I am sitting on the couch with wet hair dripping onto my shoulders after the longest shower to wash sea salt and sand off my body after a vigorous swim in the Indian Ocean.
It’s the final day of a week-long holiday for us. We were invited by my family to join them for a week at timeshare in Umhlanga, and mostly it has been a break from the devastating reality of the drought in Cape Town. We left our animals and house in the care of a house sitter who had to negotiate our makeshift grey water storage in the bathtub for toilet flushing, a courtyard full of plants clinging to life with only dishwater to sustain them and boxes of bought water for human and animal consumption.
We left Cape Town but took the paranoia and panic with us, and it has slowly crept up the scale again today, as we think about our return home tomorrow. Never before have I considered so deeply my privilege. I have had a week of proper escape from my real life. There are working taps on pathways for holidaymakers to wash their sandy feet. There are working fresh water showers on the beach. Our resort towels may be exchanged for fresh ones whenever we want to, and if we leave shower towels on the floor that means we want fresh ones. Drinks are served with tons of ice. Lawns around us are watered. I heard the forgotten sound of sprinklers watering the plants on the promenade.
Whenever anyone finds out that we are from Cape Town they start talking about the drought. Holiday makers from inland (Jozi and Pretoria mainly) tell stories of friends and family who visited Cape Town in December and who were shocked by the severity of the drought. Cape Town’s status as a ‘premier destination’ has taken a huge knock, and the general opinion is that huge events like the cycle tour should be cancelled because of the strain they place on water usage. My Jozi friends are part of water collection drives, and I am moved when I get whatsapp updates about water being sent to animal shelters.
I am turning my head to what I return to tomorrow. I haven’t been online much, but every time I have stuck my nose onto Facebum I have seen friends posting about water fights at Newlands, shelves at shops being empty, hand sanitiser and wet wipes being sold out, and tips for further reducing consumption. I am frightened, and it is the fear of both what we have done, what we have ignored, and how we honestly believed it could never happen.