One breath is not enough

It’s Friday afternoon in August and I’m taking time off in work.

I have some 350 km ahead of me over the Alps and there’s no need to rush. I’m setting off to explore the surroundings of Lago Maggiore, a lake in the south-east part of Switzerland. Local deep valleys are famous for their astonishingly clear water, so I throw my freediving gear into the car as well. Before 2 PM I’m ready and I can start my journey. In my head I’m going over all the things I packed; food, sleeping bag, diving mask, snorkel, neoprene, fins. Oh crap! The fins!…

… Fortunately, I’m not far away so I go back for them. Once again I have to thank my recap routine.IMAG2497When I get to the saddle San Gottardo, 2106 m above the sea level, I’m amazed when I stumble upon a bouldering heaven. Beautiful enormous boulders are sprinkled everywhere around and it is a sight full of pleasure for a climber. I’ve spent so much time looking around that the sun started dawning and I decide to camp for the night. I’ll leave the last 100 km for next morning.

gottardoFor Saturday morning I choose a suitable parking spot in the Lavertezzo valley, about 1 km below the Valle Verzasca village, and there’s about 150 m long gorge with crystal clear water. The depth is about 10 m and visibility excellent 30 m and more. With the water temperature being barely 10°C, I’m really happy for my 5 mm neoprene suit, and I’m also sure that it’s a high time to buy diving gloves.

I’m just about to start preparing my gear and boil some tea when an unknown diver appears running towards me. I get a little nervous but soon relax again once I see him smiling. He’s coming to greet me. His name is Lorenc and he’s a local diving instructor. He came with his students for a river diving course. He offers me to use their safety ropes, which they’ve set up down the stream. Such safety ropes tied above and under the water surface can be diver’s lifesavers if one gets caught in the current. Lorenc is really friendly and when I tell him I’m a freediver, so that’s why he can’t see any scuba gear around my car, he pats me on my back and nods knowingly. We wish good luck to each other and he leaves saying ‘See you in the water!’VerzascaRight at the end of the gorge there is a small pebbled beach where I find a nice niche. I secretly watch Lorenc’s 10 students as I stretch and do a breathing exercise. They are, surely, no beginners and it’s a pleasure to watch their skilful preparations. We get into the water together. Seems the best. Not only because this way I’m not totally alone here, but it’s also much more fun to pop at some of them unexpectedly from behind a rock.

About an hour later I get out of the water and get warmed by the sun. I start talking with Linda. Linda takes part in Lorenc’s course and she came here with her husband all the way from Zurich. They both do also freediving. She tells me about diving in Zurichsee and, in the end, we agree that I’m going to come to visit them there and we can go diving together. I’m really glad for this because I’ve been thinking about exploring Zurichsee for some time now, both on the kayak and underwater, so my next plan for a trip has been set!

In the afternoon I drive over to Valle Verzasca, and there, bellow a Roman bridge from 17th century, I find a well-known place for tourists, swimmers and divers. It’s truly a breath-taking location and I can’t resist plunging into the water. It’s amazing. There are hikers everywhere around but I’m the only one in the water. The depth here is only about 7 m, but that takes nothing away from the great experience. Especially, the rocky river bottom northwards that’s been moulded by a small waterfall is a spectacular sight. I’m absolutely satisfied and I can only recommend seeing it all for yourself. It’s not only great for diving, but also for hiking and camping. It’s no coincidence that in the Ticino region this spot is called its green heart. IMAG2501On Sunday I choose the river Cannobino that flows a little more southwards and it’s located at the west end of a similarly-named town Cannobio. There is an almost 250 m deep gorge with a waterfall at its close. High vertical walls connected using two arched bridges at a height of 25 m above the water.mostyDominating the entire scenery is a shrine towering above the gorge, which was built in 1638 and it’s dedicated to the Virgin Mary of Loreto. It’s possible to dive up to 15 m deep there. The somehow lower visibility (about 15 m) was made up for by the flickering of light rays making their way through the gorge. I’m accompanied by the local Maggiore diving club and we all have great fun under the water. As I was informed this spot is supposed to be common for much fish and even water snakes. I was lucky to see some of the bigger fish myself, but, fortunately, I met no snakes, not even the water ones. Overall, I was definitely able to find a gorgeous spot surrounded by beautiful nature.




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