A Travellerspoint blog

Day 76 – Devils’ Pool

7th December 2011

sunny 27 °C

The following morning we still had belly ache from all the sugar we’d eaten the evening before. We had to make the most of our sugar levels as today we were visiting Victoria Falls. Entering the Falls we took the path farthest from the Falls first. They were resplendent even at a time of year where the rains are only just appearing. It would be another three months before they raged in all their glory, it takes time for the water to collect from the mountains of northern Zambia and Eastern Angola and makes its way down stream. They were spectacular enough at first sight but each time we moved closer they became even more magnificent.

Another round of bartering at the stalls outside yielded some of our best returns yet. We have so much tat that we don’t need any more. But by the time they’d sat us down, and started chatting they were selling quite talented carvings for three or four dollars each. Moreover, money wasn’t all they were after, they quite happily wanted to trade. An old pair of binoculars that didn’t belong to me, thanks Michael, were traded for eighty billion Zimbabwean dollars. I’d have got a trillion if we’d pushed but greed wasn’t the essence of the occasion. Walking sticks, bookends and statues followed. A pair of standard issue RAF woollen socks in woodland green were traded for a small ebony statue. Thank you Michael and thank you British tax payer. Sadly we were running out of Michaels’ stuff to trade so our purchasing power soon dwindled.

The afternoon promised great things. We had booked a guided walk across the top of the falls to Livingstone Island. The walk would include a swim in the Devils Pool. Our guide, Kelvin, was incredibly knowledgeable on practically everything, from conservation to the history of continental Africas’ languages. We wandered along the falls, at times less than a metre from the edge. We waded through deeper channels as he advised us that when the river flows at its peak, elephants get washed over the edge, we added that even though the levels were a lot lower, we didn’t want to slip as the current might sweep us over.

As we approached the main section of the Falls, just past Livingstone Island, plumes of spray wafted up and over the ledge. The local name for Victoria Falls is ‘Mosi-Au-Tunya,’ ‘The Smoke that Thunders.’ We were seeing why. The plumes of mist gave the perception of smoke rising from the water as it thundered over the edge. On reaching what appeared to be an impassable section Kelvin piped up, “Now we must swim across. Leave your valuables here. Richard will take your camera so that it doesn’t get wet. Make sure you follow me and swim next to the current, not in it. Or you may die.” With that, a second guide Richard promptly appeared. We stripped down, piled up our gear and slipped into the Zambezi about five metres from its precipitous edge. We swam upstream following Kelvin, petrified of slipping into a place we didn’t want to be. He stopped in the middle of the river. “Now we must swim across the current, follow me.” We swam through the water that rushed towards the rocky edge. The force naturally pushed us closer to the edge; slowly, but in our position, disconcertingly. We made it to the rocks we’d aimed for and clambered out on to a stone promontory walking a few more metres until we were only three metres from the edge. Ahead lay the ‘Devils’ pool’ as water spilled from it and tumbled one hundred metres down to the canyon below. “Don’t jump to the left, you’ll hit the rocks, don’t jump to the right, you’ll hit the current, and don’t jump too far, or you’ll be swimming down the river” said Kelvin grinning. “Just follow me.” “Jump – Towards the edge – Into the water fall?” questioned Somers. “Yes you will be fine, do what I do,” reassured Kelvin. “Jump...” Somers reaffirmed. “And smile, Richard is taking photos.”

The still pool betrayed the hellish place in which it lay. Water cascaded over its edge to meet the rising misty remains of the water that had fallen before. To its right lay the main current of the river bowling over and over in an endless aquatic assault on the rocks beneath. The rocks to the left looked like they’d give you a nasty graze or worse; they were a nice option. Our jump lay before us with only the pounding of our hearts to slow us down. Kelvin was asking us to jump into the water directly towards the fall. While our brains said no a little Devil on our shoulder said ‘This’ll be fun.’ In fact, the mention of photos had snapped Somers back into action. Kelvin splashed in and stopped sitting on the actual edge of the falls. If he leant back he’d disappear. He turned asking Laura to jump towards him but she was already airborne, ker-klink, ker-klink, ker-klink, the camera shutter snapped as Somers leapt, heels tucked up to her bum. Arms stretched sideways, fingers extended. Her open mouth portrayed a scream as she looked at the camera, but there was only the noise of the Falls. With a splash she disappeared. A second later she surfaced beaming from ear to ear in a shocked smile. I followed and then all three were in the water, simultaneously in the Zambezi and in the Victoria Falls.

“Now for the action!” exclaimed Kelvin. I shimmied around and jumped up onto the rocky ledge. The water was only a few inches deep on the ledge, the pool itself was about three metre deep but its natural contours turned it into the most amazing and natural ‘infinity’ pool ever created. The water rushing past my chest disappeared into the white mist and I rolled onto my belly noticing the layer of green algae formed on the ledge that I was lying upon. “Move further out.” “Err, no thanks Kelvin.” “Don’t worry, I have your feet,” he said with one arm loosely around my ankles. The water tickled my sides as it ran past and into oblivion. My belly suddenly became super sensitive, tensing it was futile, a tensed belly had less purchase. Rather I tried to relax it hoping that it would seep into every depression increasing my contact. “Move out and lift your arms up,” came the instruction. I relaxed a bit and the poses began. My head and shoulders were facing down a hundred metre drop, my feet were being tickled by fish nibbling at them and Kelvin was chatting away. My feet in his arms were about third on his list of importance I reckoned. Thankfully my turn came to an end and Somers was up. Having seen it play out and knowing that her weight was far easier to hold onto than mine she showboated. Back arched, fingers on lips, arms out in front or by her sides, it was all natural. The whole affair was something too surreal to comprehend. It felt genuinely dangerous and almost safe at the same time. There was no tight wrap of the bungee around your ankles, no man with a parachute attached to your back and no life vest hugging your body, just your swimmers and a Kelvin with varying degrees of grip around your lower limbs. Pardon the pun.

He turned and asked where we strong swimmers, I answered yes for us both whilst Somers was still thinking. We swam across the pool to a ledge where we sat and posed again, fingers on lips in a ‘quiet’ or ‘shush’ pose. Apparently during the recent elections, when the new President, Michael Sata, realised he was winning, his catch phrase was a finger on his lips “Shhhhh, don’t tell them.” Mr Sata seems very popular, he promises to change the country in three months, he has until Christmas, no one seems upset yet.

We swam back across the river and had cokes after drying off. Walking back across the falls as the sun sank, we slowly began to realise what we’d done. It only started to seem real as we walked away.

Posted by ibeamish 00:10 Archived in Zambia

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