Run the equator: Almost Famous

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Almost Famous

Down the drain

A few months after we left Africa, a blogger from Spain who maintains a popular site where he collects bits of information about interesting and strange places and events wrote an article about the adrenaline-junkies messing around in Devil’s Pool, the natural swimming pool at the edge of Victoria Falls, which we had visited in September. He assembled a few photos and videos off the internet and linked them to the original sources. Within days, my flickr picture set on Victoria Falls was getting thousands of views. I tracked the clicks back to the referring site, to find out to whom I owed this unexpected surge in interest – for once the view count of my travel pictures of exotic places was surpassing that of my older photos of drunk girls kissing in dark and noisy clubs.

Rich and famous... and beautiful!

By April, the story was making the rounds on the internet and a few news agencies caught wind of it. Devil’s Pool hasn’t been discovered yesterday; in fact tourists have been going there for a quick adrenaline-loaded swim for decades. But it looks like every generation needs to be reminded of the same things over and over. There’s just too much information floating around for us to be aware of; knowledge that isn’t in your face daily (and even that) is forgotten fast – how else would you explain the avalanche of movie remakes these days? Hollywood began by reissuing and updating movies from the forties, which were understandably unknown to most of the population currently living on Earth, but with each revamping project they are getting closer and closer the movies of our times – money-making entertainment machine has married attention-deficit disorder and their children are the placebo soothing pills of our anxieties. Soon they’ll be remaking next year’s movies today… but I digress…

A British online news agency contacted me on flickr and asked for permission to use my pictures – in exchange for publishing credit and compensation. I gladly agreed – who doesn’t want to be famous on the internet? – and they wrote a short article that appeared in the online versions of a few British newspapers. The reporter asked me for some quotes about my experience, which he wanted to use in the article. Among others, here’s what I said; this quote was reproduced without much journalistic adjustment:

“Being in Devil's pool is a serious adrenaline rush for the first few minutes. If you jump (you can also get in gently) it adds up to the excitement. The thought that you may get sucked away from the relatively calm waters of the pool and down the foamy hell into the pit makes you giddy with apprehension - although you have to stray far out quite a bit for that to happen. It's great fun - some people enjoy it quietly, swimming, looking, thinking, while others keep screaming to no end.”

I also told the reporter that we chose to go swimming in Devil’s Pool instead of trying bungee jumping because there would be plenty of opportunities for bungee in other places, but swimming at the edge of a 360-feet waterfall is not something you can do anywhere and anytime. That was quoted as “[…] said it was better than bungee jumping”. Well, damn you reporters! I have never jumped anyway, so I wouldn’t know.

Within days I also gave publishing rights to BBC Brazil and to Ripley’s Believe It Or Not. Before I could say “waterfall” my quote and pictures were syndicated in online newspapers and magazines around the world, translated from English into Portuguese, Polish, Turkish, hell knows what else, and even Romanian. They also made it into a printed version of the US entertainment magazine In Touch – which I am considering suing for millions owed to me in royalties. Wouldn’t you?

OMG! A child! Save him!
This guy had his share of online bashing

The readers’ comments online were mixed – half of the people adhered to the “this is soooo cool, I want to do it too” opinion, the other half supported the “these people are idiots, they should put themselves out of the gene pool” position. An even more divisive discussion went on about the people who had their children in Devil’s Pool with them: one group (consisting, of course, of people who have never been to Victoria Falls) kept screaming bloody murder “I can’t believe these idiots can be so reckless to take their children in the pool with them and expose them to such danger,” to which the second group would reply: “get a life, these children are obviously not in danger; if it were up to you, the social services would rule everybody’s lives and children would go to the playground swathed in bubble wrap.”

So, uhm… I’m famous! Do you want to hang out with me?

Note: not all photos featured in the articles listed below are mine. While all those news items quote my words and mention my name, the photos come from various sources. In some case, other Victoria Falls pictures have even been mistakenly attributed to me.
Some of the links below may become dead over time. The internet moves fast…

Article Links:


South West News Service
Daily Mail Online
Daily Mirror
Metro Online
Times Online
Opodo Travel News
Daily Express
Atlas Direct
The London Paper
Essential Travel
The Telegraph
2by2 Holidays


BBC Brasil
Ultimo Segundo
Globo News
Jornal NH

Viet Nam

Viet Bao


Timis Online
Informatia Zilei
Antena3 (hacked)







ghizi said...

I am still amazed about the hacked antena3 site in this state after how long, 2-3 weeks? Image what is lurking out there in many other places. Hopefully they do not have some funny scripts going on that page ;-)

Big Fat Rat said...

What this proves to us:

1) They don't know the site was hacked - maybe they don't have any sort of logging and monitoring or maybe the attackers have deleted the logs, in which case the sys. admins should have had some sort of alert as well. Lousy, complacent website management
2) They know the site was hacked, they just don't know what pages were affected. How do you fix this case? More auditing and logging? There must be a ton of old news items on the site.
3) Nobody cares - who the hell reads antena3 online anyway? Maybe I should let them know...

Robert said...

You have pixs of kissing half naked girls in nightclubs?


Dont worry. I still love you even though you are famous now.


Big Fat Rat said...

No, no - I have pictures of girls kissing each other in nightclubs. Nobody would want to kiss me! Duh!

Love token appreciated. Profoundly.

Mike said...

I think this was how I found your blog. If I remember correctly, someone linked that page from

You made this post on the 23 of May and on the 24th, I left for a month of traveling in Europe. That was my first time outside of the US and had a blast. If only I can find enough time to travel like you two have. Hopefully I can plan my next trip for 2010.