Tucked away down a small road in the heart of suburbia lies one of Cape Town’s greatest treasures: the Newlands Spring.
On paper, it sounds a little dodgy. Drive down Springs Road, park at the end of the cul de sac, and fill up your water bottles from a spring that comes out of a white plastic pipe at the end of the road. A number of friends told me about it and I laughed at them, loudly. Get my drinking water from a hole in the side of the road? No thank you!
But then I went to the spring myself, driven by curiosity and too many friends mentioning it all in the space of one week. And what I found was one of my favourite weekly stop-offs. Yes, you drive down Springs Road and park at the end of the road. Yes, you fill your water bottle from a white plastic pipe that juts out of the road. But that plastic pipe is simply acting as a conduit for the rush of pure, fresh spring water that tumbles out from its underground passage down a small slope and into the river below. The spring is on the edge of a nature reserve, and the air is scented with flowers and peppered with the sound of birdsong. There are trees growing all around it, and dappled sunlight to rest in during the hot summer days. And most of all, there is water – the most delicious water I have ever tasted.
You might not think that water has much of a taste, but you’d be wrong. City water tastes metallic and has a chemical aftertaste that you don’t notice until you drink the good stuff. More and more people seem to be getting hooked on the good stuff, if the number of water gatherers at the spring is anything to go by. On any given day a steady stream of people comes to the spring for their week’s (or day’s) worth of water – I’ve seen policemen and builders, old couples and students, fancy BMW drivers and clapped out old Beetle drivers, and every kind of water container you can imagine (including a dozen empty wine bottles!) It seems the spring is a uniting force.
And more than that, it is an ancient and natural force – part of the thirteen original springs that defined the location of Cape Town. The Reclaim Camissa initiative is working hard to make people aware of the original rivers of Cape Town (most of them bricked under the City Bowl) and the enormous importance of water conservation and respect for our rivers.
And next time you’re in Cape Town, take a meander over to Springs Road. But be warned – once you’ve tasted pure spring water, there’s no going back.