“You have to acclimate yourself in that pool first otherwise you’ll have a heart attack when you jump in and won’t be able to swim away from the waterfall,” the couple told as as we sized up the jump. After my last waterfall-jumping adventure I was left bruised and bleeding, so I peered over the ledge with extra caution. It was impossible to see the bottom of river into which we were planning to launch ourselves as the water from the falls rushed down quickly, churning up foam.
We had spent the day hiking in the south of France’s Massif Central mountain range, high about the isolated villages near Le Cirque de Navacelles. The Circle of Navacelle is a large erosional land form left by an incised meander, and, later, a now-dried up oxbow lake of the Vis River. In the rocky mountain range, the dried lake bed offers locals some of the only farmable land for many kilometers.
Hot and sweaty from our steep hike, we decided to brave the jump into the quickly-running falls. The Vis is a mountain-fed spring; thus, the water temperature does not reach more than 60*F, even in the height of summer. The spring feeding the falls is crystal clear, and large signs surround the area, warning of the dangers of swimming and rapidly-rising water. In jumped the Frenchman first. As soon as he surfaced, he swam as quickly as possible towards to rocks to climb out, shivering as he did so. After much hesitation and discussions about the location of the rocks, I leapt next, adrenaline keeping me warm. “Again!” shouted the Frechman, and, as I climbed out, he took another running leap off the side into the churning waters. Afterwards, shivering profusely, we agreed we had finally had enough and stretched out on the warm rocks instead.
Due in large part to its remoteness, Le Cirque de Navacelles has no tourist feel or agenda. It remains natural, nestled between the plateaus. At two to three million years old, Le Cirque de Navacelles is a stunning reminder that while our own, man-made testaments of greatness may quickly fade to rubble within the space of a few centuries, the world has been creating beauty since the beginning of time and will do so long after we are gone, shaping the valleys, the canyons, the gorges.