How cold is the water?
It’s the only thing stopping me from jumping in. I’m sitting on a small rocky island in the middle of a stunning emerald pool. The water of Valle Verzasca runs several metres deep but I can clearly see the riverbed, like I’m merely staring through a glass window. To my right the medieval town of Lavertezzo, crowned with the weary clock tower of the Chiesa di Santa Maria degli Angeli. To my left the landmark double arched bridge Ponte dei Salti, where young men dare each other to make the spectacular dive into the frigid river below.
The nearby city of Locarno hides the truth. We might be in Switzerland but it sure feels like Italy. All my memories have a yellow haze. The warm water of Lago Maggiore. Tall poplars. Terracotta. Gelato. Italians. It’s easy to forget about the Alps, but they’re all around us. The water that fills the Swiss/Italian lakes has to come from somewhere, after all.
So, how cold is this water? Colder than the English Channel in February. Colder than a shower with just the cold tap. Colder than NYC’s Hudson River in April.
At a balmy summer average of 7 degrees celsius, the warning signs aren’t for show. Heart attack, hypothermia, thermal shock, death. Sharon is content to dive straight in with little regard. I wish I had her courage. Instead, I’m sitting here on my little rock like a wuss. She taunts me like a child for half-an-hour before I snap. Enough is enough. Now or never. I run and dive in.
The initial shock hits you like a bus. Your skin goes tight and tingly, compressing your chest to conserve whatever warmth might be left. Even after coming up for air the coldness remains, like it’s taken over your entire body. It’s a thrilling feeling, but the shock subsides quicker than I thought. For reasons I can’t explain it’s perfect, and getting out is worse. And who’d want to get out when you could just … stay in? It might be as crowded as Bondi Beach in summer, but there’s something truly special about Valle Verzasca. The bridge, the town, the water, the warm summer sun.
We’ll be back.