Acrophobia is described as an uncontrollable, irrational, and often crippling fear of heights. I’m not sure if this concept has an opposite — acrophilia, maybe? Love of heights? — but that’s how I’d describe anyone brave (crazy?) enough to go for a dip at the Devil’s Pool.
The Devil’s Pool is a natural swimming hole surrounded by just-below-the-surface rocks at the top of Africa’s Victoria Falls, right at the edge of the 108-meter falls on the Zambezi River. When I say right at the edge, I don’t mean near the edge, or sort of close to the falls, or in the grass next to the falls — I mean it is on the edge of the falls.
Just looking at pictures of the tourists who’ve gone there makes me a bit light headed. I know myself well enough to know that I could never, ever get in that water — but the photos from those braver than I are absolutely stunning. No, these aren’t photoshopped. It’s allegedly very safe, but I can’t help but think that those who scoot out over the edge for a once-in-a-lifetime photograph are really pushing their luck.
Are you brave enough to dive in?
A few weeks ago I heard Josh Swiller speak about his new memoir on NPR, and I’ve been meaning to mention it ever since. The Unheard: A Memoir of Deafness and Africa is Swiller’s account of his experiences as a hearing-impaired American serving in the Peace Corps in Zambia. Sick of feeling like an outsider as a deaf man in the U.S., Swiller headed to Africa, where he was placed in the remote village of Mununga. He was the first white man to live in the impoverished community, and also the first person there with a hearing aid.
Swiller’s travels to Africa was much more than a do-good trip. His true journey was an inner one, during which he learned “just to be grateful for each moment.” His primary assignment to dig wells soon became secondary to more pressing needs of the village that he called home for two years. Swiller has received much praise for his debut memoir, a gripping account of an experience that was much more than cultural immersion. You can read one review here, from our friends at World Hum.
One of the items of my must-do list is rafting the Zambezi. Not that I am particularly into adrenaline sports, but this African adventure sounds amazing. I hear that Zambia is trying to market itself as the adrenaline-sports center of Africa, with rafting, bungee-jumping, climbing and such and it has become quite touristy. I wonder how Hemingway would feel about this “new Africa”. Since hunting for lions is no longer acceptable for Western tourists, I guess he would have to settle for white-water rafting.
The Zambezi River and the gorges below the Victoria Falls are classified as Grade 5, but a few portions are classified even higher – Grade 6: unrunnable. July-March are supposed to be the best months to go because the river is fairly low and more rapids can be done. Although Zambia does not publish a list of casualties, people who have done it say that it was, at times, a near-death experience. (Those might just be the people imagining the rare underwater encounters with hippos and crocodiles).
Any insights from anyone who has been?