Regardless of how it may seem from the companion post to this one, I do drink more non-alcoholic drinks in the SAN Parks than alcoholic ones.
The first of these is obviously WATER. I drink copious quantities of water both at home and in the Parks. In winter water is water. In summer I freeze the water (about 400ml at a time to allow for expansion) in 500ml bottles and pop them into my cooler bag to serve as ice to keep the rest of the stuff cold, but also keep some out so that it can start thawing right away. I have also learned to keep a litre or two of unfrozen water to add to the ice because I drink more water than immediately thaws (another reason not to overfill the bottles before freezing them). Even with all my planning to keep water cold I often buy cold, sparkling water from The Parks Shops, especially in the afternoons when my own supply is either exhausted or tepid from the heat in the car.
The second is COFFEE. I am South African, and I cannot manage too much time without what South Africans call “Boeretroos” or “Farmer’s Comfort”. In winter I will usually make and drink coffee at camp, but in summer I tend to limit my coffee consumption to coffee at camp restaurants and picnic sites, usually with a toasted sandwich or cake. Having said this, coffee is a perfect drink to accompany rusks (dried bread/cake like chunks much loved by South Africans) which are dipped into the coffee to soften them to an easily consumed texture. Coffee from a thermos flask and rusks make a perfect early morning snack at a water hole. Beware, however, the breaking overdunked rusks which can dump a mouthful of hot coffee and sodden crumbs on unprotected body parts. If you yell out in surprised pain, you will scare the lions away. Don’t say you weren’t warned.
The third is TEA. I am fussy about how I drink my tea. It must be freshly brewed, piping hot, made in a teapot and served in china with cold milk. I am not as fussy about the various tisanes which are also just generically (and incorrectly) called “tea”. In South Africa we enjoy a tisane which is known as “rooibos” or “redbush”. This is delicious hot or cold, with or without milk and even with or without sweetener. In my opinion it is finest when served ice cold mixed with fruit juice at a ratio of equal parts. It tames the sweetness of the juice and the juice imparts it with an interesting flavour.
The fourth of the Big Five Non-Alcoholic Drinks of the Kruger Park is TONIC WATER. One has to drink quinine for malaria (no, I know the doctors don’t acknowledge this) and one has to put gin in the tonic water for flavour. Tonic water is also one of those drinks which quenches thirst fairly effectively on its own, without being cloying sweet (don’t be fooled, it is still high in sugar). Tonic water can be a pleasant drink with a meal (and without gin) when one is still driving. One can also dilute it with soda water to further cut the sugar content without losing out on flavour. An additional bonus is that children tend not to like the bitterness of the tonic water, so they will drink other soft drinks, leaving the tonic water for discerning adults.
The final drink I refer to is the “champagne of fruit juices” – APPLETISER. In South Africa we have a strange aberration in our drinking behaviour – we put Coca Cola (or Ginger Ale or Appletiser) in brandy. Ok, some people do it. It is, of course, frowned up in serious drinking circles and very few people own up publicly to doing it. For some peculiar reason this is, in my mind, a particularly palatable sundowner in the Parks. I tend towards Appletiser in mine, although I am not above drinking brandy with Coke if the company is right. Appletiser is a unique South African drink which was first “invented” in 1966 by Edmond Lombardi, an apple farmer in the fruit-growing Elgin Valley in the Western Cape. It uses a blend of six varieties of apples and is carbonated without the addition of any other sweeteners and/or preservatives. The fruitiness goes very well with brandy. All I can say is “Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.” However, Appletiser is also a very pleasant drink on its own in small quantities (it is very high in natural fruit sugar) and it is an excellent companion to most foods. If I still have driving duties to complete I will frequently ask for Appletiser.
This list is, of course, personal. Every one will have a different list of what they consider to be their favourites. The important thing, of course, is to stay hydrated and not to drink (alcohol) and drive. Oooh, and to enjoy oneself.