“I’m going to murder you in your sleep,” growled Rhonda. Normally, my travelling sidekick is a rather nice girl. Kind even. Apparently I had crossed a line.
“Oh come on, it’ll be fun! What could possibly go wrong?” She peered over the edge of the 100m high cliff, the bottom of the gorge shrouded in a mist of spray, and then snarled like a rabid dog.
I suppose she had a point. Not many sensible people would opt to jump into the raging Zambezi River as it plummeted over Victoria Falls. I never once claimed to be sensible. After 20 years of friendship, she should know this. Besides, Rhonda made me go rappelling down a giant sheer cliff just the day before. I was tied to mortality with mere bits of string. She deserved this.
Livingstone Zambia is a treat. There is something for the sensible, and not so sensible folks. Sunset booze cruise on the Zambezi is a great way to stay dry and enjoy elephants while consuming vast quantities of alcohol. Or, you can live on the edge a little and test out white water rafting, rappelling, and flinging yourself into Victoria Falls. We tried a bit of everything. I even drank the water. Don’t do that. Ever.
They call it the Devil’s Pool. It appears each year during the dry season when the Zambezi is a little less mighty, a natural nook formed right at the edge of the falls. An infinity pool for the foolish. A slippery, narrow rock wall is all that keeps you from plummeting over the edge to certain death.
Even getting to the pool takes all of your guts. You try and stand steady while the guide explains what is about to happen to you. “We will swim through the river to get to that bit of rocks over there. The current is strong, so you have to swim hard, upstream, so you won’t get washed over the falls.” Sure. No problem. “And the part where we walk through the shallow area, it is very important that we all hold hands. This is really very important.” Though he didn’t explain why, I had already read that this is the section where a tourist had fallen the previous year. In an effort to save her, a guide was swept over the edge. Yes, you can hold my hand. Pardon my fierce grip.
Once you make your way to the rocky outcrop and climb up out of the river, you almost breathe a sigh of relief. You’ve survived harrowing stage one and two. Easy peasy. Except now, you’re standing at the edge of Victoria Falls. Trying really hard not to vomit.
“Ok. Now you must listen carefully,” explains our guide as the group huddles together on the rocks before the pool. “You must jump right there.” He points to an imaginary target about 6 feet ahead of us in the deep, swirling pool. Then he points a few inches to the left of the target. “If you jump there, you will get very hurt.” He then points a few tiny inches to the right of the target, “If you jump there, you will be swept over and die.”
At least then I won’t have to worry about Rhonda murdering me in my sleep.
“Are you ready? 1, 2, 3, go!” No one budged. A series of rock, paper, scissors matches ensued to find out who would be the first. Silent prayers, and gut checks followed. And then it was time. I can’t quite explain it – but when jumping into The Smoke that Thunders, I did the only thing that made sense. I plugged my nose. Because if I’m going to die, I don’t want water getting up my nose.
As soon as I landed in the water, I could feel the powerful rush of water carrying me to the edge. Yep, this is how it all ends… except it didn’t. Instead, I bumped into a hidden wall. Oh, how I love that sneaky hidden wall! One by one the group made that foolish death leap, and arrived safely at the edge. Our guides are even greater fools then us – they felt it wise to climb up onto that slippery wall and goof around.
After a few photos and panicked visions of the wall tumbling away, it was time to do the whole thing in reverse – climbing out of the Devil’s Pool, swimming across the Zambezi, holding hands.
Once on dry land and a huge sigh of relief, Rhonda looks over at me, gleaming with pride. “I’m still going to kill you.”
She hasn’t yet, but I’m waiting.
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Some details: Looking for a place to stay in Livingstone Zambia? Jollyboys Backpackers was wonderful – they took care of every last detail arranging multiple tours, the food was delicious, and they even have a cat that will snuggle with you in the loft when you’re trying to recover from drinking the water. They’re full of good deeds too, actively involved in the community. Stay here!