to review the Sustainable Development Goals in the hope to strengthen the means of implementation. Goal 6 is to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. This will be the first point of conversation as this is the main building block for sustainable development to take place.

The human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation are a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous & sustainable world. Ending poverty and relieving world hunger, for example, begins with water. It is fundamental to our being and is imperative to our sustainable future.

Relieving hunger in Africa has to begin with access to clean water. It may seem simple, but we forget that without access to a reliable source of water, food is hard to grow and even more difficult to preserve and prepare.

The Water Project

The UN say that the answer to our global water crisis is in nature. Good water quality is essential to human health, social and economic development, and the ecosystem. However, as populations grow and natural environments become degraded, ensuring there are sufficient and safe water supplies for everyone is becoming increasingly challenging. A major part of the solution is to produce less pollution and improve the way we manage wastewater.

Globally, 80% of wastewater flows back into the ecosystem without being treated or reused, contributing to a situation where around 1.8 billion people use a source of drinking water contaminated with faeces, putting them at risk of contracting cholera, dysentery, typhoid and polio.

UN Water

If these people had a Water-to-Go bottle, they wouldn’t be at risk to these illnesses such as cholera and polio. Our unique 3-in-1 filter technology eliminates well in excess of 99.9% of microbiological contaminants including viruses and bacteria from any non-salt water source in the world.

The UN are highlighting that there are solutions but they will take time to implement. Water-to-Go are looking to do our bit for World Water Day and will announce this in due course. Water-to-Go is a sustainable solution to this crisis so join our journey and support us to help make a difference.

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